For this week’s Worksheet Wednesday, I’m not sharing a worksheet. See you later, folks.
I kid, I kid. But really, there’s no worksheet. Rather, I want to talk about a fun technique I use periodically to review vocabulary. Maybe you’ve played the excellent party game Taboo, the fast-paced word guessing game. A quick primer on the rules: two teams compete to guess the most number of words from the game cards. Each round, one member of a team has 90 seconds to describe the target word at the top of a Taboo card to her team while avoiding the ‘taboo’ words on the card. If the team guesses the word, they get a point. If the current ‘it’ member passes on a card or says one of the taboo words, then the other team gets a point. All the while, a member of the other team watches the ‘it’ to make sure they don’t say one of the taboo words. Hilarity ensues.
For my classes, I typically make a Word doc. with 9 text bordered text boxes aligned on it. In each, I’ll put the target vocabulary in a smaller box (or just underlined) at the top, then 4 forbidden taboo words under it. I’ll also include a number of fun words, like Gandalf or banana.
For struggling classes, I’ll change the rules a bit a let them use the taboo words as suggested clues. This lets the teams get more points from actually guessing the words instead of from the other team passing.
When I have large classes, I like to make 4 teams, pair 2 teams together, and give each of the 2 pairs a set of my Taboo cards. I’ll let them keep track of the time and points and float between the games, chiding them for L1 use or maybe whispering clues to a team that is falling far behind.
If you don’t feel like making your own cards, you can easily use the real game. You’ll need to weed out irrelevant cards; Taboo always has a lot of pop culture references that won’t resonate internationally.
At our general staff meetings, our director will often ask us for feedback on the program and suggestions for improvement. On a few of these occasions, I’ve posited the idea of getting rid of the mid-term tests or reducing the importance of various assessments. These suggestions are not taken terribly seriously. Schools love grades. Whenever you here about a school that doesn’t use grades, it usually as a joke about hippies and new age foolishness.
I’ve long been an opponent of grades, and I say this as someone who got good grades in school (if you don’t count the last year of college…*shudder*). Personally, I feel like grades are more often used as a way to generate chartable data and too oftennot fully indicative of students’ actual abilities. I will say, our English prep program does a mostly good job in assessing readiness for faculty work. But, I still find grades distasteful. I have some ideas about how we could handle a grade-less system, which I will write more about in the future.
This article on Edutopia hit a sweet spot for me. Take a gander: When Grading Harms Student Learning | Edutopia.
While many of these points don’t fully resonate with my experience in the ESL education industry, others do. And we can certainly empathize with all of them. According to the author, Kathy Margolis, after 30 years, she decided to quit a job that she loves because the conditions have become so intolerable. Overcrowded classrooms, overstuffed curriculums, overemphasis on tests at the expense of play and other important developmental activities, and the like have made teaching a nightmare. Plus, people think that teachers have cushy jobs with vast amounts of paid time off, a common refrain but one that ignores reality.
Even though Margolis is talking about Australia, she could just as easily be talking about America or many other places.
What do you think? Is she exaggerating or is she right on the money?
Student evaluations of instructors, aka ‘how much do you like your teacher?’, are nearly ubiquitous. But should they be? An increasingly large body of evidence says heck no. For one, students are actually poor evaluators of whether their teacher is effective or not.
Secondly, student evals are straight up sexist. In two studies, a ‘natural’ one in France and a blinded study in the US, it found significant differences between the scores given to male instructors and female instructors. The US one is especially damning. It had the same two teaching assistants, one male and one female, leading 4 discussion groups for an online course. In 2 of them, the assistants used their real names; in the other two, they swapped names, so that the woman had the man’s name and the man had the woman’s. Everything that could be controlled was; assignments were returned at the exactly the same time, for example.
Since assignments were returned at exactly the same time in all four sections, the significantly lower rating for female instructors (what equates to about 16 percent of full scale) “seriously impugns the ability of SET to measure even putatively objective characteristics of teaching,” the paper reads.
Again, Stark and his colleagues found that, in contrast to the French data, perceived male instructors were rated significantly more highly not by male students but by female students. Male students rated the perceived male instructor somewhat significantly higher on only one criterion—fairness (p-value 0.09). But female students in the U.S. sample rated the perceived male instructor higher on overall satisfaction (p-value 0.11) and most aspects of teaching. Those include praise (p-value 0.01), enthusiasm (p-value 0.05), and fairness (p-value 0.04).
Let’s stop using these ineffective tools and find better ways to judge teachers’ effectiveness.