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Posts Tagged ‘TESOL’

I ran across this very helpful article recently that does with reading and listening comprehension skills that I have been doing with reading-writing subskills.

Song, M-Y. (2009). Do divisible subskills exists in second language (L2) comprehension? A structural equation modeling approach. Language Testing, 25 (4), 435-464.

In essence, the author asks: to what degree does student performance on a test suggest that reading, listening, and 2-3 identified subskills exist as separate constructs (as evidenced by structural equation modeling)? In comparison, I have been trying to identify the degree to which reading comprehension, writing ability, synthesis comprehension, and paraphrase writing ability are all subskills of reading-to-write tasks. So this article provided quite a bit of theoretical framing and technical analysis that I need to further refine my own study. (more…)

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I work with my institution’s international teaching assistant (ITA) program. The program, like those at many universities and colleges in the USA, is designed to provide language and pedagogical training to non-native English speaking graduate students who serve as teaching assistants for their departments.

Last fall, after testing all potential ITAs for oral proficiency training, our program received many concerned calls from departments whose international students did not meet the minimum English language standards to be TAs. In fact, a large number of the students were well below cut-off in the university’s policy regarding ITAs. Departments were concerned that these students needed funding and now they did not qualify to work as TAs due to their oral proficiency. To put it mildly was a very frustrating experience for many stakeholders.

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Not long after arriving at my new job, I was informed that I would be handling the administration and grading of the university’s English language placement exam. I was shocked by the experience for a couple reasons:

  1. The exam is delivered on a Sunday. Having previously worked for a Christian university, I was surprised that any program would think it was necessary to hold an exam on a weekend, let alone a Sunday.
  2. A major portion of the exam consisted of a 100-item grammar test. The university does not even offer a grammar ESL class. There seemed little use in spending 45-minutes delivering a grammar exam that would have little consequential value.
  3. The exam was older. Really old. No one had an original version of the exam – only photocopies of photocopies. And the instructions to the exam contained the phrase, “Please do not smoke during the exam.” Really? How many decades ago would it have been likely that students would have assumed it *would* be okay to attempt to smoke during an exam?

Despite these reservations and the wacky rating scales for the oral and writing components, we made it through the administration of the exam. I decided that I would work towards updating the exam, but my plans were diverted by somewhat defensive suggestions that the exam could use revisions. Besides, I was too busy to do a test analysis study. Then, four months later I was asked to administer the exam again – and was once again subjected to the embarrassment of asking students to complete an exam that I personally did not strongly believe in. That shame was enough to finally convince me to do something about it.

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In addition to language education sessions, I also appreciate attending presentations that help me deal with the administrative aspects of my job. This year I attended a couple sessions on management issues.

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ESL writing ability has always been an interest of mine; perhaps it extends back to my undergraduate degree in English, or maybe even further, to my start in blogging back in 2002. Whatever the reason, I made sure I attended at least a few sessions on reading/writing this year. This was in stark contrast to previous years in which I focused almost exclusively on R/W. In fact, when I finally met up with a former professor on the second night of the conference, he remarked, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in any of the writing sessions?”

As divided as my time was this year, I still managed to make it to a few valuable sessions. What follows is my reflection on those sessions:

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I was entirely focused on the teaching of writing during the two years that I previously attended TESOL (2006 and 2007) . In 2006, I was working on my thesis related to the rating of ESL writing, and in 2007, I was working full-time as the Writing Skill Area Coordinator at the BYU ELC. TESOL contains plenty of writing related sessions, so I dedicated myself almost exclusively to that topic.

However, I took a different approach this year. Although I remain interested in writing (and in fact co-presented a session on ESL writing), I decided to seek out sessions that would help me in the broader context of my teaching and administrative duties. So, I attended sessions on a new topic for me: ITA aka international teaching assistants.

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As I was preparing to head to the TESOL conference, I thought I’d check out their current book offerings. Publishers often offer their books at TESOL for a discount, and I thought it would be a good idea to see whether there was anything I should check out. That’s when I came across this text.

It turns out that the chapter that I wrote on language games is finally in print; the volume went to press earlier this month. I hadn’t heard anything from the editor in months (since before I moved to Virginia), so I was surprised to see that it is already available. I decided that if I bought one book at TESOL, I might want to buy this one, just to see my name in print.

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