The question raised in part 1 of this two-part article was, “Which type of test is best for formal and summative evaluations designed to assess language learning and ability or language level?” Of the five categories of assessment: Placement assessment, Formative assessment, Diagnostic assessment, Summative evaluation, and Self- assessment. (Cucchiarelli, Panti, Valenti, 2000), we identified aspects of Formative assessment and Summative evaluation. In my opinion, English language evaluations should be done using language performance assessments. In this, part 2 of the article, we’ll examine some reasons why.

The Common European Framework

In the Common European Framework of language teaching and learning, a rubric in the form of a series of “Can” statements is used to aid in assessing language skills and performance. These “can” statements range in level from A1, A2 basic levels through B1, B2 intermediate levels up to C1, C2 advanced levels. These are proving to be highly effective in learner English language performance skills evaluation on a global level since they provide standardized points of reference for both teachers and learners.

In demonstrating language skills, prospective employers, higher-education program administrators, business clients and recipients of business correspondence do not base their continued contact on how much you “know” about language, but rather on the ability to effectively communicate in the target language. Increasingly, this language is English. What you “meant” to say is seldom considered. What you actually say is paramount.

In immersion situations where communication can be critical, no one, for example would ask, “Can you conjugate the verb to be?” They well may however, ask for a response which would require use of the verb to be conjugated in the correct person.

Picture this: You, our intrepid English language learner, are standing at a corner of Broad and Market streets in Center City Philadelphia. You want to go to Veteran’s Stadium in South Philadelphia by taking a bus or subway train but don’t know how. What do you need, English language knowledge or English language performance skills?

Decided yet? That wasn’t difficult at all, was it? That’s why I advocate performance skills over language knowledge. But guess which one is promoted and measured in numerous schools and language institutes.

Effective Language Skills Indicators

What would be more effective language skills indicators, to engage a learner in a conversation that involves meaningful input and language production, or to ask for a regurgitation of grammar, rules and English language learning aspects? To write an essay on a topic meaningful to the learner or to step through groups of true-false or fill-in-the-blanks questions on a format? In deciding on an assessment or evaluation program, consider that language tests should be, situation specific. That is to say, a test can be very effective in one situation with one particular group of students and be virtually useless in another situation or with another group of students. (J.D. Brown, 1984) Also, remember that “in most language programs, any rational approach to testing will be a vast improvement over the existing conditions.” (J.D. Brown, 1984)

TEFL teachers require both knowledge and language performance skills, but in my opinion, English language learners should be focused principally on development of English language performance skills.

What do YOU think?

The Interview

The interview seemed to be going along okay. Then the Director asked, “So what is your philosophy of teaching English?”

“My philosophy of teaching?” The TEFL interviewee twisted in her seat, tugging at the collar of a blouse that was suddenly too tight. She felt water running down her back. A certain dampness coated her palms.

“Yes. Do you have a philosophy of teaching?” the director repeated. The interview had taken a distinctive downturn. Top positions paying top dollars require top professionals.

“Well, I’m not really sure what you mean.” the teacher responded. “I can tell you what I do in my classes, what materials I use and how I interact with the students. Is that what you mean?”

No, that’s NOT what the Language Institute Director meant. The interview ended. So did the teacher’s prospects at that high-level institution.

Philosophy of Education

A teacher’s philosophy of education is now used as a major marketing strategy by savvy teachers and has become an essential component of a teacher’s CV and portfolio. It has evolved to become part of the teacher’s personal profile, which outlines all of his essential skill sets and unique qualities, and highlights the teacher’s specialties. (D. Sofsian, 2006) Reference these web sites for further information:

• Create Your Own Electronic Portfolio

http://electronicportfolios.org/portfolios/iste2k.html

• My “Online Portfolio Adventure”

http://electronicportfolios.org/myportfolio/versions.html

• How To Create an Electronic Portfolio

[http://www.essdack.org/port/how.html]

Expert author Damian Sofsian in his article, “Teacher Education Philosophies”, talks about five types of teaching philosophies: (http://ezinearticles.com/?Teacher-Education-Philosophies&id=227410)

• Liberal – which aims at developing intellectual powers

• Behavioral – these ideologies focus on the survival skills of a human being and the role of education in teaching them

• Progressive – motivates cultural development of an individual in order to bring about societal change

• Humanistic – trends look at the overall development of the personality and characteristics of an individual

• Radical – these philosophers are interested in beneficial changes that should happen in a society from time to time, and the role of education in bringing about political, social and economical changes

Teacher education philosophy is now a major marketing strategy used by EFL and TEFL teachers and has become an essential component of a language teacher resume and personal profile. (D. Sofsian, 2006)

Education Philosophy References

Before embarking on developing your own philosophy of education, reference these sites for more in-depth information and samples of Educational Philosophy statements.

• Samples of Philosophy of Education

http://www.wilderdom.com/philosophy/SampleEducationPhilosophies.html

• Materials on the Philosophy of Education

[http://commhum.mccneb.edu/PHILOS/phileduc.htm]

• Philosophy of Education links

http://dmoz.org/Society/Philosophy/Philosophy_of_Education/

Your Philosophy of Education

What is your philosophy of education? If you “don’t have one” now would be a good time to more thoroughly investigate aspects of one. Add your philosophy to all your teaching areas. Let it pervade what you do and how you approach your craft from every angle from preparation to class activities, problem-solving, discipline and assessment. Your philosophy helps set you apart from those who might just show up, do the minimum and collect their paychecks. In these days of increasing professionalism, increased requisites for teaching staff and higher expectations on the part of Educational Administrators, TEFL teachers, regardless of current status, simply cannot afford to be lax.

Every year thousands of adventuresome souls leave their home country for six months or more with goals of teaching English abroad. Yet a common question for those without experience teaching English abroad is, “will an online TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) be sufficient?”

The answer varies depending on your short or long-term goals, the country in which you intend to teach English abroad, and ultimately the requirements of the teaching institution.

1. Evaluate your personal goals (professional TEFL teacher / TESOL teacher)
If your goals are for teaching English abroad for 3 years or more, you should strongly consider taking an in-classroom TEFL course of 120 hours and a minimum of 6 hours of practicum. Some countries and schools will require this. You should also consider taking a course that provides you with a CELTA certificate.

2. Evaluate your personal goals (short-term teaching opportunity, cross-cultural experience, learning the local language, etc). If you are not seeking a 3-5 year term as a “professional” TEFL teacher, an online TEFL course could very well be sufficient to prepare you for the time in front of your students.

3. Consult with your recruiter and/or the local teaching institution.
The people in these organizations know what is required and what will be accepted or not regarding TEFL / TESOL certification. Additionally, TEFL courses are most likely offered in the country in which you want to teach; ask these contacts for recommendations

Every year thousands of adventuresome souls leave their home country for six months or more to teach English abroad. Yet the search for TEFL jobs (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) has unique characteristics versus home-country employment searches that may be more familiar to you.

Following are 10 ideas and recommendations on how to best manage the search and successful placement process.

1. Cost of Living Abroad

Teaching jobs abroad normally post salaries using the local currency. While using the Internet is a rather simple task to look up an exchange rate and determine the salary’s value in your home currency, this isn’t necessarily meaningful. Once you’ve converted the currency, the salary may seem a bit high or low at first glance, but you need to understand more. What you need to know are the costs of living in your targeted country. Ask your third party recruiter or prospective employer to provide you with a Cost of Living Guide, which should include a sampling of all the items you’ll be purchasing during your work abroad: housing costs, a bag of oranges or bananas, the cost of a haircut, public transport costs, phone rates to call home, and many other items.

2. Academic calendars

Schools’ academic calendars may vary depending on which hemisphere you are coming from and going to. For example, a Canadian teacher who desires to start teaching in South America starting in the Canadian autumn (September), needs to take into account that South American schools are already mid-way through their Spring season semester. Thus, schools may not be hiring teachers in September.

3. Interviews – Presenting Yourself

Most likely you will not have the advantage of having a face-to-face interview with your employer prior to arrival into your targeted country. Your future employer will depend heavily on information in your resume / C.V., written answers to essay questions, and past employment and/or personal references you provide. Additionally, you may be asked to have a telephone interview.

It can be easy to forget the obvious. For example, in the case of telephone interviews, your prospective employer will not only be inquiring about your credentials but also listening intently to your speaking skills and how well you might present yourself in front of their students. Given this will be an international phone call, make sure that you have a clear phone line (particularly if the phone interview is on your cell phone) and without background distractions.

Furthermore, if you are asked to provide written answers to essay questions as part of the application process, do not underestimate how heavily those answers might be used to evaluate your suitability for the teaching position.

4. Recruiter / Placement Agencies

It is common to utilize third-party recruiting agencies to assist you find the optimal placement. Good agencies are worth their weight in gold even though they may charge you $900 to $2,800 U.S. for their services. A good agency should provide you with (at a minimum):

  • an office staffed with person(s) in the country in which you plan to teach,
  • screening of the best teaching opportunities with a monthly salary that is competitive and will cover your basic living needs at the local standard of living,
  • assistance in finding affordable lodging,
  • experienced in-country coordinators to provide support and services during your stay, and
  • pre-departure information to ensure your are prepared for your trip and other recommendations to be sure you are properly equipped.

5. Housing / Lodging

If you ask any person that has been involved in teaching English as a foreign language abroad, the comfort in your living situation is paramount. Some teachers prefer to live with a host family to practice the native language; others desire to live alone or with other teachers. Be sure to find out in advance what your options are for housing, and in fact if you have options. If you don’t ask beforehand you may find yourself shoved into a host family or a brick-walled dormitory. Both extremes could be okay for you, but it is important that you know before–and (most importantly) if you have options to change if you are not satisfied with your original housing.

6. Visa Processing.

Every country will have different processes for allowing entry to foreigners. Your TEFL job / TESOL job will likely require some non-tourist visa classification to remain in the host country for an extended period of time (for example, more than 90 days). Work with your teaching institution or third-party recruiter to understand what type of visa you will need, and if the teaching institution will pay for it. Additionally, always check with the foreign Consulate in your home country to understand the country-specific requirements for long-term stays (e.g., police clearances, medical checks verifying that you don’t have communicable diseases, etc.)

7. Monthly Salary

Make sure you understand what the monthly salary will be and for how many weekly or monthly classroom hours you will be responsible for teaching. Additionally, be aware that some Non-Profit Organization (NPO) recruiters may scoop up nearly half of your salary to cover their costs for services they provide you. This is not necessarily a bad business practice, but highly recommended that you understand these financial details prior to committing to a work contract.

8. Freelance Work

Some teachers want to pick up extra teaching hours doing freelance work such as private tutoring sessions. In general, if you are granted a work contract and associated visa with a teaching institution, the agreement may not allow you to legally obtain side contracts with other teaching institutions. If you choose to do freelance work being paid “under the table” it should be with caution so as not to put at risk your original work contract.

9. TEFL Certification / TESOL Certification

Is this a requirement for you? This is a difficult question to answer as it widely varies depending on the country, the country’s demand for native English-speaking teachers, individual teaching institution’s requirements, and other factors. To learn more about certification requirements, utilize discussion boards and consult with third-party recruiters to understand the needs of the local market in which you have an interest in teaching English.

During your research process, should you discover that TEFL certification is in fact required, your follow-up inquiry should be if an online TEFL course is sufficient or if you need practicum-based courses.

10. Medical Coverage

Even though you may be perfectly fit and healthy, you should (at a minimum) have an emergency medical coverage policy during your teaching tenure in the foreign country. While there are a number of choices available to you for this coverage, consider the insurance company’s deductible, the policy’s amount of coverage, and how and to whom you will make claims should you encounter a medical expense.

Viva la Revolution

A revolution is in progress. It’s tranquil and orderly in places, but not so quiet in others. This revolution has swept up the academic world almost in its entirety from students to TEFL teachers and professors, administrators, curriculum designers and materials developers. It’s creating new jobs while obsoleting others. It’s altering the face and structure of the teaching, learning and language acquisition processes. The focus of the hubbub can be summed up in three key words: testing, evaluation and assessment. These three words can strike fear and terror into the hearts of teachers and students alike on a daily basis.

Of the five categories of assessment: Placement assessment, Formative assessment, Diagnostic assessment, Summative evaluation, and Self- assessment. (Cucchiarelli, Panti, Valenti, 2000). We will consider aspects of Formative assessment and Summative evaluation.

Formal or Formative assessment such as Progress tests and semester partial exams, provide ongoing monitoring of student progress and are used by the teacher to gather feedback in order to adjust the educational process to insure that learning is occurring and to correct learning errors. (King and Rowe, 1997)

In Summative evaluation such as achievement tests and final exams, a grade or score is received at the end of a program or course and / or aims to assign grades to certify the student’s global level of knowledge on the topics taught. Based on this grade or score, the language learner is permitted (or not) to progress to the next level, semester or school year.

Knowledge vs. Performance

Testing occurs in one of two format types: “Knowledge of Language” or “Ability to Perform” using the language. (Spratt, Pulverness, Williams, 2005)

Some examples of knowledge tests can include:

o Proficiency tests

o Norm-referenced tests

o Discrete-point tests

o Language sub-skills tests

Some examples of performance tests can include:

o Achievement tests

o Criterion-referenced tests

o Communication skills tests

o Integrative tests

o Receptive tests

So the question becomes then, “Which type of test is best for formal and summative evaluations designed to assess language learning and ability or language level?” In my opinion, this should be done using language performance assessments. In part 2 of this article we’ll examine some reasons why.