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Name: Ralph Grayson
Location: Lima, Peru
Current position: Quality Assurance Co-ordinator, Pontificia Universidad Cátolica del Perú (PUCP)
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'We liked your focused approach to the task and your clear discussion of what authentic means. Your activities are well chosen and we noted the incorporation of specific websites for source materials.'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
'Throughout my career as an English language teacher I have been in close contact with Cambridge ESOL, and am well aware of its reputation around the world. The Cambridge ESOL brand represents everything that is positive about EFL: advancement, opportunities, credibility and impartiality, and I considered a Cambridge ESOL Scholarship to represent these values. I decided to apply for the scholarship for Best Practice in Teacher Training as this was an area that was very relevant to my experience, and considered a Scholarship as a means of having this experience validated by an independent body.
'In addition, although I had attended previous IATEFL Conferences I had not been planning to visit the event in 2010. Researching the Conference, however, I saw that it promised to be very interesting, and this was a further reason for applying for a Scholarship. An IATEFL Conference is an excellent networking opportunity as it brings people together from all over the world, and from all different parts of EFL, and together you can discuss different teaching and research strategies, and meet EFL authors and experts. As a result, I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I arrived at the IATEFL Conference in Harrogate as I was there because I had achieved a personal goal. I attended a number of sessions and particularly enjoyed the Interactive Language Fair which was quite innovative and different.
'As well as enabling me to travel to the Conference, the Scholarship has also been very good for my career. I am now very proud to be able to say that not only was I a Scholarship winner, but that I also won a Scholarship for Best Practice in Teacher Training; this is a great asset for my CV, adding significant credibility. And my career has certainly developed since I won the Scholarship (although I am not sure whether this was the only reason) as I am now Quality Assurance Co-ordinator for PUCP Language School (the Pontifical Catholic University in Peru); I continue to train and support our students, but I am also in charge of the school's QA System, working closely with all departments, including teacher training, to make sure all our procedures are standardized and are focused on the customer.'
TASK AND RESPONSE – IN SUMMARY
Complete the following task in 500–600 words:
Some teachers in your school have approached you to ask for suggestions for classroom activities that would help their learners with authentic reading materials. Give an outline of a 45-minute training session you would run with these teachers. Include:
1. A rationale for the activities you have chosen to include in the session, with an explanation of why they are particularly appropriate for your context.
2. Details of the approach you will take during the session.
3. A procedure for one of the activities you have included.
Ralph cited four key principles as the basis for the training session he devised: that an 'authentic' text is one that is unmodified; that associated tasks should compensate for the text's possible complexity (which can cause frustration in pupils), and require observation of non-linguistic features (i.e. artwork); that tasks should involve multiple skills, primarily reading and speaking; and that students should be given sufficient background information to ensure they understand the text supplied.
In the session that Ralph devised, teachers played the role of students and focused on specific activities linked to authentic texts, such as timetables, adverts or TV listings, with outcomes clearly defined. Each activity was accompanied by an explanation of its aims, the materials used, the type of work or interaction patterns, and online resources if applicable.
Ralph detailed one such activity, entitled 'Can you read a menu?', which used printed or online menus as texts (giving online resources which could be used). Depending on the complexity of the menu, the group would be working at upper elementary or pre-intermediate level, with tasks undertaken in pairs or groups. The session ranged from general discussion of favourite restaurants to the analysis of specific menus, using questions written on sticky notes attached to the menu. This approach enabled the group to analyse distinct features of real menus through questions such as 'I'm not used to spicy food. What shouldn't I order?'; or 'When are appetisers served?'. By using a number of sample menus, each group could repeat the task at their own pace, working through the resources supplied until the session had finished.
Name: Thomas Lenth
Location: Berlin, Germany
Current position: Administrator, Ministry of Education – Youth and Sports, Federal State of Brandenburg; English and Social Studies Teacher, Oberstufenzentrum II (vocational business and administration school), Potsdam
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'We found your submission well written and clearly organised. You unpack the complexity of reading, and draw attention to the motivational and diagnostic aspects of assessment.'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
'I first read about the Cambridge ESOL IATEFL Scholarship in the Cambridge ESOL email newsletter, and was attracted by the generous support on offer which would enable the winner to go to the IATEFL Conference.
'I had heard good things about the Conference, and it had always seemed an event worth attending, but after winning the Scholarship, I could not help feeling a little overwhelmed when I first arrived. It took some time to study the impressive Conference programme, which included an incredible array of sessions and talks on a wide range of topics, but once I started to explore the event I found it a thoroughly educational and enjoyable experience. It was a good opportunity to catch up on the latest trends in language teaching and learning, even though I sometimes felt I did not have enough time to absorb all the information on offer and to discuss issues in more detail. As a result, I strongly recommend that future delegates attend one of the pre-conference events organised by the Special Interest Groups, as these full-day sessions provide more time for reflection and discussion with professionals who share your interests.
'Overall, the Scholarship gave me the chance to attend a fantastic Conference, to get involved in a lot of stimulating discussions, and to meet professionals from all kinds of fields related to language teaching and learning. Although I knew that the Scholarship would not have an immediate impact on my career, I still gained recognition and praise from my colleagues and superiors here in Germany as a result of winning - and who does not need a motivational boost from time to time?!'
TASK AND RESPONSE – IN SUMMARY
What positive impact does assessment have on the development of reading skills?
Thomas considered the numerous challenges facing readers every day, such as newspapers, user manuals, or train timetables, and the important role played by reading skills in our personal and professional development. As a result, he states, reading skills and strategies must be encouraged from an early age and continually developed throughout our lives.
As reading skills also play an important role in language tests, assessment also plays a crucial part in the development of these skills, providing the tools and expertise required to diagnose reading strengths and monitor progress. In order to do this effectively, however, Thomas argues that the term 'reading literacy' must first be defined, and he suggests that it is a combination of comprehension, independence and fluency. As a result, language tests must be carefully designed in order to cover different aspects of reading skills such as vocabulary acquisition, pre-reading strategies, textual comprehension, organisational skills and response techniques. These aspects are addressed by most well known test providers and, as a result, their tests and test results are considered a true and reliable measure of the test taker's ability. When authentic texts are used, Thomas notes that the test can have additional motivational potential, and if the test taker feels that the final assessment is a fair and true reflection of ability, then they are encouraged to progress further.
Thomas concludes that assessment can therefore have a very positive impact on the development of reading skills, as long as tests are carefully designed and evaluated, and reflect the needs of the text taker and the complex nature of reading, as only well balanced tests provide reliable information about reading ability and provide a stimulus for further development.