It is the fourth post of its kind aiming to promote the use of photos in English language teaching learning. The photos can serve the multiple purposes in our classes such as writing (paragraph/essay writing, story writing etc.), speaking (conversation, describing photos etc.) and other kinds of group/ peer works. In this part IV, we share the photos of Choutari editor Jeevan Karki taken during his visits in different parts of the country.
(The ideas are based on the practice of the writer)
A. How to prepare and organize ideas for an essay?
As a language teacher for 8 years, I have found that my students struggle with their writing skills. When I ask them to write an essay for 250 words, it sometimes takes more than an hour to write because they do not know what to write or get stuck in the middle of their writing. Even the students with rather good grammar skills and sufficient vocabulary feel the same. To solve this problem, I undergo the following three-steps-process of writing to make it easy for them to write.
Step 1: Think of different social roles relating to the topic
Let’s see how we can think of different social roles related to the topic. For example, with the topic “Tertiary education should be free. To what extent do you agree?” When students get this topic, they often think of their arguments around students such as students could study freely without paying fees. And they cannot go further in their argument. I often suggest them to think of different people related to this topic such as lecturers, students’, parents, university administrators, government, or tax-payers. Now after thinking the different stakeholders associated with the topic, I ask them to follow the step: 2.
Step 2: Ask all Wh-questions
In relation to the above topic for essay writing, I ask my students to raise the following questions associated with people related to the topic.
- What do students get if tertiary education is free?
- What do the parents benefit when tertiary education is free?
- And where could the lecturers get the salary if tertiary education is free?
- Where do universities get money to pay salaries for teachers and provide other facilities if tertiary education is free?
- Is it good if the government pay for university education?
- Is it fair for everyone if the government pay for university education?
- Does the government have enough fund to pay for the university?
When the students brainstorm all the answers for the above questions, they will have a lot of ideas to write an essay. However, to write a good essay with logic arguments, they need to state their point of view and organize their ideas to support their arguments. Therefore, I ask them to follow the step: 3.
Step 3: State the point of view and organize ideas in a logical way
After answering all these questions, students should decide their point of view and organize their ideas according to the point of views. They should try to select the ideas that are more prominent and support their point of views. They do not need to include all the ideas in one essay. Each main point (topic sentence) needs three supporting ideas and try to give examples to support their point of view.
I believe following the above three steps offers students a lot of ideas and help them write an essay with the main point of view and ideas to support their arguments.
B. How to take academic notes effectively?
When I started my PhD journey, I read many articles. However, I did a blunder by not taking any notes. At the time of reading, I thought that I could remember what I had read. However, after reading more than 30 articles, I did not remember exactly what I had read! Luckily, I had chances to attend some workshops organized by my supervisors and PhD colleagues about completing the PhD journey. I was happy to share with you what I learnt and applied successfully after attending these workshops.
To come up with a paper, any other writing or a PhD thesis, I think the most important thing is to take notes methodologically. And organize the notes in a logical way so that you can retrieve it whenever you need it and use your notes for further analysis or comparison to discuss with other scholars in the world. Here are the main three steps that I find very useful.
Step 1: Take notes
When you are reading an article, take notes during reading or immediately after the reading. You may wonder what should note down. Sometimes, the article is very long and interesting but you do not know what is important to write down. In that case, you can include the following things:
- The context of the study,
- Theoretical framework,
- Findings of the study and
- Your critical view of the article.
Some of you may wonder why you need to take these notes. I will explain that in step 3.
Step 2: Organize your notes
Now, in this phase, we have to organize these summaries into themes/topics with the original articles because you may need to read these articles one more time when you find it related to your topic or area. On the other hand, you may need it to list in the reference section of your article or writing. Organizing this way, helps you compare many articles about the same topics.
Step 3: How to use your notes effectively
When you have all your notes, you will wonder how you can use these notes effectively. Please read your notes and compare or contrast the findings, methods or theoretical framework together to write the literature review. In the methodology section, you can also compare your methods with the method applied in the articles you read and summarized, so that you can figure out any differences and similarities between your method and the one used in the literature you read. Then you can state why you choose your own methods. I think it is very useful in the discussion section because you can compare your findings with the findings from previous studies. Then you show your readers that you find out something different from other people based on your context and your research method.
If you do not organize all these notes in a logical way, you may finish your writing. However, it might take you more time to go back and forth with the original articles to find the information that you need.
I hope that these practical tips could help you in to accelerate your writing.
Editor: Dear valued readers, perhaps you may have other ideas of composing the essay and note-taking effectively and efficiently. Please share your ideas in the comment box below.
*Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Loads of textbook while going to school!
Loads of homework while returning home from the school!
Teachers and schools do not show their interests in curriculum and materials neither do students and guardians. In this context, private education has witnessed clear signs of a gradual shift from the rote learning. A survey, published in Nepal Magazine, found that 57 percent of school-age children has inclined to read the books other than the textbooks. The survey on the students’ habit of reading the non-prescribed textbooks has highlighted the fact.
The survey, that was conducted eight months ago, showed that the students have been trying to get out of the textbooks. Even today, many teachers are still unable to complete the courses and textbooks within the academic session. Nevertheless, 84 percent of the teachers have encouraged their students to read non-textbooks, as per the findings of the survey. While 16 percent of teachers have also forced the students to remain focused on the textbook, citing the time constraints.
Forty-three percent of the total participants have not been able to study the materials other than the textbooks. Although the role and significance of the non-textbooks is similar to the textbook, there is an absence of realistic study on the interests of stakeholders on the reading of non-textbooks. “It is beneficial to give children an important book instead of 300 chocolates. We found that the parents sending their children to private schools have understood this fact to some extent while the parents of government-owned community schools are yet to make aware of this fact”, says Manish Jha, manager of Research and Analytics, which conducted this survey.
During the survey, the students were asked:
- Are you encouraged to read the non-textbooks and materials?
In response, 83 percent of the students said that they were encouraged to read the materials outside the coursebook, while 17 percent responded that no one encouraged them to read the materials beyond the textbook. 84 percent of school teachers said that they have recommended their students to reading textbooks /materials outside the coursebook. The rest (16 percent) of the school teachers, responded that they advised their students to remain focused on the textbooks, showing the time constraints to complete course in time.
The measurement of academic achievement shows that there is a huge gap between government and private schools. For example, average learning achievement of government school children is 40 percent while the achievement of students in private schools is more than 70 percent. For such a huge difference in academic achievement, teaching and learning factor has a major role to play. The survey shows that the children of private schools who have secured more than 70 percent of the learning achievement are also active in studying materials outside the coursebook, while the students of government schools with 40 percent leaning achievement can hardly complete studying the coursebook alone.
Of course, teachers feel pressured for timely publication of results due to the constraints such as timely completion of the textbooks and examination-oriented teaching. The students have not been able to get rid of rote-learning and burden of homework. However, recent preference of the majority of teachers and students to non-textbook materials is a pleasant aspect, Amod Bhattarai, a member of the research team says. “Most of the teachers, students and guardians have been promoting the reading culture of the non-textbooks, and the trend is on rising in the country.”
These days, there are fewer parents who do not want to invest in their children’s education. Such an investment depends on the income of the parents. A well-to-do parent invests more than those who earn less. This survey shows that parents, who understand the importance of education and whose financial status is better, are investing more in the education of their children.
In the survey, 63 percent of the 663 parents and guardians, who participated in the survey, said that they have purchased non-textbooks for their children. Among them, 42 percent of the parents have purchased the non-textbooks worth 1000 to 3000 rupees annually for their children. There are 16 percent guardians who invest 3000 to 5000 thousand rupees annually to buy non-textbooks and materials for their children while four percent of those guardians have been investing more than 5000 rupees and two percent have been investing more than 7000 rupees.
The survey revealed that the non-textbooks selected for children have been written in a variety of languages. For instance, 47 percent of guardians purchases non-textbooks written in Nepali and English while 28 percent of guardians buy those written in English and 23 percent buys non-textbooks of Nepali language. Only two percent guardians invest in purchasing the materials written in other languages.
The survey has shown diversity in children’s choice for the book. ‘Storybooks’ is the first choice of children. 55 percent of students participating in the survey have purchased the story books. Thereafter, children chose other books based on the theme of the children. According to the study, 28 percent of the students purchase children’s books and 28 percent have purchased the books with biography. Likewise, 26 percent of the children have shown interest in essays, 24 percent in facts and figures, 20 percent in paintings, 18 percent in the books with illustrations, 12 percent in travelogue, nine percent in comics and four percent in the memoir. Hem Krishna Shrestha, who is involved in the survey, says, “Stories have touched children’s mind. So, the choice of the majority is for stories.”
Needless to mention that the concept of technology-based education such as smart learning, e-learning, e-library, e-book, etc, is not new. However, students are still interested in purchasing the books for reading purpose. 74% of the respondents said that they feel pleasure in reading the printed books. Only few have read books borrowed from school libraries and their friends. This means that our school system still enjoys traditional form of teaching-learning activities.
School time for students is usually spent for regular teaching-learning activities, assignments, classwork and project work. The children who are tired of school assignments are from private schools. In the regular school schedule, children cannot read non-textbooks. So, children have utilised a long vacation to read non-textbooks. According to the survey, students and guardians buy books at the book exhibitions or when they are available at discounted price, and also based o the recommendation of friends, book reviews, and writers’ names.
Not all guardians invest in non-textbooks. The number of guardians involved in the survey who do not want to purchase non-textbooks is 33 percent. Kashyap Marhatha, a member of the survey team, says, “Dire economic situation and lack of education and consciousness, etc. is its main reason. Hence, some have invested nothing in the purchase of non-textbook.” dire
For such a less investment of parents and interest of students in non-textbook, existing government school environment is responsible. The reason is, government schools are still unable to come out of the government curriculum and prescribed textbooks. Textbooks are neither delivered timely nor are they completely covered in the government schools. It is not strange to find that there is no discussion of non-textbooks in the government schools which solely rely on textbooks. Education expert Bidyanath Koirala says, “A school teacher of Baglung has kept the keys of the library, tied with his janai (sacred thread). Since no one visits the library, it is never open.”
The government has not carried out the study about the overall reading habits of school children. Public discussion is very little on how much students are interested in non-textbooks, the level of their engagement in reading and how their learning achievements are affected by this.This survey has highlighted the fact that the students who study materials outside the textbook have improved significantly in learning achievement and broadened their mind. Koirala says, “There is a wide difference in the scope of knowledge of those students who have studied coursebook only and those who have also studied non-textbooks and external books. That is why, it is necessary to motivate every student to read books outside the coursebook.”
Status of government schools on teaching non-textbook materials
The country’s education consists of 85% government schools and 15% private schools. In terms of non-textbook reading habit, the situation of private school is positive but the status of government school is disappointing. The government standards set by the Education Ministry that the schools should be opened for 220 days annually and then 180 days for teaching learning activities have not been implemented effectively. Most of government schools are hardly able to complete the coursebook and the national curriculum developed by the Curriculum Development Center (CDC). Therefore, children, teachers and guardians of government schools have not been able to concentrate on reading non-textbooks.
Gyanodaya Higher Secondary School, located in Bafal of Kathmandu, is one of good schools in the country. However, in the same school, former Principal Dhananjay Sharma admits that the school was unable to motivate the student to read non-textbooks. “A decision was made for a teacher to read at least a book per month was not executed. After the teachers did not read the books, the students did not read them either.”
With a view to develop the reading culture among teachers and students, Gyanodaya School has scheduled ‘library period’. Yet, the reading culture is to develop. Reading the non-textbooks in the government schools has been neglected because the textbooks have not been taught properly, the teachers do not accept the non-textbooks as source of knowledge, and poor parents cannot afford the non-textbooks for their children.
Let’s explore another case to understand the status of the government school on teaching non-textbooks. Pragati Siksha Sadan situated in Kupandol of Lalitpur is another standard school. The school could not motivate children to read the books other than textbooks, principal Surya Ghimire shares. “Our teaching learning activities are limited to the textbooks due to pressure on the completion of the courses and securing high scores. The habit of reading non-textbooks is yet to be cultivated in teachers, guardians and students.”
Pragati Siksha Sadan has adopted a unique way to increase the children’s reading culture. As per the unique method, namely ‘Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)’, when an emergency bell rings in the school at any time, teachers and students start reading soon , halting the activities they are involved in This is called ‘DEAR’. However, the DEAR has not even been able to do so. Ghimire says, “This has increased the reading of textbooks, but it has not been able to contribute to reading non-textbook materials.”
Survey Methodology and Population
The urban centred survey was conducted in the schools located in 12 cities of 12 districts in Nepal. They were Birtamode of Jhapa, Biratnagar of Morang, Janakpur of Dhanusha, Bharatpur of Chitwan, Birgunj of Parsa, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Butwal of Rupandehi, Pokhara of Kaski, Nepalgunj of Banke and Dhangadhi of Kailali. The survey was conducted among 2599 respondents, who were teachers, students and guardian of both government and private schools. Among the respondents were 622 students from 6-16 years age group studying up to tenth grade, 635 non-guardians, 677 guardians and 625 teachers. Each of these four groups were asked 16 questions. The answers to those questions were processed to bring the findings.
This post is the English translation of the article originally published in Nepali based on survey carried out by Facts – Research and Analytics.
Texts by Praveen, Photos by Umes
NeltaChoutari organized a workshop titled Behind Academic Publishing: Why, How and What at King’s College, Babar Mahal in Kathmandu on June 28, 2014.
Bal Krishna Sharma, a founder of NeltaChoutari and a Ph. D. scholar at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA, facilitated the one-day workshop, attended by over 30 emerging authors, especially English teachers and students from Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University. Continue reading »
Testing is inevitable although not desirable. It is necessary in order to keep the track of overall progress of language teaching programme. Debates have been going on for and against the testing. However, the important point to note here is that it is the faulty process of testing that is being criticized not the concept of testing itself. In fact, such criticism is necessary as it can help improve the system. The sphere of language testing in Nepal is also not free from criticism. Therefore, we decided to test the testing system of Nepal in this interactive article. We have attempted to explore the existing problems in the field of language testing and possible solutions to them after an interaction with experts and readers. We believe such interactive can play a significant role to reform the system. A thematic question was asked to language experts as well as Choutari readers. The question was ‘What is a major problem in language testing system of Nepal and what can be the solution to it?’ Among the responses collected, we have presented the opinions of eight respondents here:
There are many problems with current language testing regime (as well as some good things). One issue that’s come up in our conversations is how testing practices typically ignore multilingual competencies. At first, this may seem like an impossible ideal, but if you look deeper, the question becomes why not. Ours is a multilingual society and students’ language proficiencies are not isolated; their English is a part of a complex sociolinguistic tapestry; their other languages don’t “hamper” English; languages aren’t just mediums but rich epistemological resources; and, humans have always spoken multiple languages without seeking a monolingual standard. So, when we face the task of teaching and testing students’ English abilities in isolation, we shouldn’t act like helpless slaves of the system; when discussing the roots and stems and branches and bitter fruits of the current regimes, there’s no need to surrender to the “reality.” The reality includes politics, power, and possibilities beyond their grips, and thus, we must broaden the base of our discussions so we can see testing as a broader phenomenon than, well, testing. Scholarly conversations under the tree here can and should help the community rethink the fundamentals.
Shyam Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University (State University of New York)
I call it an ‘issue’ rather than a ‘problem’; why do we still ‘test’ monolingual ability (although our students have bi-/multilingual ability)? Another issue embedded within this issue is: How can we test students’ multilingual ability? First, we must be clear that ‘testing’ is not a ‘fixing-shop’ where you can fix a ‘problem’ rather it is a complex discipline which needs a critical scrutiny from multiple perspectives for a valid evaluation of students’ ability. Our assumption that ‘language testing’ should only test ‘monolingual ability’, meaning that multilingual testing is impossible, is the major challenge for reforms in language testing. This dominant assumption decontextualizes language testing from students’ cultural, linguistic and educational contexts. So, the major issue is: our tests are not context-sensitive. For example, I still remember that we were often asked to write an essay in SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam about different highways in Nepal but I had never seen any highways (when I was in school). We were asked to memorize their lengths, construction dates and so on. I could not even conceptualize what a ‘highway’ was. However, I could write more and better when I had to write about ‘my village’ or ‘my school’.
The issue of contextualization is closely associated with testing multilingual abilities; locally-contextualized test items require students to work with their abilities in more than one language. For example, when I had to write an essay about my village I used to think in Limbu, Nepali and English. I (and my friends) could not think about the topic in only one language – no separation of languages! But the tests did not allow me to use my Limbu and Nepali abilities while writing essays in English. This is the major issue, right? If language tests are meant to test ‘language ability’, why don’t we test students’ functional abilities in multiple languages? This applies to Nepali language tests as well. For example, when students speak Nepali they simultaneously use English as well (and/or other local languages if their first language is other than Nepali); one cannot create the fixed boundary of a language. Suppose a bilingual student writes “आजको class मा कस्तो frustrate भएको…” (I had frustration in today’s class) for her Nepali essay (it can be more complex than this in the case of Maithili and Newari children, for example), how do we evaluate her Nepali language ability? The first reaction could be ‘असुद्द” (incorrect –literally impure). However, she is expressing her views fluently by using both Nepali and English in her repertoire. She cannot separate one language from another. This means that monolingual tests do not test students’ bilingual or multilingual abilities. Unfortunately, the students who show their bi-/multilingual abilities in language tests are considered ‘deficient’ and ‘poor’. However, the above example represents the use of language in the real-life (authentic) context.
There are ways to test multilingual abilities. For example, an inquiry-based formative assessment, which engages students in doing research and working with teachers to receive qualitative feedback on their work, can be one way to help them fully utilize their multilingual abilities. Such assessments encourage students to translanguage (use multiple languages to perform different tasks) to achieve the goals as specified by the test criteria. However, any kind of so-called ‘standardized test’, which are guided by the monolingual assumption, cannot test bi-/multilingual abilities. We should say a big ‘NO’ to the standardized tests if we truly believe in developing equitable language testing.
Prem Phyak is an MA (TESOL), Institute of Education, University of London, UK, M.Ed., Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Tirth Raj Khaniya:
Lack of professionalism is the main problem of English Language Testing in the context of Nepal. Professionalism is known as ability of applying fairness, ethics and standards in exam related issues. While dealing with exam related matters we need to be fair. We assume that we are professional but in reality we are not professional thus the test is not testing what it is supposed to test.
In language testing for teachers’ to be professional they require both necessary skills and abilities and application of those skills and abilities in a proper manner. To maintain professionalism it is necessary to have wide discussion among teachers and therefore all those who are involved in exams will have clear understanding.
Tirth Raj Khaniya has a Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.
Ganga Ram Gautam:
The main problem of language testing in Nepal is that the test itself is faulty. It does not test the language skills but test the memory of the text materials given in the textbook. There are also other several problems that include the issues with the test writers, test item construction, test administration and validation of the tests.
One solution of this problem could be to develop standardized tests and administer them in the various key stages such as primary level, lower secondary level and secondary level. In order to do this, we need to train a team of experts to develop the test and the test should be standardized by going through the reliability and validity testing. Once the tests are developed, they should be administered in a proper way so that the real language proficiency of the students can be obtained.
Ganga Ram Gautam is an Associate Professor at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University and former president of NELTA.
There is no need to reiterate that the aim of the learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate in it. In order to find out whether English language learners in the Nepalese schools have developed communicative skills in this foreign language, there is a provision for the testing of listening and speaking at the SLC level. I feel that this test is not serving the purpose. The lowest marks students get in speaking is 10 out of 15, which is 66%. However, when we communicate with the SLC graduates (let alone who fail the examination), most of them perform very poorly. There are two reasons for this inflated marking: the speaking test includes predictable questions for which the responses can be rehearsed: personal introduction, picture description and one function-based question (which is repeated so often that students can prepare a limited set of responses and be ready of the test). Secondly, there is a kind of extreme leniency in the examiners; they just award marks irrespective of the quality if the responses.
Two interventions could improve the situation. Firstly, the examiners should be trained to ask very simple everyday realistic questions which students cannot respond without knowing the language. Secondly, each test should be video recorded so that inflated marks can be easily scrutinised. Administrative issues should not come in the way of quality testing which has far-reaching consequences.
Laxman Gnawali is an Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA
Laxmi Prasad Ojha:
I think we are giving too much priority to examinations and tests in our education system. We do not understand the purpose of testing and evaluation. We don’t test the comprehension and understanding of students. This is the main cause of the failure of our education system in many cases, including the language teaching programmes.
I think “formative” should be the key word here. Laxmi ji, pointed out an important bottleneck we have experienced due to lack of purpose of testing and evaluation. If we think of a typical Nepali school, we do give more importance on summative tests than the formative ones. What we seriously lack (and that’s why we have a tremendous opportunity to work on) is systematic feedback for student.
Uttam Gaulee is Graduate Research Fellow, University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida
Bal Krishna Sharma:
Yeah, one way would be to introduce and practice more formative type of assessment. This will evaluate and test students’ ongoing progress and learning outcomes.
Ph.D. student, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Although the issue was one, the thematic question unbelievably raised so many genuine issues. The respondents highlighted the issue of testing multilingual competencies apart from only testing monolingual ability and also suggested some ideas on how to test students’ multilingual abilities. In the same way, the interaction raised the issue of lack of professionalism in language testing. Similarly, the respondents also urged that our memory-driven testing system itself is faulty. Furthermore, there is problem in test construction and administration and suggestion is put forward to develop and practise standarized tests to minimize the problems. In relation to the problem in testing listening and speaking in SLC exam, it emphasized that the test items are predictable and examiners are lenient and award marks irrespective of quality. The solution proposed is to train the examiners properly and introduce the system of video recording students’ performance. On the other hand, overemphasizing exams and not testing what it should test is characterized as a problem. The solution discussed over such problem is to give more importance to formative test rather than summative test, which helps keep the track of students’ achievement.
Now the floor is open for you. Share what you think is the problem of testing system in our context and what can be the solution. We believe such interaction contributes in the development of innovative ideas in ELT.
Bal Ram Adhikari
“How do you find marking students’ answer sheets?” To this question once asked abruptly by a friend of mine, I replied, “It tastes rather awful.” “What about teaching?” he asked another question. “Oh, don’t you compare teaching with testing!” That was my immediate reply.
As a teacher, my job is not over with the completion of the courses. The another important job that awaits me is testing or marking students’ answer sheets of the annual written examination. I enjoy teaching. My passion for teaching has now turned into a necessity rather than a desire. I often find teaching as a process of other-transformation and self-transformation. However, once I sit with my students’ answer sheets to rate their written performance in the subject, I find the same charm no more. Sometimes I question myself– What am I doing with these answer sheets?
I find testing itself intrinsically problematic
I find the notion of testing itself intrinsically problematic. The process itself tastes rather bitter. I read their written performance. I try to make sense of what they are trying to communicate through their words. I end up with a certain impression. I pause for a while. I mentally categorize the impression into such headings as language, content, and organization. Language is further divided into accuracy, brevity, clarity; content into relevance, details and depth. Then I quantify the overall impression. I try to find the appropriate numerical values for the impression. Say, it could be five, six, seven or even eight out of ten full marks. It might be two or three. Then I circle the marks in red ink at the end of the answer. However, the whole process from the first reading through interpretation to quantification of the impression takes me by surprise– What does it mean to present my impression of their answer in the numerical form? What does it mean when I assign six out of ten? How does the impression lend itself to quantification? Impression is intangible while quantification is tangible. It is the very process of converting the intangible into the tangible that puts students into two different bins: the pass and the fail. The passes are again ranked as first, second, third and last creating the notion of comparison and competition. The quantification also functions as a gatekeeper. How I quantify my impression of their answers might be detrimental (if low marks) or beneficial (if high marks) to their future academic as well as professional life. Similarly, the marks can also be detrimental or beneficial to the student’s self-esteem throughout their life. Isn’t it a funny as well as fatal game to play? Someone else’s impression of your performance determines your career and remains that with you throughout your life? Accepting this as part of academic and professional life, I enter into the process of evaluation. However, it tastes even bitter when I begin turning over the pages of the answer sheets.
Why does testing taste bitter?
Most of the answer sheets that I have marked leave the bitter taste behind. First, it is hard to make sense of what most of my students are trying to communicate. Here, I would like to present some sample sentences that I have picked up from the written performance of Masters’ second year students:
• Translator should also have bilingual as well as bicultural.
• On the above topic I am going to write argue for
• The main concern of today is only deconstruction. It is always starts with questions and goes beyond the logocentrism.
• I support this sentence by my heart due to culture is a inseparable element at translation process.
• In translating metaphoric expressions, there occurs different problems.
• The distinguish between them can be listed in the following ways. The time makes the clear distinguish between them. Anyway, translation and interpretation are same.
Such expressions abound the answer sheets of the advanced level students specializing in English. These are but few pieces of evidence out of 200 hundred sentences I have collected from students’ academic performance. When I run into such pidgin-like English, it strikes me– What did I teach? What did they learn? Or worse, did I teach them at all? Did they learn from my teaching at all? These questions are worth contemplating in terms of subject matter and the language they use to communicate to the prospective readers.
It is really hard to interpret their answer sheets when they are poor in terms of grammatical accuracy and clarity. Despite this, as a teacher, I try to make sense of what they are trying to communicate keeping the language matter aside and bringing the content to the fore. However, they are advanced English students. Subject matter knowledge and accurate writing ability must have the equal weight. Sometimes, the latter may get more priority. Now, it is hard for me to continue reading such answer papers which are hardly intelligible. How many marks should I assign them on what criteria? Should I penalize them for their language? I often grow ‘sympathetic’ to their poor level of language performance with the thought that development of writing proficiency is a life-long process. At least, they have demonstrated some knowledge in the content area. They will improve their language in course of their professional life. I console myself. However, the difficulty does not end here. My thought of being liberal to their level of language is immediately followed by another problem i.e. the complex interaction between language and content.
Language and content are inviolably interdependent. Is it possible or desirable to assign marks to their writing being ‘sympathetic’ to their language? Can we make such a separation in practice? Isn’t it something like running contrary to McLuhan’s famous dictum “the medium is the message”? I find myself in the helpless situation. I have to drop most of the criteria of marking that I happened to mentally outline before setting about the job. It makes my job rather difficult. I cannot fail the majority of the students for their poor performance in writing. Nor can I assign them the pass marks only considering their subject matter knowledge. In either case, I feel guilty. My students’ poor performance hints at the quality of my own teaching. Their failure means my failure too. I am testing myself as a teacher while testing them. The tester himself is tested. Nevertheless, I cannot, nor should I assign marks only to pass them. This means the information quantified in the form of marks is not valid. I am giving the invalid information to the concerned authority, and the professional organizations that rely on the marks for the purpose of selection. I have been in such a quandary for years while testing my students’ test papers.
Bal Ram Adhikari
Mahendra Ratna Campus,
Presented By: Ashok Raj Khati and Manita Karki
Language testing cannot be separated from the changing understanding of the nature of language, language abilities, and language teaching and learning. Accordingly, what is to be tested in language teaching has drastically been changing in recent times as a result of changes in what is to be taught. In this regard, we have entered a new era in language testing, which is classroom assessment also termed as performance assessment.
In recent years, there has been a growing discussion on whether classroom testing should replace other tests. In this essay, we suggest that it should work as a supplement to paper and pencil tests. The method may not be capable of replacing established methods of testing but there are a number of benefits that make classroom-based language testing more genuine and better attuned to effective language teaching and learning by today’s standards.
Let us begin with the central role of teacher in classroom assessment through this real story.
In an award giving ceremony to School Leaving Certificate (SLC) graduates, a teacher stepped forward and asked a particular student whom he had taught for years, “How did you get the first division, you deserve the second division.” Though the student passed SLC and got certificate of the first division, the teacher remarked so confidently that he should not have got first division.
It indicates the fact that teacher spend long time with his/her students and are able to evaluate them more or less rightly. In many countries, a teacher is the authority. If a student is unable to sit in the final examination because of certain reasons; the teacher has a right to recommend grades or percentages to examination board based on the students’ internal/classroom assessment and the board accepts it. Doing that makes teacher fair and ethical. However, there are many other contexts where teachers have not gained this sort of credibility. The point is it is the teacher who can best judge his or her students and it the classroom tests which allows teachers to do so. Therefore, classroom assessment is accepted as being close to what we are struggling for a long time.
Secondly, in most of the cases, we make a machine type of judgement when we test students through paper and pencil beyond the class but it is a human mind or brain that is involved in making judgement on classroom assessment. It used to be believed that everything can be tested by using a paper and pencil test but now people have started asking how? There are things that we want to test which cannot be tested by paper and pencil based test. The answer to this question is classroom testing. There are so many things that we can do in classroom which cannot be done through a paper and pencil test. We cannot test all types of abilities and skills by paper and pencil test because of expertise, time, and other limitations, but classroom assessment is genuine and it is worth implementing.
Class room assessment or performance assessment is genuine because one cannot test people’s actual language ability while they are not actually performing an act by using it. It is the classroom that allows learners to perform. In this regard, classroom assessment captures genuineness. Many scholars have realized that paper and pencil test, whether it is based on communicative approach or something else, cannot authentically test students’ performance. Especially a large-scale test cannot be a performance based test. There were classroom tests after 2010 but those tests were used for internal assessment. Classroom tests are different, they are bound to be different and they are of different designs.
Classroom assessment is collaborative in nature. When students obtains marks in board examination, one common thing they cannot figure out is on what basis was their answers marked and consequently, they think they are given less and what they deserve. However, in classroom assessment, teacher works with students before, during, and after the assessment. The present of students makes teacher cautious and transparent. Thus, the teacher makes judgement of the students in a collaborative manner. Further, teachers can also assess students’ performance by assigning group work that makes classroom testing different from large-scale assessment. That adds one more dimension to collaboration.
The best thing about classroom testing is that it is learning focused. As a result, it has positive wash back. It mainly focuses process and less product. Teachers get enough opportunities to observe the different learning processes of their students in classroom assessment. By contrast, paper and pencil test may not be able to create situations and offer adequate opportunities to demonstrate different abilities and skills, and perform certain tasks on the part of students. It is more product-oriented. It is only classroom test that can make learners perform tasks while being tested.
In the same way, classroom assessment is a social phenomenon. The classroom is a society. A school is run for teaching and learning but at the same time, we mange it in a way that that would be the representation of the society. Thus, the classroom assessment is a social phenomenon where we promote classroom assessment and students learn and practise performance based activities, which they will continue to practise outside the classroom.
In terms of creativity, classroom testing is not an entirely new approach because in some way prior approaches also tried to capture what this approach tries to do. A good example of this is how Bloom’s Taxonomy captured a range of simple to complex competencies. It is very difficult to capture the psychological processing of learners in many occasions. We have to be tentative to assess it. Testing cannot be a science; it is different from many other activities. The focus of language testing is: what is the content of the language, where is it, how do we get hold of it? Scholars who are advocating for communicative testing have now realized that what they were trying to accomplish with it is something different. Icons of language testing has different views on communicative testing. Some say that it is not necessary to test communicative abilities through communicative approach. After 2010, testing has moved into assessment, assessment has moved into performance, and testing tends to be always indirect unless one asks students to perform certain tasks. It is not the test that test; it is the tasks that test. It may be hard to determine whether or not classroom testing can entirely replace communicative testing. However, classroom-based testing can be a focus of testing because it is very close to reality since teachers will be asking students those tasks in the classroom which they are supposed to do outside the classroom in their real lives.
While talking about classroom-based testing communicative testing, there may arise a question of construct. The construct is the basic characteristics of activities of an event, the psychological and the philosophical aspects of skills and abilities, and the quality of the content. The construct in communicative language testing may be assessed in an indirect way by bringing language performance into the classroom and assessing it. The concept of communicative language teaching and testing in a real sense has been changing. Henry Widdowson, one of the prominent scholars in the field of Applied Linguistics, wrote a book in 1979, “Teaching English as Communication”. Once in 2000, he said that he if he were to revisit that book, he would call it “Teaching English for Communication”. He realized that it is not possible to teach English as communication. He was excited to talk about communication in 1980s but later he found that it was not easy to capture communicative activities and bring them into the classroom and make it happen. In some ways, it has to be indirect, less communicative and difficult to bring communication in the classroom.
In a way, the philosophy behind the communicative language teaching (CLT) is the continuity of what we have been doing for the last 70 years. Somehow, CLT is also based on a paper and pencil test. At the end of the day, teachers give test to students to perform where they may not authentically perform language use. Based on the change from CLT to language teaching and testing, teachers and scholars began to realize that classroom assessment should be an additional learning exercise. Therefore, a genuine assessment must be a performance assessment and an inherent part of the whole process and that is the next era of language testing. It does not mean that communicative language testing has nothing to do with language teaching and testing in the days to come. We are still using 1960s’ multiple choice items. All previous methods of language testing have made lots of contributions to language testing but we are moving toward something new. Communicative approach in testing will also continue because it has strengths and potentialities but at the same time, the thrust of classroom assessment needs to lead classroom teaching and learning activities.
In sum, classroom assessment is an important approach to language testing. It appears to be very close to what we have been trying to find out. It may take time to make a strong ground to be a prominent approach. So for now, classroom assessment is an additional option- not a replacement. It will contribute to make assessment more authentic and better attuned to current understanding of language learning. It will be a good instrument for us to improve teaching and testing in the classroom.
(The piece is based on a lecture delivered by Prof. Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya at the School of Education, Kathmandu University)
Ashok Raj Khati
Ramesh Chandra Bhandari
Thousands of graduates begin their career as teachers every year in Nepal. As they do not have any experience in dealing with various aspects of the profession, they face many problems. Everyone who starts his/her career in a field expects to receive some kind of orientation of briefing (known as induction) from the senior staff and administrators. But most of the schools donot provide induction to their newly appointed teachers in our context. Due to lack of induction, they face various problems in their career. In this reflective paper, I have tried to discuss the problems faced by beginning teachers due to lack of induction and the benefits of the same.
Induction: A Brief Introduction
The term ‘induction’ means to guide, to introduce or to initiate especially into something demanding, secrete or special knowledge (Cole & Mcnay in Dube, 2008). It is the process or ceremony of introducing someone to new job, organization, or way of life. It is oriented towards adjusting somebody in new a context. Every organization or institution needs to carry induction to help its staff function properly in the beginning of their job.
The beginning teachers or newly qualified teachers (NQTs) should be provided with initial training before they enter into full-fledged teaching.
Teacher induction refers to the assistance, guidance, orientation and support provided to the novice teachers in order to make them familiar with new teaching environment. Through induction, the new teachers can develop knowledge of professional practice, capacity to assess the needs, awareness of future responsibilities, dedication to the profession and ability to maximize the use of the resources available around. Teachers should also be trained to adopt the new innovations that occur in their professional areas. In this regard, Wong (2004) states that induction is a “Comprehensive, coherent, and sustained professional development process – that is organized by a school to train, support, and retain new teachers and seamlessly progress them into a lifelong learning program.”
There is no formal provision of teacher induction in the field of teaching in Nepal, though there are some informal modalities of induction launched by private institutions. There are many challenges for teachers in Nepal and they continue to face them due to lack of proper induction from the schools in the beginning of their career.
My experience of ‘being’ a teacher
When I joined the teaching profession, I expected assistance from the seniors, colleagues, and head teachers but I did not get such help. I felt lost and disoriented when I stepped into the class for the first time. I couldn’t utilize the theoretical knowledge into practice. I had theoretical idea about different teaching methods like grammar translation method, direct method, audio-lingual method, etc. and different techniques like pair work, group work, dramatization, role play, different language games and so on but I forgot everything. I felt very uneasy to express even the things which I was well familiar. I lost my confidence and even if the students laughed in their own matter, I used to think that I had made some mistakes.
Similarly, I also faced different problems regarding classroom management, students’ response and behaviour, handling subject matter, instructional techniques, administrative and co-worker relationship, adjustment to overall school environment, curriculum, evaluation system, etc.The number of students in my class was very large and the environment was completely new to mewhich created difficult situation to manage the classes. It wasdifficult to motivate and make the students ready to study, lead the class in the proper direction, and check class work and homework in the class. At the same time, it was also hard to maintain proper classroom conduct among the students. There used to be several queries of the students regarding my teaching items, but I was unable to manage the answers to all of them.
When I graduated in ELT, I thought I knew a lot of things about English language teaching but I realized that I just knew the theories. I didn’t feel very comfortable with my co-teachers. I received few support from administration but no help from the other teachers. I expected a huge support from everyone but they were only busy in taking his/her own class and no one cared for what a new teacher was doing. Only few of them shared their ideas, experiences, information and techniques with me.
I found it hard to understand the overall school environment as it was my first experience as a teacher. I was in a state of confusion and had no guideline from the seniors on a regular basis. I felt problems to adjust myself with the rules and regulations of the school, understanding students’ psychology, their nature and it took me some time to recognize all those. Likewise, I didn’t have sufficient knowledge of curriculum as the course was new and I had very few ideas about the proper ways to handle the tasks that were given in the prescribed course. I had to study and practice a lot hard to handle the subject matter.
I had many problems related to evaluation of the performance of the students. I had no idea about evaluation system of my school at that time. I faced many problems regarding class tests, unit tests, responding to students’ immediate problems, interval between different examinations.
How did I overcome these problems?
If I had been introduced to these systems properly in the beginning, I would have been able to feel comfortable and perform better. Though all the teachers are in favour of teacher induction, it is not practiced in teaching properly. In the beginning, I had no idea how to face the problems I encountered. Later, I thought I should do something to help myself overcome them. I started adopting different techniques. I tried to take the help from my colleagues, head teachers, administrators and even with the students. I got positive responses from some of them but not all. I tried my best. But in some cases it was not possible to overcome those difficulties myself. My seniors and the principal also helped me to make teaching and learning activities effective. I also consulted with teachers from other schools.
My Observation and Suggestions
Over the months, I have realized that teacher induction is essential for the professional development of the beginning teachers. I faced various challenges and problems due to the lack of proper induction. As a treacher who has completed a graduate course to be a teacher, I had enough theories in my mind but I severely lacked the practical skills and understanding of the context I had started working. From my own experience, theories and discussion with other teachers, I have come to realize that, induction helps new teachers solve the problems they encounter in their early stage of teaching career. Here are my suggestions for the effective implementation of induction program:
- All the novice teachers should be provided with teacher induction program while they enter into the profession. Lack of induction might give them bitter experience which results in negativity towards the profession.
- Novice teachers should be provided with the idea of dealing with the subject matter, maintaining relationship with administration, co-worker and students, maintaining discipline in the classroom, addressing students’ problems and so on.
- There should be regular provision of collaboration and interaction between novice and veteran teachers at the regular basis. Workshops, seminar, and group should be conducted for the professional and personal development of the teachers.
- Teacher induction should be made flexible, decentralized, regular and accessible to all. So, the policy should be formulated accordingly. Government should provide sufficient numbers of teacher mentors, supervisors, resources to implement induction program properly.
- Teacher training program organizers and teacher educators like Ministry of Education (MoE), NELTA, NCED should include and focus on the role of teacher induction program as one of the most effective means for teachers’ professional development (TPD).
Dube, W. S. (2008). The induction of novice teachers in community junior secondary schools in Gaborone, Botswana. An M.Ed. thesis, University of South Africa.
Griffin, C. C. et al. (2003). New Teacher Induction in Special Education. COPSSE Documents No. RS-5.
Wong, H. K. (2004). Induction programs that keep new teachers teaching and improving. NASSP Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 638.
Ramesh Chandra Bhandari
Teacher at Neelbarahi Higher Secondary School, Kalimati, Kathmandu
Ganga Ram Gautam
Prof. Stoynoff in his keynote address during 19th NELTA International Conference held in Kathmandu on Feb 27, discussed his professional journey in the field of language assessment using a “trekking” metaphor as part of an anecdote from his Nepal visit long time ago.
The highlights of the message that he conveyed through the metaphor were:
a) a beginning is always exciting but not easy
b) we need to understand the challenges and put every effort to face them in order to get to the next level
c) we must understand the significance of our endeavor in the work that we do
d) we should not give up but try various alternatives so that we might find a better way for addressing the challenges and issues
Describing the various landscapes of language assessment in the last few decades, Prof. Stoynoff shared about two key orientations, namely, the psychometric perspectives and socio-cultural perspectives, which have influenced language assessment. Highlighting the key features of these perspectives, he also talked about the shifts that have taken place in the area of assessment along with the changes in the curriculum and materials in English language teaching and learning.
Drawing on the principles and practices of the socio-cultural perspective in language assessment, he elaborated alternative approaches to language assessment and how these approaches address the issue of ‘authenticity’ in language assessment. The key message that Prof. Stoynoff delivered during his presentation was that it is the teacher who is chiefly responsible for selecting the appropriate assessment and in many cases developing them, administering them properly, interpreting the results correctly and using results responsibly. He advised the teachers to be more attentive to the purposes and practices associated with assessment and their impact on students’ learning and their teaching. Thus, he highlighted the term “Assessment Literate” as the key that every teacher should be aware of.
As concluding remarks, Prof. Stoynoff said:
a) Set ambitious goals
b) Persist in important endeavors
c) Periodically gauge your progress and recognize changes in the professional landscape
d) Prepare for the challenges that are ahead
The presentation was both academic and practical and participants enjoyed it thoroughly. The uptake of the presentation was that the best way to keep abreast with the new trends and development in the professional field that one is engaged is through continuous professional development.
Ganga Ram Gautam
Reader in English Education,
Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahachal, Tribhuvan University
Executive Member (Immediate Past President), Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA)