Category Archives: Assessment and programme evaluation

Planning your company’s L&D strategy?

English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. The rise of the internet and multicultural organisations demands proficiency in using the ‘universal language of the internet and the world’ a.k.a English.

Here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

Avoid communication breakdown: The popular request ‘Please revert/reply back as soon as possible’ may present a limited awareness of English and could be a direct translation from a local language, ‘Please reply as soon as possible’ is as effective and the use of ‘back’ is unnecessary.

12 oct 2

Non-standard English in international contexts causes confusion and poses barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they can even lead to communication breakdown. To get quick and easy tips on Email writing and useful practice exercises visit here.

Save time, save costs: We spend 28% of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails according to The Muse and a massive 35% on meetings as published by Mashable India! The purpose of most communication in emails and meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clearer and further clarification is not needed. Colleagues then better understand what is expected and perform tasks more effectively. Many companies report that highly-paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails for non-standard English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it is time to consider English language training. With a range of resources and courses available, you can start right now with our free grammar practice app.

12 oct 3Boost confidence and propel leadership: You may hire people with excellent technical skills, but can they lead on projects that require a high level of communicative expertise? Effective language training empowers them to lead and perform beyond their job description. Don’t be surprised when a manager cracks that deal with a major client all on his own just because he/she recently attended a negotiation skills workshop!

Tweak your L&D plan todaysave costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2018! You could start with our Podcasts for Professionals here with workplace contexts and embedded language practice.

Have you struggled with communication breakdown in the workplace and the high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.

Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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Why you need to develop assessment literacy

Written by Neenaz Ichaporia, Academic Manager, Blended Learning  

Assessment of learning or assessment for learning?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘testing’? Do you imagine a large exam hall with rows of students, bending over their desks and furiously scribbling away, under a teacher’s vigilant gaze? Or you may think of a large-scale standardised test, like IELTS.

There is a tendency to consider assessment as big, standardised tests or summative, achievement tests. This traditional view is known as ‘assessment of learning’ and is used to evaluate learners, comparing them against established criteria, scales, or one another. Even the lexis we use reinforces this idea of assessment as something that is done to learners; a teacher ‘administers’ a test, while a learner ‘takes’ or ‘sits’ it.

Yet there is another increasingly popular position where assessment is learning orientated, known as ‘assessment for learning’. Rather than simply measuring a learner’s performance, assessment is used to gain valuable insights into the learning process. Both teachers and learners use feedback to improve learning and performance.

Educators increasingly acknowledge that ‘assessment of learning’ can weaken classroom practice, while using ‘assessment for learning’ can promote learner progress. Although the latter, more contemporary, view of assessment has gained popularity in pedagogy, it is unclear if it permeates our classroom practice. The fact remains that ‘assessment of learning rather than assessment for learning has preoccupied the minds of the profession for many years’.[1]

Therefore, it is increasingly important for teachers to recognise the role assessment plays in learning and teaching. In other words, we need ‘assessment literacy’, defined as ‘the knowledge about, and a comprehensive understanding of, students’ skills and ability, interpreting the collected data from the assessments, and using these interpretations to improve students’ learning and development by making appropriate decisions.’[2]

Perhaps without realising it, teachers assess learners all the time and in a variety of ways. In fact, many activities in regular classroom practice can be called assessment. For instance, this takes place each time a teacher sets a task, when learners perform that task or respond to questions, and the teacher uses their responses to make decisions about the learners’ skills.

Seen from this perspective, most teachers would benefit from training in how to use the information gained from assessment more meaningfully, provide constructive feedback to learners, and to help learners to use this feedback to build on their performance.

Assessment literacy is not only for professional examiners and teachers, but also for school leaders.  By aligning the objectives of the course with formal and informal assessment, teaching/learning practices may be made more effective. There is a further argument that learners too can benefit from assessment literacy. Such ‘sustainable assessment’ should ‘move from the exclusive domain of assessors into the hands of learners’.[3] It is argued that assessment can be used to build learners’ skills for continuing or lifelong learning, thereby building a learning society.

How can you develop your own assessment literacy?

When I started out in my career, I thought of testing in more narrow terms as ‘assessment of learning’. Gaining a better understanding of the purposes of assessment, and the principles on which good assessment is based, has been a journey of discovery. Some of this learning happened during my own professional practice, through trial and error. At other points, my understanding of assessment was sharpened by formal training.

There are several avenues available for educators looking to boost their assessment literacy and here are some relevant ones:

Free British Council resources:

  1. Start by watching the free short, animated assessment videos from the British Council. These give you an insight into some of the main topics in language assessment. Use the accompanying worksheets and answer keys for deeper knowledge.
  2. Refer to the British Council’s free comprehensive assessment glossary, which consists of hundreds of definitions of terms to do with language assessment written by practitioners with language teachers in mind.

Books and publications: 

  1. Two practical guides are: Arthur Hughes’ ‘Testing for Language Teachers’, and Marge Scherer’s ‘On Formative Assessment: Readings from Educational Leadership’.
  2. Browse the British Council’s Assessment Research Publications. Other reports that detail the main issues include these  two from the Learning and Skills Development Agency and the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.

Paid association membership:  

  1. Become a member of TEASIG (the Testing, Evaluation and Assessment Special Interest Group) of IATEFL and connect with fellow professionals worldwide.

[1] Jones, C. (2005 p. 1). Assessment for Learning. London, UK: Learning and Skills Development Agency: accessed at http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/7800/1/AssessmentforLearning.pdf

[2] Coombe, C. (2018 p. 10). An A to Z of Second Language Assessment: How Language Teachers Understand Assessment Concepts. London, UK: British Council.

[3] David Boud (2010 p. 151). Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22:2, 151-167, DOI: 10.1080/713695728

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Defining and measuring quality teaching: is it getting the attention it deserves?

Written by Amy Lightfoot – Assistant Director (Academic), Schools, English and Skills  

Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had? What made him or her ‘the best’? Was it because he or was funny, or kind? Or because she was generous with her praise … or selfish, so you felt you’d really earned it when it came? Or was it because he just really knew his stuff and how to make a class of 30 kids want to find out more? What are the qualities that make a good teacher … or the best teacher?

On a personal level, we can define our favourite teachers and easily discuss why we liked them so much. But do these personal judgements really tell us whether or not a teacher is good at his or her job? How can we best determine whether a teacher is really providing quality in the classroom? How can we best evaluate teacher performance, in a way that is supportive and helps the teacher to further develop her skills? These are some of the questions that have formed the basis of a recent project of inquiry led by the British Council.

We set out to answer these questions using a two pronged approach. First, we have commissioned a review of the global literature to try to better understand the different ways that teachers – specifically English language teachers – are evaluated around the world. Together with Dr Simon Borg, we have been exploring the varied terminology and strategies employed by different education systems to measure teacher and teaching quality. A clear outcome of this work has been the realisation that there is relatively little research conducted specifically around how English language teachers are evaluated or assessed. The full review will be published at the beginning of next year.

Secondly, we’re developing national-level case studies of practices, tools and processes used in teacher evaluation. The first of these will come from India. The purpose of these case studies is to shine a brighter light on specific contexts, setting out the current state of play and considering the contextual differences which may impact on the adoption of one approach or another when it comes to teacher evaluation.

To try and ensure as detailed a picture as possible of the varied India context, we convened a group of representatives from 23 different organisations and government agencies, along with several independent consultant experts, to share their knowledge and experience gained while working across the teacher education sector in India. Over the course of two meetings the group has wrestled with definitions, lamented the many challenges and shared inspiring stories of positive interventions and programmes taking place across the country.

Collectively, the group has identified what they believe to be the key features of an effective approach to teacher evaluation and considered the practical application of this at different levels of the system. This input is complemented by data from a series of focus groups with teachers, conducted across the country. These features and findings will be shared in detail in the case study report.

Several high quality tools exist, but consistent and standardised implementation at scale remains a challenge. An important message from the many of the participants has been the need for changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviour at all levels of the system in order for teaching quality to be adequately assessed in a meaningful way. As one participant in the group said, ‘evaluation tools are useful but you have to create the culture, the organisation and the climate for them to work’.

Improving learning outcomes has become a key priority in India, as elsewhere, in recent years. Within this, it is clear that a focus on defining quality teaching and how this is assessed is extremely important. This project aims to continue the conversation about how to address this issue and offer some practical recommendations for moving forward at the school, state and national levels.

Both the global literature review and the India case study will be published in early 2018.

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English Impact Report launch and panel discussion

English Impact Report launch and panel discussionBritish Council India, in partnership with Pratham ASER Centre (Annual Status of Education Report)  launched the English Impact Report: Investigating English Language Learning Outcomes at the Primary School Level in Rural India, at the British Council in New Delhi on Wednesday 20 November 2013.

Edited by Dr Vivien Berry and put together by the British Council’s research, publications and assessment teams in India and the UK, this report presents an analysis of the English learning outcomes data gathered by Pratham ASER Centre from children attending primary schools in rural India from 2007 to 2012.

In his welcome address to an audience of over 200 from the English teaching and education sector packed into the British Council auditorium in Delhi, Rob Lynes, Country Director British Council India, spoke about the importance of English as a language of opportunity, access, education and social equity.

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive British Council, stressed the role of English in growing cultural relations and international business but emphasised that English should not be offered at the cost of the sustained health of the local vernaculars and the national language, Hindi.

Madhav Chavan, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation, who launched the publication with Rob Lynes and Martin Davidson, asked the audience to reflect on the question, “Is learning English the same for everybody? Or should it or could it be different for different learners?”

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Director Pratham ASER Centre and Dr Vivien Berry, Senior Researcher, English Language Assessment, British Council presented the report findings of the English learning outcomes at the primary level in India from the ASER 2012 survey.

Presentation of the key findings was followed by Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India chairing a panel discussion on “What can we do to make a difference to English language learning outcomes in India?”

Rukmini Banerji felt that English should be considered as a broad continuum where different languages have a role to play and we need to enable the children to communicate and comprehend as much as they can no matter which language.

“T is for Technology and T is for Teacher. Technology is an enabler that will not replace the teacher but will support the teacher” said Ujjwal Singh, Founder CEO, The Curriculum Company.

Alison Barrett, Director English for Education Systems, British Council South Asia spoke about the importance of quality in teacher education to impact learning outcomes, both for teachers as well as learners, and made a plea for improved understanding of learning outcomes among teachers.

Jamie Dunlea, Researcher, English and Exams, British Council, said that subjects need to be integrated more, similar content and tasks and build on the resource and there is blended learning.

Baroness Usha Prashar, Deputy Chair British Council summed up the evening’s programme by underlining the need to develop strategies to enable children to learn in different contexts and also how important partnerships is for British Council.

The event was webcast live; and invited audiences in our centres in Chandigarh, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad watched the proceedings and questions poured in via Twitter.

Quotes
“I am immensely impressed with British Council moving in this direction – rigorous research which builds on meaningful partnership and has pragmatic application.” – Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India
“British Council is not about promoting English but promoting international friendship, connections, trust and relationships. I admire India for being one the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.” – Martin Davidson, Chief Executive, British Council

Important links:

Photo gallery

The entire event can be watched here

Download the pdf version of the report here

British Council Research and publications

Press Release

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Launch of English Impact Report

British Council India, in partnership with Pratham ASER Centre launches English Impact Report: Investigating English Language Learning Outcomes at the Primary School Level in Rural India, at the British Council in New Delhi on Wednesday 20 November at 6.30 pm IST.

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council and Madhav Chavan, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation will launch the report in the presence of Baroness Usha Prashar, Vice Chair of the British Council.

The launch will be followed by a presentation of the findings and an interactive panel discussion on“What can we do to make a difference to English language learning outcomes in India?”, chaired by Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India.

Confirmed speakers on the panel are:

Alison Barrett, Director English for Education Systems, British Council South Asia

Jamie Dunlea, Researcher, English & Exams, British Council

Rukmini Banerji, Director, Pratham ASER Centre

Ujjwal Singh, Founder CEO, The Curriculum Company

Vivien Berry, Senior Researcher, English Language Assessment, British Council

(*The audience is required to be seated by 6.15 pm.)

If you are interested in attending this event, please write to Ankur.Malik@britishcouncil.org

Watch the live webcast in the British Council at Chandigarh, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. 

You can follow some of the discussions on Twitter @inBritish with #EngImpact.

This report is being launched in the UK on 12 November, as part of the UK – South Asia Season.

About the book

Edited by Vivien Berry and put together by the British Council’s research, publications and assessment teams in India and the UK, this report presents an analysis of the English learning outcomes data gathered by Pratham ASER Centre from children attending primary schools in rural India from 2007 to 2012.

In addition to the in-depth analysis by Jamie Dunlea and Karen Dunn, the volume has essays from international authorities on English language teaching, education and multilingualism from India and the UK, framing the context of the study. Jason Rothman and Jeanine Treffers-Daller from theUniversity of Reading, UK, talk about multilingualism in an international context, while R Amritavalli from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India, writes about the varied contexts in which English is taught in India’s multilingual classrooms.

Rukmini Banerji and Savitri Bobde of Pratham ASER Centre write about the evolution of the ASER tools and Barry O’Sullivan discusses the implications of the inferences of this analyses.

The volume will trigger a number of debates about the role of English and the quality of language learning and teaching (and not just English) in India’s multilingual schools, particularly in public-funded education, and comes at a time when the focus on learning outcomes in our schools is greater than ever before.

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