TESOL 2013: Day 2

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7:30am– Making Room for Fluency Training in Reading Instruction: Fredricka Stoller and William Grabe, Northern Arizona University

I was surprised how energizing reading fluency activities could be so early in the morning. I think this session proved to be the most practical of all the sessions I attended during the convention. Since returning to class, I have implemented regular reading fluency practice activities. I think the activities are sort of a fun warm-up activity, and the students are able to see their reading progress in a short period of time (if they read the text more fluently after the first reading). We’ve had some great conversations about pronunciation and vocabulary through these activities, and while those aren’t the target benefits, they are benefits of the fluency tasks.

 

10am– CALL Academic Session: Gaming and Language Learning

 

  • Deborah Healey, University of Oregon– Overview of immersive game-based language learning research
  • Rick Rosenberg, U.S. Department of State– Introduction to Trace Effects
  • Jeff Kuhn, Ohio University–Elements of gaming and how it can be implemented in the classroom

This CALL interest session was interesting, however, it felt a bit like an ad for Trace Effects. The theory behind gaming in language classrooms was quite interesting, and Jeff Kuhn’s presentation had some good points about how gaming has changed over the years. With more powerful operating systems, game designers are able to create different essential experiences for users, every game does not need to target “the reptilian” part of our brains with explosions and shooting and killing. There are games that create a variety of emotional responses, and these experiences can be harnessed in the (language) classroom. In addition to essential experiences, the possibility space is also important for creating user autonomy and a more personalized experience within a game. For example, one is able to deviate from assigned “missions” in games like The Sims or Grand Theft Auto and simply explore the gaming environment. Overall, games can allow students to make meaningful experiences using the target language.

While the implications for K-12 language teachers seems obvious, would gamification be effective in an adult language classroom as well? My views on this are not based on research or the literature, but I think with my own current adult learners, games could provide an opportunity for them to focus on meaning rather than form and create a collaborative environment within the game. However, in an academic setting, is it appropriate to take class time playing games, even if they are in the target language?

Take-aways from this session:

  • Gaming has the potential to create a collaborative, constructivist environment for learners to create meaning in the target langauge.
  • Not all games are created equal.
  • Specific learners should always be considered when deciding the most effective method to implement gaming.

 

1pm– Re-examining Writing Assessment Rubrics in the Classroom

  • Deborah Crusan, Wright State University– Overview of issues with rubrics
  • Lia Plakans, University of Iowa– Development of rubrics & critiquing rubrics
  • Paul Kei Matsuda, Arizona State University & Jill Jeffery, University of New Mexico– How is the concept of voice expressed in writing rubrics (high school and post secondary levels)
  • Miyuki Sasaki, Nagoya Gakuin University– Rubrics from EFL (Japanese) perspective (student “organizational” skills)

This session was a good refresher regarding the evaluation and creation of rubrics for writing assignments. The panel discussed issues that included how teachers determine the weight given to grading criteria within a rubric. There was also discussion about the demands of grading written assignments. For this aspect of assessment, Deborah Crusan quoted this Atlantic article by John Tierney Why Teachers Secretly Hate Grading Papers. The article does a great job of presenting issues that must be faced by instructors every time they give written assignments to students.

Some of the main take-aways from this session include:

  • rubrics mirror what we value in composition
  • teachers should be accountable to their students
  • rubrics need to measure what needs to be measured, not what can be measured

Some questions to consider when creating or evaluating rubrics include:

  • Does your rubric reflect course curricula, lessons, and assignment?
  • Does your rubric match up with your view of language and the purpose of the assignment?
  • Does your rubric align with the task and the kind of language produced in the task?
  • Does your rubric fit with student ability and range of performance?
  • Can your rubric be easily and consistently used by students and teachers? (inter-rater reliability)

 

3pm– A Professional Reading Group for EAP Instructors, Joanne Millard & Beata Piechocinski, York University, Canada

This session focused on the YUELI (York University English Language Institute). In response to a previous TESOL presentation, the presenters implemented a sort of reading group for instructors at their program as a professional development measure. The reading groups met twice per 16 week term and discussed various academic articles related to relevant topics. The whole group voted on the topic and articles to be examined, and the leader of the discussions (full-time instructors took turns leading) chose two of the articles to be discussed at the meetings. Participation in the reading groups was voluntary, but they could be used to fulfill part of the mandatory professional development hours each instructor needed to complete each year.The discussions started with the articles read by the staff, but according to the presenters, the discussion turned to practice rather quickly.

Take-aways from the session:

  • Leadership is required for the reading group to continue each term.
  • Instructors valued the opportunity to discuss theory and practice with peers.
  • Through these discussions, professional developmental objectives required of the instructors could be fulfilled in an observable way. Teachers were able to express how they had benefitted from the discussions.
  • The discussion sessions acted as a sort of support group for the instructors involved.

I found this session particularly interesting as I have been thinking a lot about professional development opportunities. The whole endeavor (creating a reading group for instructors) seemed like an easy enough process if only someone volunteered to take the lead. I have recently been wondering if there exists any sort of reading group via social media for interested professionals to discuss relevant academic materials within their fields. I am currently unaware of such discussions within the field of ESL or education in general. The only thing that comes close might be the scheduled Tweetchats like #eapchat, #edchat, and #edteach. These sorts of conversations have the same flavor as the reading groups implemented at YUELI, but they typically do not entail pre-reading by the participants.

I would be interested in implementing a similar reading group PD program within my own institution. I think instructors could really benefit in their own practice by being up-to-date on current academic literature within the field, interacting with peers outside of level meetings (that usually entail logistical planning, not theoretical discussion of issues), and the reading group could create an environment of support within the workplace.

 

4pm– Using Corpora in Effectively Treating Lexico-grammatical Errors in ESL Writing, Dilin Liu, University of Alabama

This session focused on using corpora to address lexico-grammatical errors made in ESL writing. The presentation was based on research done by the presenter in which ESL learners were given a questionnaire that contained error correction exercises. Half of the items were to be completed by the participants alone, and the other half of the items were to be completed with the help of COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English). The participants had been trained to use the corpus in their English courses. They were familiar with the search functions and had practice using COCA to answer questions in their homework. Upon completion of the error correction tasks, participants were asked to self-report whether COCA was useful in helping find and correct errors. The types of errors included: collocations, use of prepositions, word meanings, register information, use of articles, and subject/verb agreement. The participants found COCA most useful for finding and correcting errors in collocations and least useful for dealing with errors related to article usage.

Of the two sections of the measure, the learners performed significantly better on the items in which they were allowed to use COCA. This was true of all the types of errors except for errors related to article usage. The items in which participants were allowed to use COCA had a higher rate of correction as well.

Take-aways from this session:

  • Corpora (like COCA) may be a useful tool to give our learners if we want them to be independent learners.
  • Identification of error types is necessary for successful treatment of errors with corpus.
  • Articles are tricky to deal with, regardless of access to corpora data.

 

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