Tag: Skills Development

English and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingMultimediaTopicsWorld View

Digital Citizenship and ELT

M.A. Maria del Carmen Gonzalez

      When teaching another language all the input, exposure, and practice that the students may get becomes priceless to their learning concerning exposure. Technology provides English language teachers with an endless source of tools and applications which can make their classes much more interactive and be engaging for learners. Instructors have the opportunity to communicate with other teachers, creating networks to share not only knowledge but also advice and tips for their classes. Such groups have formed communities where they can find everything and anything to make classes more enjoyable to students. Learners get in touch with authentic material and practice in real contexts, putting the language into use right from level one.

     Thus, language instructors have a great responsibility once they open the gate of technology inside and outside their classrooms. Teachers have to train students on how to use technology effectively regarding ethics and responsibility. They cannot teach them how to use a particular tool, but on the contrary, a whole set of required skills to discriminate information, respect authorship, and develop competencies to use any tool, page or application as students, and later on, for their professional life as well. These measures will guaranty learners to move responsibly in the digital world, with or without a teacher by their side; in other words, they will unfold digital citizenship.

     Technology opens a broad range of possibilities for students, as they can surf the web for any material, information, application or tool, as well as be a part of learning clubs or communities to exchange ideas or simply have a pen pal. Once trained into the elements of digital citizenship: literacy, access, security, etiquette, health and wellness, commerce, communications, law, rights and responsibilities, students will be protected to use technology and digital information safely, responsibly, and ethically.

     Furthermore, technology provides the creative teacher with the occasion to create their material using faster and more efficient tools, save it for further use and even sell it to other teachers in pages set up for that purpose. Teachers can download a great variety of free material for their classes, saving time and effort; moreover, lesson plans and all kinds of games and worksheets, along with another large variety of online exercises and games.

    There is no question about technology being part of our lives; the dilemma resides on the knowledge we have of its significance and effects on our existence. As teachers, we must become digital citizens, teaching by example, guiding and instructing our students on how to surf correctly on the web.

English FactoidsLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Book Review: 21st Century skills

About the authors

Bernie Trilling is founder and CEO of 21st Century Learning Advisors and the former global director of the Oracle Education Foundation. He has participated in different organizations which work on the development of 21st-century methodologies.

Charles Fadel founded the Center for Curriculum Redesign and has worked in a variety of educational projects around the world.

The book is written from an educational point of view, providing information on the skills and attitudes needed by teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Authors appeal to the significant changes suffered in the last years which require certain adaptations to the classroom, programs, and lessons. The book includes a DVD with examples of education programs adapted to the 21st century.

The book entails three parts. First, it describes the environment surrounding the 21st century. Second, the authors describe which would be the skills required to succeed in the 21st century, and in the last part, they focus on a proposal for learning in this age.

The 21st-century skills covered by the authors are divided into three broad groups:

  1. Learning and innovation skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and collaboration.
  2. Computer literacy skills such as digital citizenship, as well as research and the accurate use of information, media, and technological systems to achieve effective communication.
  3. Professional and life skills such as adapting to changes, developing initiative and self-direction, global and cultural awareness, and interaction, productivity, leadership, and accountability.
Business and ManagementCulture & DestinationsEnglish and TechnologyMust ReadWorld View

The workplace setting in the 21st Century

By Academic Committee

Changes in the workplace are necessary to match the 21st-century skills demands. Global citizens today agree that as time goes by the place of work changes, but the competencies that go along with it should too. We cannot deny that the skills required in the 21st-century gear towards factors such as competitiveness, innovation, and creativity.

Workers nowadays need an advanced mentality, open mind and disposition to unlearn and relearn putting into practice soft skills such as time management, leadership, resilience, and self-direction, among others.

Workplaces are changing. Many workers are still illiterate when it comes to succeeding in the involving work environment, taking into account that company’s know-how goes hand in hand with technology.  The power of technology will promote modern devices and a more efficient communication network as the workplace setting improves. If a company wants to keep its quality and be competitive in its market, then workers will need to keep up with the latest technology trends and adapt rapidly to the changes that occur on a daily basis.

Companies have also seen the necessity to make adjustments in their infrastructure to promote spaces where workers can interact in different ways. Moreover, design places where creativity and innovation flourish. The need for spaces that nurture teamwork and discussion contribute to the development of creative solutions and distinct concepts gathering different opinions and points of view. Thus, generating change too.

As times change, society and minds also change. Back in the days having domain and knowledge in the core subjects at school were enough to be considered a successful person and prepared for the real world. Currently, this era takes much more skills than just being able to read, write and solve mathematical equations.

To gain success, we must now have a range of knowledge in diverse areas of expertise such as science, technology, and culture, as well as being creative, innovative, flexible, and possess the ability to work in teams, solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively.

Assumptions regarding success in the workplace have also changed. It is not just about inventing a product that allures people because it is not costly and it works. Now it has to be original, significant and prepossessing. Moreover, many jobs are being delegated to other countries because they can save money by having other people do the same job for less pay. Technology in itself poses dichotomy as it advances, the workplace changes in a way where humans compete against it for the same job. However, if the personnel can adapt, learn and innovate it will outsmart computers and avoid a worker’s replacement since jobs now demand specialization.

Employees need to keep pace with competencies so that managers and directors can see that they possess the skills from the 21st century. They have to prove and make visible, making the right decisions, using the right information and tools, that they can do the job right, come up with the best solutions and produce the most incredible and rewarding product or service. Many professionals have already embarked in these skills adopting technology and software as essential to getting the job done making them a limited, yet valuable source due to the attitude rather than their expertise on the subject.

 

Business and ManagementCulture & DestinationsMust ReadTopicsWorld View

Keiser University, transforming Leaders in Central America

Published in La Prensa Grafica,, El Salvador

October 17, 2016

Mathew Anderson, President of Keiser University Latin American Campus, motivates parents to inherit quality education to their children by choosing Keiser.

The Latin American Campus located in San Marcos, Carazo, Nicaragua has become a regional reference in higher education, especially because it offers Central American students an integrated education based on a North American model. One of the major impacts this prestigious institution has is the fostering of the English language not only in its curriculum but also as a tool that they have to master in all their aspects of life, and a key to the business world.

According to Mathew Anderson, English is the fastest growing language in the world, making it the language of business and bringing prosperity to the countries in the region.  “93% of our graduates get a job, and whenever I travel, I receive requests from business people looking for our alumni due to the fact that they have studied a four-year major in a North American university and speak English rendering them into potential assets”, said Anderson.

LEADERS WHO IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY

Keiser University has the mission of preparing the Central American future leaders who impact and change the environment where they perform. “Our main influence in the region is that we create leaders, people who work hard, are bilingual, and adapt to business scenarios”, indicated the university authority.

Likewise, Mathew Anderson stated that the quality of education of its graduates is characterized by innovation, hard work, and a high degree of work ethics leading them to give back to the community and to their countries of origin. Keiser University provides financial aid to those Central American citizens who cannot afford to enroll but show strong leadership skills, and strive for the best.

In addition to employing faculty with Master’s Degrees from prestigious U.S. Universities, Keiser University excels at offering an integral student life support in a safe campus and convenient location.

 

Business and ManagementCulture & Destinations

Nicaragua: Seeking talent in young adults

Academic Committee

In recent days, the Nicaraguan Foundation for the Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) submitted the results of a study carried out to determine the competencies Nicaraguan employers demand from employees younger than 24 years old.

In Nicaragua, employability for young adults under 24 years of age poses a serious challenge for companies given that applicants lack the required competencies to fulfill the position requirements. The Nicaraguan Human Resources Association participated in the study and provided insightful statistics in regards to employability and skills domains for young adults.

  • 93 companies took part in the study
  • These companies represent a total of 17,000 employees
  • 23.52% (4000 employees) are 24 years old or under
  • 75% (3000) possess the competencies required and are currently working

The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that the easiness with which young adults enter the labor market suggests the relevance of the competencies they acquire during their education. This reference highlights that either the educational system does not cater to the labor market demands or is not providing competencies from one level of education to the other. Somehow, university education is bridging the gap between the technical and cognitive competencies. However, it is leaving aside the emotional and linguistic competencies in dire need for young adults to be hired or opt for higher ranked positions within the companies.

Companies are proctoring their screening tests to applicants and investing more time in the hiring process due to the distrust in the educational system to train young adults in the competencies needed. This process then becomes arduous and time-consuming for both the applicant and the company. Thus, representing an economic inefficiency that needs stronger measures in the public policies related to education, relevance, and credibility of the qualifications of the labor market within the age range. “An employee is a company asset, and compensation is an investment in that asset.” (Jacob Baadsgaard) Companies want to hire staff that grows within the businesses and becomes an asset instead of adding up to their turnover statistics due to the lack of socio-emotional competencies that are key not only to performing the job but also to keeping it.

General managers within the 93 companies surveyed in the study agree that when hiring young staff, they focus on the following competencies:

  1. Honesty
  2. Follow company standards of conduct
  3. Show enthusiasm and proactivity towards tasks performed
  4. Listen and tender respect to superiors
  5. Demonstrate ability to collaborate and work in teams

All socio-emotional skills ranked higher than technical and cognitive competencies. Also, they are the harder ones to find among applicants; although these may vary from company’s levels of performance or educational background. In essence, this lack of competencies goes hand in hand with incapacity the educational system to cater the demands of the labor market and becomes a true challenge to Nicaraguan’s educational system to make the changes and address the cognitive, technical and socio-emotional competencies within their programs. As Nicaraguan economy increases, there are higher demands for a better-prepared labor force, thus if not ready, this lack will transform into an obstacle that Nicaraguans need to overcome if foreign investment is attracted to the country.

 

 

Works Cited 

funides.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/10/competencias_que_demandan_las_empresas_en_nicaragua.pdf.

Business and ManagementEnglish FactoidsLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadTopics

Talent Management vs HR

Adapted and condensed from the article by Susan M. Heathfield (2016), ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’

For those of us who are not so acquainted with the term “talent management”, it is a phrase used in the area of human resources to refer to a company’s or “organization’s commitment to recruit, retain, and develop the most talented employees available in the job market”. In other words, talent management is a strategy some companies have started to implement in the hopes of retaining their most talented employees.

What apparently sets talent-management-oriented companies apart from the ones that use the term “human capital” is the emphasis placed on the manager’s role instead of on Human Resources when it comes to the life cycle of an employee working for an organization. Therefore, in a talent management system managers take on a greater responsibility and play a crucial role in the recruitment process as well as in the ongoing development of and retention of top performers.

Some of the processes involved in the talent management system include recruitment planning meeting, credential review and background checking, on-the-job training, coaching and relationship building by the manager, just to mention but a few.

Most of the processes above mentioned are now part of the main responsibilities of managers in some organizations.  Human Resources’ role, on the other hand, is to provide support and backup, yet in terms of supporting, developing and coaching an employee comes from his or her daily interaction with the manager.

Talent management is a relatively new concept in the working world, and a consensus is yet to be reached, but certainly, it is a strategy worth trying out to contribute to the growth and well-being of any organization or company.

References

Heathfield, S. (2016). ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’ The Balance. Web

Business and ManagementMust ReadQuick TipsTopicsWorld View

Millennials and Talent Management Today!

By Academic Committee

The new trend in companies now geared towards the 21st century focuses on technology and globalization. Millennials, today’s leaders, with easy access to the global market, and native to technological surroundings transform Startups to billion dollar companies overnight leaving their competitive advantage to Talent and Creativity.

Whereas, CEO’s are now enforced to redefine their recruitment process within the four pillars of Talent Management considering as a starting point the Millennial’s way of thinking, use of technology, and globalization.

I. The Recruitment process:

The recruitment process is the first step where changes need to occur. Before, CEO’s through Human Resources office scouted people that would perfectly match the position requirements. In today’s global market, the focus is on talent and adaptability. In the modern globalized economy, companies weigh employee’s ability to acquire new knowledge and collaborate. Also, gaining experience and developing individuals’ skill-sets becomes essential.  Employers would now prefer to have energetic, malleable workforces who can learn on the job and help one another to innovate and create new solutions.

II. Learning Development

Today’s candidates are not looking for a career inside a company; they are looking for an experience. This immense change in the status quo of what people wanted at their workplace comes from the changes needs directly connecting to the economy. Thus agile workforce is required.

Millennials’ inherent values and life skills set imply hands-on the job and learning by doing. So, development of learning is shifting towards business leaders who progressively identify the lack of competence as a dominant obstacle to the implementation of their company’s strategies; thus, ensuring the need for creating opportunities and space for learning.

Millennials’ creative workforce considers of high added value the emphasis on continuous learning to the point that when they are not learning, they leave organizations. The key lies in creating conditions for learning to happen as part of their development aligned to the recruitment process and meeting the needs of the changing economy and its workforce.

III.    Periodical Check-ins

Annual Reviews are a thing of the past; today proved ineffective and inefficient in fostering high performance.  According to talent managers, Annual Reviews do not promote employee engagement or talent. Instead, valuing a year full of work and noticing changes that would require follow-ups until a new year comes and which results directly connects to compensation derives in demotivating collaborators. Millennials whose mindsets focuses towards learning and gaining experience that fosters talent and creativity need immediate input hence constant check-ins lead to direct real-time improvements.

Also, lifelong learning is the key to adjust performance through coaching and skills development rather than just evaluations. Today, Millennials value instant feedback given after direct performance if it is active and constructive. They feel the need to be geared towards their responsibilities and progress within the roles and duties they perform; hence their results drive the companies’ culture and employee’s engagement as they feel valued and take part of the system and for those that need improvement creating a support system that helps them grow. If leaders provide constant feedback on performance they are also building future leaders, coaches, and mentors who drive the economy and their responsibilities to fulfillment fostering teamwork; as a result creating new leaders. Also, instant check-ins goes hand in hand with clear objectives and results since they bring transparency and efficacy to the job performed which Millennials highly value.

IV. Career Development and Compensation

Unlike the traditional idea of career development which meant reaching the next step in the corporate ladder, the 21st Century economy places great importance on providing opportunities and support to middle-level operations to advance and create development opportunities for employees to meet the rapidly changing needs of the company. Talent Managers should focus on three primary drivers- purpose, autonomy, and mastery- to meet Millennials mindsets expectations for development.  Ideally, employers should create opportunities for young, talented, creative minds to experience different functions, roles, and markets for them to gain experience and build adaptability to change in employees; from now on, creating a more stable job opportunity to the collaborator. This career development opportunity leads to a change in view and although Millennials are ambitious and strive for financial success, they also prefer a collaborative work culture environment and value transparency.

Millennials focus on collaboration and equality and draw towards projects that connect their strengths and abilities leading to career fulfillment since social networks are their essence, they expect an open culture without barriers of any levels; subsequently, they also favor leaders who create opportunities for training and development.

Millennials now connected to the world through technology; they embrace cultural diversity and change as essential to their environment.  The creation of culturally diverse leadership teams and workforces with divergent backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas enables collaboration, inclusion and ensures equipped leaders for future challenges.  Lastly, considering that new challenges lie ahead, a succession of employees is essential to the fulfillment of positions with great talents, creativity, and better-equipped life skills. Such replacements can fulfill the needs throughout the organization connected to the economy, and its global trends requiring an immediate change in the Talent Management process where Millennials are taking over.

References

Haak, Tom. “10 Talent Management Trends for 2016 | HR Trend Institute.” HR Trend Institute. HR Trend Institute, 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

Martin, Jean. “How to Keep Your Top Talent.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School, May 2010. Web. Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Reaping the value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit

May 25, 2016

Updated 7 July, 2016

My goal as a classroom teacher is to do the best I can to make sure my content is meeting the needs of my learners. After fifteen years of teaching English, I know one thing to be very true: Every single group of learners I work with is different and will require different things from me. One semester I could have a group of students who have strong communicative fluency but are weak in complex critical thinking and contextual analysis of lectures and reading passages. The next semester I may have students who can easily ace a grammar, listening and reading test but struggle to speak in full sentences or respond outside of scripted conversation. This is the frustration and joy of teaching English: The classroom is a dynamic living space that supports the development of unique individuals with unique needs. But how do you know what’s truly working for your learners?

While observation is a valuable resource for assessing student skills, it is really tests, quizzes and tasks that provide enough evidence to understand a learner’s current abilities, strengths and weaknesses. So in any classroom, whether I’m following along with a textbook or creating a custom course, at some point, I need to stop and assess what is working for my learners so I can respond to their needs. Having a solid understanding of the level of ability of learners to perform with specific skills can help me target my teaching to utilize learner strengths to help build skills where learners are weak. This is where tools like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the Global Scale of English (GSE) become extremely useful.

How the granularity of the GSE is a valuable resource

Both the CEFR and GSE are tools that help communicate a learner’s ability to perform. For teachers and administrators, these tools are useful because of the external validation of performance indicators. I myself have spent countless hours creating lesson plans and objectives and wondering “Is this challenging enough?” or “Is this going to be too difficult?” Often, the arbitrator is running the lesson in class and observing the results: successful learning or Hindenburg-level disaster. I found the CEFR useful as a way to quickly gauge whether or not an activity was addressing specific skills that other learners at the same level could perform. The Global Scale of English goes further by drilling down more explicitly into the skills. Where the CEFR is more of a general collection, the GSE provides more granular insight into the explicit skills and functions learners can build to become more proficient in their skills. It’s like the difference between driving from X to Y with or without turn-by-turn directions.

The Global Scale of English starts with the CEFR and builds out 1,000+ descriptors of performance across all four skills. This provides better distribution of the language skills and supports the usefulness of the CEFR to describe learning performance. A word of caution: The descriptors are not designed to be prescriptive about the learning journey! Like the CEFR, the GSE is not an all-or-nothing collection of descriptors indicating that “in order to learn D, you must first learn A, B and C—AND in that order.” Anyone who knows anything about language education can easily see the problems inherent in that kind of thinking. That’s because each learner has unique needs and learning does not occur in a straight line.

So, it is its granular nature that makes the GSE such a valuable resource. As an educator, I feel quite confident in my teacher’s intuition and my ability to use reflective practice to observe what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom. I can be creative and know when to use practice activities and assessments that come with my courses. I also know when I need to add activities and create content that will engage my learners and perhaps add a challenge that is meaningful, but that my course book does not contain. In the past, I would build that content based on my knowledge as a teacher and my knowledge of my students and use the course materials and future assessments as a general guide for their level. When planning I might also consult with other teachers and colleagues in the field as a way of brainstorming ideas and validating whether the content I’m creating is at the right level for my learners. But sometimes, I wonder if I’m making the best decisions. Are my lessons and content truly built for the skills and needs of my students? Enter the GSE Teacher Toolkit: an interactive resource with all the GSE descriptors.

Remember how we have 1,000+ descriptors for the GSE? Well, the GSE toolkit allows a teacher to drill down into all the descriptors quickly and easily to look for specific skills and to determine the level of challenge those skills will present learners. For me, there are three distinct ways to use the toolkit that will benefit English teachers:

The toolkit helps teachers access the GSE as a tool to validate institutional student learning objectives (SLOs)

As a model of descriptors of performance useful for creating rubrics and assessment tools

As an inspiration for interesting and unique content that will engage and excite learners

Of the three pieces, the last is the most useful starting point. Why? Let me give you an example.

The GSE Teacher Toolkit as an inspiration for content

For this example, I’m going to step into some very familiar shoes, those of a language teacher at a local college. My goal is to quickly improve my learners’ levels of ability in English to move students into an engineering class (a great example of teaching English for specific purposes). My coursebook has several strong reading passages and does a great job of building the reading skills with a focus on understanding words from context and using textual analysis to answer questions and describe the process of answering. I provide some authentic content and follow the same skill-building techniques that are outlined in my coursebook, as this is what my student are learning. The students work well, meet the expectations of the course and are working towards the learning objectives. Even with all this work and progress, at the start of the second semester I see many of the same faces in my classroom when I was expecting them to move to a higher course. I have to ask myself, What’s missing?

This is where the toolkit first became an eye-opening resource for me. When I searched the skills I was developing with my learners, all appropriate reading skills, all encapsulated in my SLOs (skimming, scanning, comprehension and basic inferencing), I found that I was teaching right at the level of ability of my B1 learners. The toolkit shows the skills at the B1 level and also at the B1+ level and the B2 level. As I started reading through descriptors of performance, I realized there were some higher-level skills that I had never explored in the classroom with my students, challenges my students were not being prepared for. Suddenly, by looking away from “where my students are now” to “where I’d like my students to be,” I was overwhelmed with ideas for content I could build to supplement my course book.

The GSE provided a new strategy for planning. My course book can cover the basic work and I’m free to generate interesting ideas for classroom activities that will really challenge my learners. Even though the group I’m working with is at a B1 level, I planned a B2-level activity around a GSE descriptor. At the B1 reading level, my students would read and process information from a problem-solution essay. My course book provides several good examples and structured activities to build the skill, reducing the work I have to do.  Now, for the challenge. I selected the following B2-level skill from the GSE toolkit:

Can critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay (GSE 61, B2 (59–66)).

This will allow the class to go beyond the surface application of the skill. For the activity, I selected a piece of authentic content, an op-ed piece from the newspaper, a great example of someone explaining a problem and presenting their argument for the best solution. The lesson plan practically wrote itself.

SLO: Students will be able to read and critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay from the opinion section of the newspaper.

SLO2: Students will describe which supporting details were most effective to support the author’s solution.

Steps

1) Read and review several shorter structured problem-solutions essays in the course book. Have students skim, scan and read to answer the specific question. Have students identify where the answer is indicated in the text and note why the answer is most appropriate.

2) Solo: Introduce seven selected vocabulary items from the op-ed piece and review.

3) Provide a gist question: Read the title. What solution do you think the author will provide to address the problem? Elicit predictions to check after the reading.

4) Have students skim. Check predictions.

5) Provide a set of comprehension questions. Have students scan and answer questions. Check answers in groups. In groups, have students discuss how they found the answer and why the text indicates this is correct. Check as a class.

6) B2 Skills: Evaluate the Effectiveness—Have students individually answer if they agree or disagree with the author’s solution. Students describe answers and why. Allow time for students to develop answers. In groups, have students share their ideas.

7) Building from the previous: In groups, have students discuss what aspects of the author’s solution were most effective. Have students list what additional details or examples could be provided to help others agree with the solution. Share ideas as a class.

8) In class [if time permits] or homework: Have students find an article, column piece or reading passage that provides an example of a problem solution that effectively swayed the student to agree with the solution for review in the next class.

The toolkit enables me as a teacher to be creative and provides additional validation that I’m working to challenge my learners appropriately. Steps 6 through 8 of my lesson will stretch my learners and, most importantly, help to provide skills that will hopefully see them transition out of my class and into general courses without the need to come back to me again. Being able to conveniently sort through and see descriptors specifically aligned to skills, area of study (professional, academic or general) and level of ability makes the tool particularly useful. No longer do I need to try to comb through and break down the very chunked description of performance in the CEFR to make it manageable and relevant for my learners. Additionally, I don’t have to search by reading through thousands of descriptors. In a few seconds, I can free my teacher planning brain to find new, fun and appropriate ways to challenge myself and learners to do new things together, proving that I am meeting my primary goal as a teacher, which is to support my students’ learning and support them towards success at their level and beyond.

With the new GSE toolkit, I feel as if I have just expanded my ability to discuss potential activities, assess skills and sense check the challenge of my activities with my peers across the world. The GSE certainly won’t replace my particular teacher “Spidey” sense or that of some of my best friends and colleagues in the field, but it certainly opens up a whole new world to what is possible in the classroom.

Reference

Davila, Sara. “Reaping the Value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit.”Pearson English. N.p., 25 May 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust Read

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessments

July 6, 2016

The Global Scale of English has been a great support and a positive change for my practice. As I previously discussed, the GSE can be used in a variety of ways, but my three favourite uses are as a tool for validating my students’ learning objectives, as a tool to enhance and improve my assessments, and, finally, as a tool to create content. In this discussion, I’d like to look at how you can use the GSE and the Teacher Toolkit to create custom rubrics and also explore the potential of the GSE Assessment Framework for teachers. First up, a refresher on rubrics (please skip to the section titled “Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics” if you’re already familiar with the concept).

What’s a rubric?

If you aren’t familiar with it, a rubric is a tool that we can use to assess learning performance. A rubric can be used with any skill and with any kind of learning content. A rubric does this by providing descriptors of performance at different levels. Rubrics provide a clear roadmap for what performance is expected at a higher level of achievement. It’s the difference between saying “do better” and saying “Right now you are working at this level and if you concentrate on these skills you will see yourself working at the next level.” A rubric provides a clear indication of what needs to be improved in order for a learner to excel.

The great thing about rubrics comes from their clarity and consistency in assessing performance. A solid rubric helps me look at the specific performance of any given student and capture the information I need to know about the level at which that student currently is while providing feedback that is both summative and formative. The downside of rubrics is the challenge of creating a solid assessment rubric, one that provides a good formative roadmap, while also being reliable as a summative assessment. With practice, trial and error, anyone can create a good rubric. However, practical tools can help save a lot of time and frustration for administrators, teachers and learners.

Most of the rubrics used in the classroom look like this basic example of a rubric used to assess speaking performance:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Speaking Short sentences with some mistakes. Longer, compound sentences with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences. Able to expand on ideas with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences, clearly organized. Able to expand on ideas and clarify concepts with few mistakes.

You will notice that there is no specific context for the speaking component in this rubric example. Depending on how a rubric will be used, you may want a very granular rubric tied directly to the context and content of learning, or you may want a rubric that can be used for a broader assessment. My example rubric could be used as part of an end-of-semester performance assessment, whereas a more granular rubric would be useful as an end-of-unit assessment or even a units-review assessment where I am looking at performance with specific content.

This rubric contains three specific parts: the scale, the performance to assess and the descriptors of performance. The scales for a rubric can vary across the globe; some teachers will use 1–5, some will use Poor to Excellent. When it comes to selecting the scale, use what will work best in your learning environment and help them communicate the rubric to others in the field, to your students and to your administrators. My personal preference is for a scale that indicates the current level of performance, without implied judgement. Once you have your scale in place, you want to figure out what you will be assessing. This will be largely driven by your course. What are you teaching? What performance do you need to assess? Performance of the skill is key.

For example, if you are teaching a grammar-focused class, you would not develop a rubric to assess the students’ grammar knowledge. It’s much easier to use a more traditional test to check for knowledge of rules. However, if you want to see how well a learner is correctly transferring the grammar they are learning into conversation, a rubric can provide direction. Such a rubric might look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Answer questions about the past and future Answers in simple sentences. Frequently mismatches verb tenses. Easily answers in simple sentences. Uses a few complex sentences. Mismatches verb tenses a little. Does not monitor or correct mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Makes few mistakes with verb tenses. Occasionally able to monitor and correct some mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Elaborates on answers without prompts. Consistent use of verb tenses with few noticeable mistakes. Demonstrates ability to monitor and correct when an error is made.

The final stage of your rubric construction will be the descriptors. The descriptors define what it is you will observe when students are performing. In a speaking assessment, you would be listening to students speaking in a conversation. In a writing assessment, you would look at the organization and cohesion of the students’ writing. The descriptors, then, describe the performance you would expect, aligned to your scale. The descriptors provide information that helps to clearly distinguish between each performance type. Using our writing example, you might have something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Presents personal information and details with little organization. Presents personal information with details. Selection of some details is clear. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned to the information and arranged in logical order. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned and organized. Specific examples clarify connections.

As you can see, a rubric builds from the bottom and works upwards. This way I can tell a student who Needs Development what they specifically need to work on in order to get to consistent, proficient and masterful use. This is something that can be planned for, and over the course of a semester, we can revisit this and see how their performance is improving and what next steps to take. A rubric helps to provide that kind of clarity. The greatest challenge in creating a rubric is usually in developing the descriptors of performance. What do I need to describe so I can both observe performance and define what the next level looks like?

Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics

A rubric is a pretty basic tool that a teacher uses to assess performance … but where does the GSE fit into all of this? For me, the most obvious place is in helping to define performance and create descriptors. As the GSE largely describes the use and application around the four English skills  without providing a specific context. This makes it a great place to start for understanding the performance I want to see in my classroom. Rather than the coursebook deciding, or my using my general sense of performance, the GSE gives me a clear indication of the difference in performance at different points along a learner’s learning journey aligned to a specific stops along the CEFR scale. Using the GSE, I could redraft my writing rubric so it would look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

(GSE 31/A2)

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

(GSE 40/A2+)

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

(GSE 47/B1)

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

(GSE 67/B2+)

From the perspective of a teacher, this gives me a good starting point to add further details to my rubric that would allow me to further align with my curriculum and the learning outcomes defined by my institution. This might look something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

 

 

(GSE 31/A2)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

 

 

 

(GSE 40/A2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

 

 

 

(GSE 47/B1)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

 

(GSE 67/B2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Using the GSE, I can also see the progression of skill development and get a sense of how long it will take for learners to improve their performance[1]. Knowing that the difference between Needs Development and Consistent Use is a move from A2 to A2+, I might expect that a student starting at the bottom will get to Consistent Use by the end of a semester. If I have a learner starting at Consistent Use, my goal would be Proficient Use, and Mastery would be a stretch goal. A rubric using the GSE not only helps me get a solid description of the skill performance, but it can also improve my expectations of what learners will achieve based on the length of my course and the number of hours of input and study that will be accessed.

The GSE Assessment Framework

Of course, all of this is a lot of work, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the Global Scale of English team had developed a set of agnostic course rubrics that describe performance, contain descriptors, are aligned to the CEFR, cover all four skills and, most importantly, are available for teachers to download.

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Download the full set of rubrics in the GSE Assessment Framework here: http://bit.ly/29t7RAO

The GSE Assessment Framework would not replace all of my classroom rubrics nor stop me from developing rubrics in the future, but it does provide a nice functional rubric that I can use to assess all manner of performance tasks in my classroom using a tool that is externally validated. That end-of-the-semester speaking test would be a perfect test case for the use of the GSE Assessment Speaking Framework rubric. A mid-term writing assignment could be assessed using an internal rubric with the GSE Assessment for Writing Framework for a secondary reference.

Additionally, the frameworks could be handed out to students at the beginning of the semester and used as a way to help students with personal goal setting. As many of my students have test scores that report aligned to the CEFR, it is a simple matter of having students use the GSE Assessment Framework to see how their current level is described and have them look towards the future to make a personal learning plan to continue to improve their English skills and concentrate on problem areas. The Global Scale of English Assessment Framework doesn’t replace all of my assessment tools, but it certainly becomes another time-saving feature to add to my assessment grab bag.

Having access to something as value packed as the Global Scale of English ecosystem, I realize that improving assessments is one of the first steps when it comes to the functional use of the GSE. With over 1,000 descriptors of performance and an assessment package to boot, I’m excited to think of what I can accomplish by utilising these tools and the impact this will have for me and my future students as we continue to work towards our shared goal of communicative fluency.

References

Davila, Sara. “How to Use the GSE to Enhance and Improve English Assessments.” Pearson English. N.p., 6 July 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills Development

Cognitive Conflict to Foster Meaningful Learning

by Erick M. Izaguirre Zepeda, Keiser University Language Institute

Human’s search for knowledge is a lifelong process. It takes us many years to construct our own conceptions and beliefs. Many times this construction process demands a lot of studying, reading, and research. Sometimes these conceptions come from family traditions and values that are handed down from generation to generation. It is obvious that when learning something requires so much effort, this new knowledge we have acquired is of great value for us. After all we have dedicated our neurons to building ourselves a mindset we feel identified and comfortable with.  But what happens when our conceptions, beliefs, and ideas are debatable to people we consider knowledgeable and trustworthy? Are we open to listening to new and different ideas and willing to change our own ones in case we are convinced by the reliability of the new sources of information? Or do we just ignore what the new data states because we already have our own mindset?  Have you ever changed any of your conceptions or preconceptions thanks to/ because of new and extremely contradictory material that was presented to you? If you have, then you have experienced cognitive conflicts and you clearly understand what it is about and what it feels like.

Cognitive conflict

The cognitive conflict or cognitive dissonance theory is a branch of the well-known constructivist theory by Piaget. It suggests that “when children or learners experience a discrepancy between their understanding of the world and a new experience, they can either assimilate the new information into existing schema or accommodate the new information by creating new schema”. This has led some constructivist teaching approaches to focus on ways to generate this cognitive conflict in lessons.

To illustrate the concept of cognitive conflict and how it fosters the process of conceptual change and meaningful learning, I would like to tell you the story of my friend Paul. Paul was born in Puerto Cabezas and moved to the United States when he was 8 years old. He spent more than 25 years there. When in the States, he got into lots of troubles especially because of drugs consumption. He was addicted to alcohol and crack. All these problems he had led him to be deported back to Nicaragua.  Paul says that he lived so much discrimination because of his skin color, that he did not want to be black; in fact he hated being black. One day when he was still in America, soon before being deported, he had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the “Black Hebrews”, a movement which states that “Jesus was black, and Hispanics, Native Americans, and Negroes are the only real descendants of the tribes of Israel and, for instance the only ones included in God’s salvation plan”.

For many of us this new input might not make any difference, but for Paul it was a very significant new piece of information. Since that day Paul’s life has changed dramatically. Paul no longer consumes crack or alcohol and he is trying to live his life according to God’s will since this theory made him feel there was still hope for him.

Another possible way to define cognitive conflict is: “The mental discomfort produced when someone is confronted with new information that contradicts their prior beliefs, values, and ideas. When cognitive dissonance arises, the person will typically seek to reduce this discomfort either by changing their ideas or by avoiding (e.g. ignoring) the new information”.

As we can see, there are two possible consequences of the cognitive conflict. The first one is a very positive one. This is the one that helped Paul make significant changes in his life because he felt attracted to the new concept he was faced with. On the other hand, the second option is not so encouraging for those teachers who would like to implement this strategy into their classes. What type of teacher would like to run the risk of encountering students who will simply discard the new information being presented? This is completely against the real objective, isn’t it? I am pretty sure this new information about Jesus I just discussed did not and will never cause you to change your preconceptions or beliefs about Jesus. But do you think you will forget it?

I am part of the highest percentage of people who will not seek to reduce the cognitive discomfort by changing my idea about Jesus. Furthermore, it makes no difference to me what color he was. However, I am completely convinced that I will never forget about the “Black Hebrews” and what they believe.

Cognitive conflict in English teaching 

If the context in which Paul learned so meaningfully was the key to a conceptual change in his mindset, we can conclude that the same phenomenon might happen in the case of our English students. Our advantage as English teachers is that even though we usually try to teach our students values and socially acceptable behavior, changing people’s conceptions is not our main concern, but to provide them with the elements (language) to explain those of their own or other people’s. When the target grammar and vocabulary are presented through contextualized material that contradicts students’ previous beliefs and conceptions on such topic, the new information might not be assimilated enough to cause a change in their behavior, i.e. conceptual change, but the tools or instruments used, e.g. the language such as terms, vocabulary and grammar structures, will be understood and remembered. In the case of English teaching this aspect previously mentioned is the key to students’ meaningful learning, which is the goal we all pursue as teachers.

Learning and Skills Development

Improving Fluency in English through a Collaborative Video-making Project

By Xiomara Valverde
(Translated and condensed by James Cordonero)

Learning English in a non-English speaking country poses a serious challenge for learners. Fluency and pronunciation require special practice so that students can develop both skills.

One of the main objectives of this paper is to assess the effectiveness that video production has as a learning strategy to develop fluency and pronunciation in English.

In this research study, implementing a cooperative learning project based on methodological tools to create video clips proved to be an innovative and effective learning technique as it contributed to enhancing students’ fluency and pronunciation in the target language.

1. Video production and language learning
The production of videos is one of the proposed activities included in the project. In order to produce a video, students have to work cooperatively. Both techniques are intended to improve fluency and pronunciation. A previous research study showed that the same type of project turned out to be effective.

Masats, Dooly, and Costa (2009:000346) assume that, “… video making is a learning tool because it engages students in a cooperative project in which they need to take individual responsibilities to fulfil core tasks. Similarly, it is an excellent opportunity for integrating all students in the class project.”

There are many reports about projects based on movie-making tasks  aimed at learning English, improving fluency and pronunciation as well as different oral communication skills (Carkin2004; Hardison and Sonchaeng 2005: cited in: Carney and Foss, 2008). Some of the techniques used in teaching pronunciation include the use of video and audio recordings as a means of self-monitoring (Rajadurai; sf: 2).

Another important aspect worth mentioning is that using videos helps students to correct their own grammar and pronunciation mistakes by comparing the previous recordings with the latest versions (Hirata, SF). According to McNulty y Lazarevic(sf), video-making projects can contribute to enhancing students’ pronunciation. In another research study undertaken by Ortiz (Ortiz, et al., 2012; cited in: McNulty and Lazarevic), a video-based project was used to improve fluency and pronunciation among students of foreign languages.

2. Materials and Methods
This project was carried out on the university campus located in Jinotepe, Carazo. The participants involved in the project were the undergraduate English majors in their junior year, who used the language lab as their classroom. These students attend classes just on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; however, they only study English as a foreign language from 8:00 a.m. to 12:25 p-m. The level of proficiency they have reached, according to the European Framework, is B2. Their ages range from 18 to 30 years old. The rest of the participants included the following: senior students from the TEFL undergraduate degree program, instructors as well as some students from other degree programs such as systems engineering, and tourism.

Based on empirical knowledge, the students were sampled according to the following criteria: a weak student with problems in pronunciation and fluency, an intermediate level student and an advanced one (see tables below).

The instructor (researcher) used the language laboratory to gather most of the information such as recordings and some class videos, which were all shot on the campus premises. The video clips featured the description of the place and the different degree programs offered by the university. After recording the video clips, the students had class sessions where they analyzed the contents, corrected mistakes and, whenever necessary, recorded again. This process took place several times until the video clips were significantly improved.

The researcher implemented the comparative method, which is a technique used to compare data as many as times as necessary in order to determine whether or not the students improved their fluency and pronunciation. The early audio and video recordings were compared to the latest versions to identify mistakes and difficulties that the students faced during the video-making process as well as to gauge their progress throughout the different video recordings.

3. Conclusions
The following conclusions can be drawn from this study.  The academic progress of individual students who participated in this study is shown in the tables below.
Student #1 (weak)

Criteria Audio Recording Video 1-2 Final Video
Fluency Good Very good Excellent
Pronunciation Good Very good Very good

Student #2 (Intermediate)

Criteria Audio Recording Video 1-2 Final Video
Fluency Good Excellent Excellent
Pronunciation Needs improvement Excellent Excellent

Student #3 (Advanced)

Criteria Audio Recording Video 1-2 Final Video
Fluency Very Good Excellent Excellent
Pronunciation Excellent Excellent Excellent

This study was carried out taking into consideration opinions of well-known researchers who claim that the making of a collaborative video helps students to improve both their fluency and pronunciation.

Considering these ideas and analyzing the results of the use of collaborative videos, we conclude the following:

  • The use of collaborative videos aimed at improving fluency and pronunciation is highly effective.  During the process and the making of different videos, the instructor was able to observe the students working in teams, practicing many times, and helping one another.  Cooperative and collaborative approaches were applied to reach the learning objectives.
  • It is very productive to ask students to work on a collaborative video since it helps them to improve their fluency and pronunciation. According to the results of this study, two out of three of the participants created a video as a learning tool, and their performance improved considerably. One of the students became more fluent and had better pronunciation, and the other one improved his intonation.
  • This study demonstrates that the use of videos was very effective to improve a beginner’s and an intermediate student’s English pronunciation and fluency. However, it is not productive for an advanced student as at this level, the student is fluent enough.
  • This research poses that both approaches can be used to improve fluency and pronunciation. Some researchers such as Celce Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin (2007) reaffirm this fact and suggest that by having students work in groups of three they can easily provide feedback to one another.
  • There is another researcher who puts forward the same idea: one of the features of the project-based learning is to develop the communicative activities in pairs or in groups so as to give students the chance to use the target language and develop fluency (Richards, 2006).
  • It is very productive to use a video as a learning tool if it is intended to improve fluency and pronunciation. The students who participated in this video project improved their fluency and pronunciation, especially those who had a low proficiency level.
  • It is worth- mentioning that this project provided a great opportunity for students to watch the video, analyze the mistakes made during the rehearsals, and then correct them. The students made different videos before presenting them. Because of this repetitive process, the students improved both their fluency and pronunciation.

References
Carney, N., & Foss, P. (2008). Student-produced video: Two approaches. English Teaching Forum, 14-19.

Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. M., & Goodwin, J. M. (2007). Teaching pronunciation A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hirata, Y. (Sin Fecha). Hokkai-Gakuen Organization of knowledge Ubiquitous through Gaining Archives. Recuperado el 07 de Mayo de 2013, de Hokkai-Gakuen Organization of knowledge Ubiquitous through Gaining Archives: http://hokuga.hgu.jp/dspace/bitstream/123456789/852/1 /KOUGAKU-36-11.pdf

Masats, M. D., Dooly, M., & Costa, X. (6-8 de Julio de 2009). EDU LEARN 09. Retrieved on June 11,2013,from EDU LEARN 09 DIVIS: http://divisproject.eu/attachments/083_EDULEARN_09_DI
VIS.pdf

McNulty, A., & Lazarevic, B. (s.f.). Best practices in using video technology to promote second language acquisition. Chicago and New York, United States.

Rajadurai, J. (s.f.). An investigation of the effectiveness of teaching pronunciation to malasyan TESL students. Malasya.

Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative language teaching today. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Learning and Skills DevelopmentStudents' Voices

AEP Students’ Responses to Reading

by Level 4 AEP students (Jan 2014)

As a writing task, an instructor asked her students in level four of the AEP (Academic English Program) to write a brief response about their reading habits and their viewpoints on the reading culture in Nicaragua. They ended up submitting the following reactions:

Most people in Nicaragua do not like to read because they think that it is a waste of time. However, reading is a good habit that everybody should develop. When people build it, they gain new knowledge, learn about other cultures, and get into different imaginary worlds. As a student of English, I am in the habit of reading a book per month, and I do it because it helps to improve my vocabulary and grammar. In my opinion, reading in English is easier than writing, and I know that there is a relationship between them. If people read more, it would be easier for them to write. (Leyder Lopez)

Nicaraguan students are not in the habit of reading because schools do not teach them how to read a book properly. I think that reading can help students improve their concentration, enrich their vocabulary and develop reading strategies. Nevertheless, in my case I do not like to read because I find it hard to focus, so I do not read unless someone instructs me to do so. (Gabriela Gurdian)

Reading contributes to developing one’s imagination. Unfortunately, the majority of people around the world do not like reading because they prefer to watch TV, play video games or listen to audio books. I believe Nicaraguan people do not like to read for the same reasons or because they do not have time or do not really appreciate the value of reading. (Cesar Arguello)

Reading is one of the best activities that people can do to exercise their brain. There are several reasons to make reading a habit. For example, reading develops one`s imagination, it keeps citizens updated about the latest news, and it helps them to learn a foreign language. However, watching TV is a more popular activity than reading a book. Reading English is pretty helpful for English learners. Indeed, this activity is easy, and it contributes to improving learners’ grammar, learning new vocabulary and developing speaking and writing skills. As a conclusion, reading is a beneficial activity, so it can really change people’s life. (Moises Tercero)

I prefer reading books to watching TV. I like being exposed to new sentence structure and learning new words and build up my vocabulary. Likewise, I think that writing in English becomes easy as result of reading. If people read English books, they will learn how to write. I think, people in Nicaragua should read more often to enrich their lives and grow more professionally. (Josue Camacho)

Reading in English has two important characteristics. First, it can help students improve their English, gain new knowledge and help them with their grammar. Second, reading in English is a good habit. Readers can find good information that can help them in their daily life and job; yet public schools in our country do not teach elementary school students to read effectively, so they do not develop this useful habit. Instead, they prefer watching TV to reading a book. On the other hand, private elementary schools teach their students to read more properly, so these learners have interesting conversation topics. In addition, students can share information and recommend books to their classmates and friends. In conclusion, reading is a good habit that helps people to become more knowledgeable. (Grethel Perez Galo)

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyLearning and Skills Development

The Chat Club – An Educational Adventure through the Looking Glass

by Zee Valey-Omar

The conversation club was created primarily to address the needs of graduates of the English for Professional Development program at the Language Institute for further development and continued exposure to English.  It is unlike the traditional classroom in which the subject matter is aimed at teaching specific rules of grammar, structure or phrases and gently leading students to the mastery of fragments of the language under the watchful eye of a patient teacher. On the contrary, participation in the conversation club requires a high level of proficiency and uses only material to which native speakers are exposed and in which students express an interest.   Students are encouraged to think critically and express their opinions as clearly as they might in their mother tongue. Some of the subjects discussed are current events, philosophy, psychology, behavioral science, medicine, theology etc. This is a hybrid classroom in which problems are solved, ideologies are challenged, trends are analysed, opinions are expressed and experiences are shared. The participants are motivated solely by the desire to learn and develop their abilities proving perhaps the validity of the idea that in adults, the desire to learn is innate. This is learning for the sake of learning, the exquisite but illusive mythical creature that teachers dream about. While the course offers constant feedback and evaluation, students are not graded in the traditional sense. Here, the teacher plays the role of facilitator, giving guidance and advice.

While not purely Metacognative in methodological strategy, this course relies on some of the facets of Metacognative Strategies as expounded by O’Malley et al (1985). Students are encouraged to be active participants in the learning process from the conception stage by recommending material, thinking about the direction of their development by discussing the aims of exercises and being conscious of the skills they will develop in each activity. In keeping with the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson entitled: “Do schools kill creativity?” we steer away from the stigmatization of mistakes, trying instead to see them as opportunities to learn. The process of evaluation is constant, beginning with self evaluation, evaluation by piers and the facilitator. Creative thinking is encouraged above all.

One might argue that the open group structure of the class has elements of Socioeffective Strategies expounded by Brown (2007) as students constantly clarify and explain their ideas and similarly seek explanation and clarification from their peers.

This process of collaboration and constructive evaluation has had several consequences. Firstly, students have created their own English learning community which, free of the constraints of deadlines and exams allows for organic development. Secondly, conscious of the aims of the exercises, students are highly motivated to prepare and contribute. Thirdly the learning process provides students with an honest view of their abilities to comprehend authentic material, comment on it, problem solve, produce summaries and articulate their opinions. Finally and perhaps most crucially, students are able to set aside the anxiety of stagnating or regressing in their hard earned English proficiency.

In accordance with Malcolm Knowles (1984) the Conversation Club strives to create an atmosphere of cooperation. Some problem solving activities involve the fragmentation of a task into small parts which students later present as a group. In this type of exercise, students might be required to brainstorm ideas and then split of into groups to find solutions before they reunite to select the best solution. This is a skill which students value as is transferable to the workplace, where a high level of proficient participation is viewed favorably. Role play is another activity which fosters a further sense of camaraderie between students. An additional activity that the Conversation club engages in is an exercise entitled: In the news this week. During this segment, students review an important event in world news using a list of questions devised for the exercise. Here, news reports, online news papers, and blog posts are used. This kind of exercise assists in vocabulary development and comprehension. In keeping with the ideas of Malcolm Knowles (1984), there is a constant emphasis on goal driven exercises. Practicing complex sentence structures such as the third conditional for example might be the aim of watching a TED talk or a BBC video. This is simply not a course for a detestable, lazy teacher who arrives in class and vacantly asks learners what they would like to talk about. Students constantly provide the teacher with feedback on the lesson and future activities are adjusted according to what the students’ needs. The Conversation Club student needs to know what she/ he is learning and why. This type of student does independent research and eagerly searches the Edmodo group to see what the following week´s lesson entails or what she/ he missed the previous week.  A weekly poll is taken to determine future subject matter, what is of interest to students and to give the teacher time to gather material and create exercises around the material.

If I were to advise students on how to develop language proficiency outside of the classroom I would say that first of all, that one has to recognize the classroom for what it is. It is a simulated environment of learning in which all factors, the material, the exercises and the teacher conspire to nurture and support you. This, while comforting to a learner, might create a false sense of proficiency. I suggest that learning be seen as all inclusive, classrooms and grammar books are simply not enough. Students need to incorporate music, literature, culture, podcasts, TED talks, and cinema and in fact everything that interests them. I have often seen young students roll their eyes when jaded, uninspired teachers tell them to watch the news to improve their vocabulary. I firmly believe that the best material to use is what interests us.   A learning community is invaluable. No-one learns a language to live alone on an island, language is for communication. Students should find ways to communicate as frequently as possible both inside and outside the classroom without the fear of making mistakes. We need to stop demonizing mistakes and perhaps look at the way we correct students. One simply cannot correct an adult as if she/ he is a child. Students in turn should take cognisance of corrections, pay attention to patterns of mistakes and work independently to improve.  As teachers, we should foster the idea of learning as a process does not end at graduation.

I feel that students should be taught that learning a second language to be proficient is simply not enough. We need to be able to express ourselves as we would in our native tongue, to feel that our personality is revealed by the articulation of our thoughts and opinions. While this may not be possible for everyone due to varying abilities, it should be something we aim at. The half existence of second language speaker is simply not enough. Moreover I believe that a crippling tendency prevails in higher levels of learning where all the students and the teacher speak the same language- the tendency to translate and not explain. I see to some extent that this might be necessary in lower levels but I regard this as crippling because at higher levels because this is simply not transferable to real life situations with native speakers. Students should be aware of the habits they develop in learning English and constantly question whether the skill is transferable to a real life situation. Most crucially, students should know that languages are in constant development and they should maximize their exposure and be active participants in their development as English speakers.

Works Cited
Brown, D. H. (2007). Principles of Language Learning & Teaching. (5th Ed.). Pearson: Longman.

Knowles, M. and Associates (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

O’Malley, J. M., Chamot, A. U., Stewner-Manzanares, G., Kupper, L.J. & Russo, R.P. (1985). Learning strategies used by beginning and intermediate ESL students. Language Learning, 35(1): 21-46.