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July 19, 2008

Q and A - Evaluating students

Hello Readers,

This month's question is coming from Heather, a teacher who is teaching Korean students over the Internet.

Dear Carol:

One of the things I am supposed to do is to evaluate the performance of the student at the end of the lesson. I have a difficult time with this and so I have been trying to find some key phrases and words which I can compile into a list. My goal is to be able to have words and phrases encompassing the different problems associated with pronunciation and intonation that I may see which I can draw from quickly as I attempt to give them a helpful evaluation.

Unfortunately, ...

... I am having a difficult time accomplishing this. I was wondering if you might help me? The time I spend with each person is strictly twenty minutes and I end up trying to pull together my thoughts after a short seventeen minutes of conversation. Without fail, I have been unsatisfied with the evaluations I have given. I don't think it is fair to the students who are paying good money for my help.
Thank you.

Dear Heather,

I also had a difficult time doing this when I first started giving evaluations. What I found helped me was to keep notes (including examples of what they said) during the lesson about a list of things relevant to the lesson, e.g.,

vocabulary- are they using new words? are they using their words correctly? is a lack of vocab keeping them from communicating?
grammar - are they using the new grammar learned? are they using the grammar points correctly? is a lack of grammar keeping them from communicating effectively?
pronunciation - are they confusing two similar sounds? are there are any sounds that are particularly difficult for them?
fluency - how well are students to get their meaning across? can they use coping mechanisms to convey their meaning when they don't know the exact word or phrase?
accuracy - how many mistakes do students make? do they use the vocabulary and grammar that they've learned correctly?

You may even want to include the following:
non-verbal communication - are they trying to communicate or just repeating memorized phrases? do they look people in the eye when speaking? are they allowing others to speak? do they seem interested in what other people have to say? is their lack of confidence keeping them from communicating? are they too nervous to speak out? etc.

I also tried to follow the 'sandwich' method, which means that you give the student praise, constructive criticism and then praise or recommendation of how to improve.

If you need to give the students a score, you might want to type up a sample form with five topic areas and a tick box for a number (1-5).

Your sheet may look something like this:

1 2 3 4 5


Suggestions for improvement:


I think you are headed in the right direction with trying to compile of list associated with pronunciation and intonation. You could start with a list of all the IPA sounds (more information about this can be found here: http://www.esl-lesson-plan.com/archives/2007/08/tips_and_tricks_learning_the_phonetic_alphabet.php#more), but you will probably find that there are a smaller list of problematic sounds for your learner, which are common to many Korean students. For example, the 'l' and the 'r' sounds and the 'p' and the 'f' sounds are often confused. You might find that what works the best is simply jotting down the mistakes that your student makes as they occur and focusing on the ones that are most prevalent.

Do you have any advice for Heather? Feel free to add your comments here.

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

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*To read more ESL Questions and Answers, please click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker hailing from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked at universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, and did private tutoring as well. Besides teaching, she also worked as a Head teacher, an Education Manager, and a Material Development Manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she also writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing, authors ESL textbooks for publishing houses in China, and is an Editor for Garnet Publishing in Reading, England. Carol holds a BA in Communications from the College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University, and a CELTA, and has just finished her MA TESOL course at Oxford Brookes University. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at July 19, 2008 06:31 AM

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