I have recently read two posts about grading that touch upon a topic that has long been boggling my mind – the use of grades as punishment and the overall fairness of grading systems. I would like to invite you to check out Monte Syrie’s explanation of why he doesn’t give zeros anymore, or grades below 50% for that matter, and why. Likewise, Andrew Miller explains how grades can harm student learning and how he has refrained from giving zeroes, taking points off for late work, grading practice...

Last week, Education First released its English Proficiency Index for the year of 2015. This index was launched in 2011 and since then, EF has released reports about the English proficiency of different countries around the world.  The 2015 report is based on tests taken by around 910 thousand adults from 70 countries in 2014 (Education First, 2015). Besides ranking the countries around the world, the report also ranks the different states in Brazil. EF’s index was widely publicized in the news, since it showed that Brazil ranks 41st...

Despite my 15 years of experience with portfolio assessment, its power never ceases to amaze me. I’ve recently conducted a course for public school English teachers in the Federal District and, once again, used portfolio assessment. I have a feeling that some educators might not adopt portfolio assessment because they think it is too complicated; others might think it is not “serious” or “valid” and “reliable” enough, and that anything goes. I’m going to demonstrate how portfolio assessment is simple, valid, and reliable as a classroom assessment tool. More importantly,...

I want to talk about drilling. To be more specific, repetition drills. A repetition drill is a technique, which involves the students listening to a model of a word or phrase, usually provided by the teacher, and then repeating it. The original rationale for repetition drills was based on a behaviourist view of language learning. The idea that learning a language was a question of habit formation and that repeating words and phrases ad nauseam would result in mastery of the language. This view of language learning has since been...

No matter how much we love our profession, there will always be that mind-numbing task we have to carry out. To me, that’s marking a seemingly endless pile of multiple-choice/short answer tests, the kind even a computer could grade. However, there is always that outside-the-box answer that will cheer me up. The web has no shortage of such examples. [caption id="attachment_3547" align="aligncenter" width="455"] Me too, Frankie, me too. -- Source: Distractify[/caption] The answers students give may be creative, funny or just oh-so-very-wrong, but there might be more to them than...

On announcing my groups’ final testing dates, I can vividly remember one student coining the chunk, if I may say so, ‘TeStressing Times are coming.’ Well, in terms of pronunciation one might easily say she has aced the test.  Living and learning seems to be a fair motto, I say. We all know that the end of an academic year or, our academic semester, is packed with surprises that most learners love, not to say hate. Either fortunately or unfortunately testing is one them. One thing is for sure,...

I am teaching a course for public school English teachers in Brasilia and one of the topics addressed is assessment. The aim of this part of the course is to improve teachers' assessment literacy, allowing them to provide informed feedback on the assessment system used in their institution and develop assessment systems and tools that are in keeping with the most current assessment practices. While going over the ELT assessment literature and discussing topics such as reliability, validity, washback, practicality, formative versus summative assessment, formal versus informal assessment, and...

February has come and we are all back to school again. So let’s talk about homework? For some years I have observed that a certain number of teachers have had difficulties setting and correcting homework for several reasons, from time management to lack of interest on the part of the SS. I have then started to think about the theme "homework" and made myself the following questions: What is the quality of the homework that is being assigned? Is the homework valuable and meaningful to students? Does the homework...

Most language teachers have an operating definition of proficiency, even if it is not a very conscious one. In the first part of this post, three different views of the term came to light. Proficiency can be the last stage in a language acquisition journey, hence “certificate of proficiency”. It can also be a set of stages or degrees, the proficiency levelS. Finally, we talk of proficiency in certain tasks or domains, as ESP practitioners would probably frame the concept: proficient FOR some things or IN some areas, but...

“Proficiency” is a concept that is very dear to us language teachers. As dear as hard to define, perhaps. After all, the term “proficiency” is ambiguous at best. If we consider common uses of the word, there are at least three competing definitions. 1.       PROFICIENCY = A HIGHLY ADVANCED LEVEL Some international exams offer certificates at “proficiency level”, a step up from advanced. In this sense, proficiency seems to be the top end of a scale and it is often compared, more or less implicitly, to the competence/ability/knowledge/performance of an...