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Measuring progress

July 27, 2008

Hello again,

At this time of year the UK plays host to many short-course students, from juniors through to mature executives all devoting a portion of their holiday...

...to learning English. Can such short courses provide opportunities for real progress or are they are more a form of tourism?

Certainly the executives with whom I work expect to see results. They pay high fees, work intensively and expect return on the investment. Similarly, for the younger students, parents have paid a lot to send their children not just for a holiday but for a real boost in their learning. So how can we measure progress for these short-stay learners?

External testing is one option. Trinity College Graded Exams in Spoken English or TOEIC are suitable for learners who want a more formal confirmation of their learning. But in some ways it seems a pity to spend the short time available preparing for exams.

A more interesting approach could be to build a portfolio of activities that provides a record of what students have done and achieved. For younger learners a portfolio document is available in both teacher’s and student’s version. This helps students systematically build a record of their progress in learning languages; to record how they learn languages; to keep some examples of work they have done; to show which languages they know; and to show what they know and can do.

The teacher’s guide gives plenty of ideas for activities and means of recording them. For example, work and products children would like to keep and show might include: pictures; souvenirs; e-mail messages selected written work; photos; audio or video recordings; descriptions and results of project work; copies of letters or e-mail messages sent to a partner school; examples of any listening, speaking, reading or writing games or exercises; a personal word list; a reading record; posters; reflections on ways of learning a language.

An adult version
of a dossier and a European language passport is available
This approach to progress measuring emphasises what learners can do and helps them to reflect on how they learn and how their growing language ability helps them with their wider understanding of the complex world they live in.

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