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June 25, 2006

Workplace Issues - Student Assessment

Hello everybody!

Now that summer has arrived, so has summer camp. And with that, student assessment. Have you ever been asked to assess a student without any training or notice? I know that I have. And I know that the first couple of times I was asked to do so, I didn't have a clue about where to begin. So what should you do? First of all, you might want to...

... ask your manager a few questions. I've found that many schools haven't thought through student assessment very carefully and that even if someone has, it doesn't mean that anyone knows who is and who isn't trained to assess someone. Furthermore, if you are the only native English speaker in the school at the time, non-native English employees might automatically assume that you are qualified to assess a student just because you are a native English speaker. Sounds crazy, but believe me, even upon telling some of my Chinese employers that I was on my first week of the job and that I had never assessed anyone before, I was told something to the effect of, "Don't worry! You speak English. Just assess them! No problem!"

I digress. So here are a few things you might want to check for. First of all, find out what kind of assessment the school wants you to give. It might be the case that there is a file in the back of a file cabinet somewhere in the school with full details on what questions to ask the student. Or maybe they will tell you how long you should spend on the assessment. Some schools simply have a native English speaker give a few minute interview to a student to back up the results of a computer test or to simply make the school look more professional. Worse case scenario (and this has often been the case for me)- there is nothing. But no worries, we'll get to that in a minute.

Secondly, find out about what class the student is signing up for. Is it an oral English class? A grammar class? A listening and reading class? Is it a writing class? Obviously, knowing what class the student is trying to get into will tell you what kind of skills to look for.

Now, if they don't have a test readily available for you, look no further! Here are some things to remember when assessing...

* Ask open-ended questions
* Give the students time to answer (they're often very nervous)
* Start with easy questions (eg. What's your name? How do you spell that? etc.) to warm them up
* Try to make the student feel comfortable
* Speak at a natural speed, but if they don't understand, slow down and note that on your assessment
* Grade your language (remember, they're going to school because they don't speak English fluently yet!)
* Pronunciation: Note any pronunciation difficulties on the paper
* Fluency: Note whether the student answers in full sentences, phrases, single words, or simply yes or no

Here are some topics to discuss (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

For young learners: alphabet, numbers, basic introduction, greetings, colors, body parts, animals, family, and following instructions.

For adults: introductions, jobs, likes and dislikes, family, traveling, studying, future plans, past memories, daily routines and descriptions.

Good luck- and happy assessing!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

*Looking for more articles that focus on workplace issues specific to ESL? Click HERE!

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About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, has lived and worked in China since 1998. During that time, she has worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She’s worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she’s also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing as well as working as an ESL instructor for the Australian International School of Beijing. Carol is also enrolled in Oxford Brookes' MA TESL program in Oxford, England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at June 25, 2006 07:27 AM

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