Feedback and assessment

In the past eight years I have been responsible for teaching, preparing and assessing students on pre-sessional courses, as well as more specialised in-sessionals. The range of assessment types vary, and has included presentations, poster presentations, seminars, extended essays, reports and exams. On in-sessional programmes, feedback is largely formative and designed to facilitate opportunities for students to identify gaps in their previous IELTS exam writing and the expectations of formal academic writing. At BPP University, I always began the feedback process by administering diagnostic tests at the start of the course (see Padlet). Following which I would hold a class discussion about academic style, discourse, and genres of writing. Students were then encouraged to self-reflect on their writing, applying their newly acquired knowledge. I find conducting this activity at the very start of students’ academic courses helps them to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and make an informed decision about the skills and knowledge they need to develop to be successful in their studies. As contact time on in-sessional programmes is limited, I designed an accompanying Padlet for students to self-reference during their academic studies (see Padlet).

On pre-sessional courses, where the stakes are higher, I ensure that feedback is continuous, timely, and actionable, so that students can make improvements in the time available before submitting summative assignments. To avoid overwhelming students with language-related errors, I use selective marking, underlining errors and categorising these using a correction code to encourage students to self-correct (Lee, 2005) (and see Padlet for example). This approach can prove rather effective for students who need to continue improving their grammar and knowledge of academic vocabulary and style after the pre-sessional course. In addition, I provide students with summarised action points that highlight key issues with language and content. This typically takes the form of one strength, and two areas for improvement (see Padlet for example). I also provide verbal feedback in one-to-one tutorials, which sometimes takes the form of a conference where students can observe as I correct a short piece of writing to help them understand where readability, communication and structure break down. This allows them an opportunity to ask for further clarification and targeted advice, after which they can set short and mid-term learning goals, which is essential to promote student autonomy.

The universities I have taught at tend to develop their own marking criteria, but the frameworks are broadly the same (see Padlet for example). They tend to be a combination of a generic academic assessment criteria and partly reference the IELTS descriptors to include 1. Task response, 2. Organisation, 3. Use of sources, 4. Language – appropriacy and style  (see Padlet for comparison of criteria). As academic writing is perhaps one of the most occluded genres of writing (Swales, 1994), I find providing students with models of good academic writing to analyse aids better understanding of the assessment criteria and what is expected of them. At some universities, feedback is given on paper, but more recently there has been a shift towards using digital platforms for formative and summative feedback (see Padlet). I often create opportunities for peer-feedback in class, not only because it allows students to learn from each other and reflect on their own ability (Horowitz, 1986), but also because peer-feedback is considered less threatening than teacher feedback (Medonca & Johnson in Hyland, 2006). At King’s College and BPP University, I was able to compliment in-class feedback with online feedback using Moodle, Padlet, GoogleDocs and Blackboard.

One of the advantages of a VLE such as Padlet is that it enables teachers to stage feedback. On less intensive academic writing courses at BPP University, I employed two phases of feedback to help students better comprehend the writing and editing process. Teacher and peer feedback to students’ first drafts focused on the taught elements of essay structure, referencing and academic style. This helped students to recognise other important components of good academic writing in addition to grammatical accuracy (Hyland, 2006). In later drafts, the emphasis was on improving the grammatical accuracy of their work (Ellis, 2006). Padlet was particularly helpful in both phases because once I had categorised the error, I could prompt other students to provide possible corrections. I would also guide students to research solutions rather than simply providing teacher corrections. Although students tend to question the effectiveness of self and peer feedback, it is vital for EAP teachers to reduce students’ reliance on the tutor, develop student autonomy and the ability to collaborate with their peers using VLEs to help them become successful students.

Technology now grants students and teachers more time to reflect in feedback processes. Students have the time they need to provide considered, more in-depth responses towards their peers’ work (Hlas et al, 2012). Having time to review students’ responses means I find it easier to assess whether the training in peer response has been effective. I can better gauge the effectiveness of students’ approaches to providing constructive criticism, and if they have acquired the appropriate language and phrases which motivate their peers to improve. It also saves considerable time as I can highlight common issues and provide appropriate solutions to the whole class using a VLE. This includes written, and more recently recorded audio, summaries of strengths and weaknesses, and appropriate solutions, which can take the form of various web links and suggested digital media. This demonstrates my understanding and experience of the core principles which inform using technology for assessment and feedback.

References

Ellis, R. (2006). The methodology of task-based teaching. Asian EFL Journal. 8 (3): 79-101.

Hlas, A. C., Schuh, K. L., & Alessi, S. M. (2008). Native and Non-Native Speakers in Online and Face-to-Face Discussions: Levelling the Playing Field. Journal of Educational Technology Systems. 36(4): 337-373.

Horowitz, D. (1986). Process not product: less than meets the eye (in the Forum. TESOL Quarterly. 20 (1): 141 – 144.

Hyland, K. (2006). English for academic purposes: An Advanced Resource Book. Abingdon, Routledge.

Lee, I. (2005). Error correction in the L2 writing classroom: What do students think?  TESL Canada Journal. 22 (2): 1 – 16.

Swales, J. (1994). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

 

Learning analytics

Sutori story

https://www.sutori.com/story/learning-analytics–RKi61KaAa1S7FwVPivYkt3p4

Static links to audio on GoogleDrive

Gender parity

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pj70BJSI6qPWNbYui2eWb8FhG0baH8tP

International students

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Qm1AfkduthIMzEfHlYCvnl5CSg2dGsLS

 

 

Online commercial language resources in EAP

https://www.sutori.com/story/online-commercial-language-resources-in-eap–T32e3ZQjfKgc1q9VteqnJNVZ

Static GoogleDrive link to audio

Training teachers

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lTAGwRuoYI0uKSL8pQYO_vyfk5VR9cNv/view?usp=sharing

Other considerations

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1K2OFg7VUUzupuPprqXr4sKvXc57rznjM/view?usp=sharing

Digital badges

https://www.thinglink.com/card/1161007055151038465

The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement – Sri Lanka

https://www.thinglink.com/card/1158244500192100355

Empathy map for NNS learning online

Empathy map link:

https://www.mindomo.com/mindmap/44eda421bcc7498f88234a5c4586d706

Google Drive audio link, you may need to download the file.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/146-S5BfyNlR9OJEY6nl0GybUp3bqQZ-m/view?usp=drivesdk

References

Holliday, A. (1994). Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Nagahama, C. (2010). Understanding and managing Culture Shock. in Spencer-Oatey, H. (2008). Culturally speaking: Culture, communication and politeness theory.  (2nd edition). London & New York: Continuum.

Nelson, D. & Parchoma, G. (2018). Toward theorizing spatial-cultural ‘othering’ in networked learning and teaching practices. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked. (Eds) Bajić, M, Dohn, N.B., De Laat, M., Jandrić, P., & Ryberg, T.

Sanchez-Gordon, S., & Luján-Mora, S. (2015). Accessible Blended Learning for Non-Native Speakers using MOOCs. International Conference on Interactive Collaborative and Blended Learning (ICBL). December 2015. Accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288331475 Accessed 24/02/19.

Van Weijen, D. (2012). The Language of Future Scientific Communication. Online: Research Trends. Accessed at: https://www.researchtrends.com/issue-31-november-2012/the-language-of-future-scientific-communication/ Accessed on 24/02/19

Unbabel (2015). Top Languages of the Internet. Online: Unbabel. Accessed at: https://unbabel.com/blog/top-languages-of-the-internet/ Accessed on 24/02/19

 

 

 

Crafting young minds

I have a seven-year old nephew who is fanatical about Minecraft. Friends and family have bought him all the paraphernalia, a duvet cover, lamps, toys, t-shirts and socks, some of which I confess I bought without having a clue what the game was about. In 2014, Minecraft developed a ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ edition; being a largely absent aunt, I tried to tap into the latest toy trend for young boys. My nephew was delighted with his presents, but my younger brother was far from amused due to fact my nephew began to experience nightmares, and it became a struggle for my brother to establish a bedtime routine. My brother later banned my nephew from playing that edition, and by association, I was left with the impression that Minecraft is inappropriate for young children. As a layperson I had no knowledge of how Minecraft helps children to learn, therefore, I was surprised to learn that some educationalists advocate the use of the game to develop children’s problem-solving skills. This IDEL course has encouraged me to review my misconceptions.

To start with, my nephew is already adept at using technology in a way my generation, the newly termed Xennials, was not exposed to. My childhood was the age of analogue, when technology started to develop at a phenomenally rapid pace. I can connect various rites of passage with technological development, for example, using my first mobile phone to text my first real boyfriend, and filling in job application forms online after graduating from university. In contrast, my nephew accidentally ordered a digital camera via Amazon at the age of three. He is the epitome of Prensky’s digital native; he is being raised in a digital world, already familiar with reading digital texts and navigating websites (2001). I wondered whether this generations’ technological proficiency will genuinely outpace mine. Various frustrating and unsuccessful attempts to play Minecraft, followed by screams at my smartphone and computer, expose my status as a digital immigrant. Prensky’s definitions are often critiqued because they assume that age is an indicator of proficient use of digital technologies, especially for learning (Bennett et al, 2008). Fortunately, when utilizing several tech tools for educational purposes and integration in the language classroom, I can self-declare a more than passable degree of efficacy in the presence of much younger users of technology.

To some extent, games like Minecraft mean my nephew is already developing some of the skills and competencies that may prepare him for participation in the workplace. When we consider parents’ anxieties about children playing outside, under careful adult guidance, virtual environments permit children to experience the world from the safety of their own homes. Given these limitations, playing digital games could be one way for children to actively develop visual and spatial awareness (Yang, 2012). Far from being the distraction reported in other studies into the use of digital devices in the classroom (Begum, 2011; McCoy, 2016; Squire, 2003), Yang’s research findings (2012) would suggest digital learning games significantly improved children’s focus and motivation to solve problems, as well as facilitating collaboration and their ability to make decisions (Lim et al, 2013). Perhaps the Asian context of large classrooms and teacher-led pedagogies may afford the use of technology in the classroom a greater novelty factor resulting in increased concentration and learning outcomes.  The distractions and disruptions caused by smart phone devices, and concerns about cheating, are undoubtedly a top concern for teachers and examiners alike at secondary and tertiary level education in the UK, and one I must carefully navigate on a weekly basis. While my brother’s reports of occasionally having to tussle mobile devices away from my nephew may only be anecdotal and not related to the classroom, they provide me with some insight regarding the concentration some children apply when playing games.

On the flipside, I worry whether my nephew’s generation are learning the skills to socially interact face-to-face. Current research would suggest this is a significant concern of parents and educators (Lerner, 2015; Rideout et al 2010; McCoy, 2016; Gallup Panel survey cited in Newport, 2015). Technology certainly permits collaboration and a degree of meaningful interaction. It could be argued that my nephew is learning the art of collaboration through playing Minecraft with family members in multiplayer mode. Given that most 8 – 18-year-olds average an hour a day in front of computer screens, pertinent questions are now being raised about the ability of future generations’ to decipher fact from fiction, negotiate, make friends and show empathy (McCoy, 2016; Lerner, 2015; Rideout et al, 2010). I also have a niece, my sister’s daughter; both siblings share the genuine concerns of parents nationwide that the overuse of digital technologies may damage their children’s social, physical and psychological well-being (Livingstone et al, 2015; Lerner, 2015). My sister is typical of the growing number of parents who restricts access to digital devices in the home, preferring for my niece to develop creativity, teamwork and spatial awareness with activities such as knitting, rock-climbing and ballet. However, data suggests that limiting children’s access to social media could paradoxically isolate them from their peers (Rideout et al, 2010; Gran & Enyo, 2017). Raising the next generation and finding a healthy balance between the offline and online interactions is a complicated issue and debates are bound to continue. It is essential to mediate children’s use of digital devices, whilst also acknowledging the value of digital games like Minecraft which can cultivate deep-learning, problem-solving and incentivise children to learn.

References

Begum, R. (2011). Prospect for Cell Phones as Instructional Tools in the EFL Classroom: A Case Study of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. English Language Teaching. 4 (1): 105 – 115.

Bennett, S., K. Maton, and L. Kervin. 2008. ‘The ‘‘digital natives’’ debate: a critical review of the evidence’. British Journal of Educational Technology. 39 (5): 775–86.

Cousin, G. (2005). Learning from cyber space. In Land, R. & Sian Bayne, S. (Eds). Education in cyberspace. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Pp 117 – 129.

Gran, L., & Eyno, R. (2017). Digital Divides and Social Justice in Technology-Enhanced Learning in Duval, E., Sharples, M. & Sutherland, R. (Eds) Technology Enhanced Learning: Research Themes. New York: Springer. Pp 157 – 169.

Lerner, C. (2015). Screen Sense: Making Smart Decisions About Media Use for Young Children. Young Children. 70 (1) pp. 102-103. Published by: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Lim, C.-P., Zhao, Y., Tondeur, J., Chai, C.-S., & Tsai, C.-C. (2013). Bridging the Gap: Technology Trends and Use of Technology in Schools. Educational Technology & Society. 16 (2): 59–68.

Livingstone, S., Mascheroni, G., Dreier, M., Chaudron, S., & Lagae, K. (2015). How parents of young children manage digital devices at home: The role of income, education and parental style. London: EU Kids Online, LSE.

McCoy, B.R. (2016). Digital Distractions in the Classroom Phase II: Student Classroom Use of Digital Devices for Non-Class Related Purposes. Journalism and Mass communications.

Newport, F. (2015). Most Smartphone Owners Check Phone at Least Hourly. Online Gallop Accessed at: https://news.gallup.com/poll/184046/smartphone-owners-check-phone-least%20hourly.aspx Accessed on 24/02/19

Prensky, M. 2001. ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants’. On the Horizon. 9 (5): 1 – 6.

Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D.F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed at: https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/8010.pdf Accessed on 24/02/19

Squire, K.D. (2003). Gameplay in context: learning through participation in communities of Civilisation III players. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Instructional systems technology department. Indiana University.

Yang, Y. (2012). Building virtual cities, inspiring intelligent citizens: Digital games for developing students’ problem solving and learning motivation. Computers & Education. 59: 365–377.

Post script

Video of my nephew, Bailey, playing Minecraft with explanations.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1bwxC1RjFt1W6VVwZnX7uBF1ksWny8Kyw

What struck me in the video is the ease with which he uses the technology, he only needs occasional adult intervention and support. Twenty years on from Tapscott’s 1998 research study it’s clear the way children interact and learn through technology has been totally transformed (cited in Cousin, 2005). My nephew displays an innate sense of  problem-solving when he selects armour to prevent being killed when he is attacked by mods. Another interesting aside is his intrinsic motivation to play the game as indicated by his high-pitched voice and exclamations. I rarely find him as excited when I present him with a book for his birthday or Christmas!

 

 

The distance learner

https://padlet.com/sarahfletcher/llb2w0uwm6gv

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