Correcting Writing: Less Red Pen and a bit more Zen

Getting into the zone

So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk.  You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students.  “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc.  The pressure’s on now.  The sooner you get these back to your students the better.  They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible.  You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class.  So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in.  You’re in full-on correction mode.

Ruby red pens

A familiar scene.  We’ve all been there.  And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?).  Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.

Cop or Coach?

Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment?  After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre?  May I see your certification to operate at this level please?  Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”

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Extending the CEFR across English and the globe

GSE-extends-CEFRThe Global Scale of English (GSE) is a new standardised, granular scale from 10 to 90, which measures English language proficiency. We have added over 950 new learning objectives to those already created for the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) including 300 each for general, academic and professional English. Learners can now track their progress from the start of their learning journey with 40 new learning objectives below A1.

How are GSE learning objectives created?

After reviewing existing learning objectives and identifying gaps, new learning objectives are reviewed and refined before being rated by thousands of teachers worldwide on the GSE and CEFR. The learning objectives then go through two rounds of data analysis by our psychometricians in order to calibrate them to the GSE. Any problematic learning objectives are removed, and the final list is checked again by content editors before being published. Continue reading

5 tools for incorporating the GSE as an online teacher

GSE Global Scale of EnglishIndependent tutor and digital learning pioneer Lana Friesen explains how she is combining the best programs and apps to help her students meet their learning goals…

Including all components of communication can be tricky in classrooms, especially those online. Using the GSE Learning Objectives and five other useful tools allows teachers to plan a full-spectrum curriculum for their students, regardless of the setting.

5 tools for incorporating the GSE (Global Scale of English) in online classrooms: Continue reading

What does it mean to be fluent in English?

What do we mean by English fluency, and how can understanding competencies across the four skills provide a more realistic picture of communicative English ability?

What is fluency?

fluent in EnglishAs someone who worked in dictionaries, the meaning of words has always interested me – and fluency is a particular case in point. Language learners often set themselves the goal of becoming fluent in a language. Job adverts often specify “fluent in English or Spanish” as a requirement. But what does being “fluent” in a language actually mean? If we look in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (no apologies for plugging one of my own titles!), we see that fluent means “able to speak a language very well”. Fluent speech or writing is described as “smooth and confident, with no mistakes”. In general, fluency is most often associated with spoken language – but is that the goal of all language learners? And what does being able to speak fluently show about the other language skills? Continue reading

Innovations in how we measure progress

Innovate ELT Conference - Brian EngquistIn order to further prep myself for the Innovate ELT Conference in Barcelona where I will be giving a talk titled How technology helps you improve what your students can do I sat in on Ian Wood’s session yesterday at the Pearson Morning for English Teachers of Cambridge Exams event in Madrid.  Ian is something of our own in house guru on all things testing and is extremely adept at using clear language and metaphors to express quite difficult and meaty concepts from the world of English language assessment.

So, in that same spirit of clarity I would just like to sum up the thrust of Ian’s talk with this very simple, but important question that he reminded us we all hear from our students, but are often at a loss to answer entirely adequately: How good is my English?  All of us have our ways of dealing Continue reading