Aslı Saglam's Blog about CPD in ELT

Blogging: An Adventure in Continuous Professional Development


I think academic blogging has great potential for promoting Continuous Professional Development of teachers as a transformative reflection tool. At least it helped me grow as a teacher on a large scale.

I will be talking about my journey as an avid blogger at IATEFL Annual Conference & Exhibition Manchester 2015 this April. I am looking forward to meeting colleagues & friends and making new friends at one of the greatest ELT Conferences. I will participate in a forum with other educators about academic blogging. My presentation is entitled “Blogging; an adventure in support of teacher development”. The forum will take place 17:25 – 18:30 on 13th April at Central 7 and each speaker will focus on different aspects. I am sure it will be a very insightful session since forum may bring about interaction between all participants, as the other thousands of scheduled sessions in the mighty IATEFL Annual Conference & Exhibition!

So, I reviewed my journey as an avid blogger and outlined this great adventure in an info-graphic. Hope you like it :)

Global Education Conference 2014 in Retrospect


Global Education Conference 2014 is over with an amazing number of presentations on a vast array of subjects given by numerous educators all around the world. I always look forward to this online event because I really find it very powerful in fostering ideas and bringing geographically dispersed educators together.

I was honored to be a part of this giant online CPD event. I gave a presentation entitled “ICT’osphere Surrounding ELT World: Reviewing Tools in Use”. In this presentation I talked about some of the educational technology that we use at my school and the web tools that I have experimented with. Link to my presentation as well as the the other are outlined below. I hope you would have the chance to take a look.

Happy to be a part of GEC 2014

All conference recordings are posted. Click here.

In addition conference keynote presentations are also published online on YouTube.


Global Education Conference kick-starts this Monday!!! Save the date.


The fifth annual Global Education Conference 2014 is just around the corner. It will kick start and be in full swing on Monday, November 17 and it will continue through Friday, November 21. This week long Global Education Conference is a free online event is expected to host more than 25 keynote speakers , more than 305 presenters and  educators and innovators from around the world. There will be a vast array of topics to be covered ranging from 21st Century skills, fostering international collaboration, globalizing the world through use of ICT in education, digital citizenship, communities of practice, social entrepreneurship, to continuous professional development, just to name a few.

The conference welcomes its participants with the following video

HOPE to CONNECT with YOU ONLINE in this great event!

Attendees may also want to check out the General Information below:

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Quality Research in ELT; Interview with Simon Borg



I first heard Professor Simon Borg in my ‘Teacher Education’ course at the university and, like the rest of my classmates, I was very impressed by the volume of his research and expertise . I then kept on reading his articles and blog The Joys of Being an Academic  and I learned so much from him.

I was honoured to interview him at 3rd  Malta ELT Conference where he gave a  workshop for IATEFL ReSIG couple of weeks ago and I thank him very much for his time!

Hope you enjoy reading the interview in which Professor Borg offers some valuable insights for teachers interested in research.

How can research contribute to teacher knowledge? What are the benefits of teacher research in ELT?

I have worked with many teachers who have done teacher research and they always have much to say about the benefits they experience. It helps them understand themselves and their learners better, gives them new practical ideas to work with, and also improves their critical skills, motivation and autonomy. There are many other potential benefits too, for teachers, students and schools.

At times it’s stated that there is a gap between research and teaching. A frequently voiced concern is that research and research findings can not be related to real classrooms and daily instruction. Whose responsibility is it to bridge the gap between research and teaching?

In teacher research this gap does not exist because teachers carry out systematic inquiry into their own classrooms. Teachers study their own work and so teacher research is by definition a practical activity.

What are some of the difficulties that might be encountered in teacher research? What would be your advice to overcome these problems?

Teachers may need to support to understand what teacher research is and to develop the skills and knowledge required to do it well. In such cases it is useful to provide teachers with training and mentoring from a more experienced colleague or someone external. Another challenge can be the time that doing teacher research requires. To avoid being overwhelmed, teachers should make sure that their projects are feasible. Schools who are serious about teacher research should also support teachers by giving them a small time allocation for their projects.

I would recommend that teachers and others interested in teacher research start by reading this simple introductory article:


Heartfelt thanks Professor Borg!

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Teachers as researchers: A strategy for professional development


Kenan (Dikilitas) and Koray (Akyazi) are language teachers and teacher trainers at Gediz University. They are advocates of teacher research as a professional development strategy and they gave a workshop on different forms of teacher research at the 3rd ELT Malta Conference. I couldn’t attend the conference and I was very curious about their session. Luckily Kenan kindly agreed to answer my questions in the following interview regarding their workshop.


1.       In your opinion how can teacher research contribute to the continuous professional development of teachers?

I should absolutely say yes to this question. Depending on my 4-year experience of conducting teacher research with teachers from varying degrees of experience, it seems that they benefit from engagement in research. There are concrete evidences for teacher development. The teachers generally report that they promote deeper understanding of the research focus they study and can talk about the problem under research very confidently.

This is related to the long engagement and deeper involvement in planning research, discussing critical issues, writing up an account of the research and sharing it with a wider audience in a conference.  Areas of development they highlight in the interviews are:

  • general professional development
  • experience in research skills
  • developing a critical eye
  • promoting reflecting skills
  • improving classroom practices
  • gaining insight into teaching
  • learning how to optimize student learning
  • evaluating the context they work in

Though it is demanding and challenging process and leads to development slowly and in the long run, conducting teacher research is a strong and well-established way of creating deeper impact on one’s understanding and teaching.


2.       In your institution you apply teacher research as a form of professional development. Could you please give some background about this project? How did you started off? What alternative applications of teacher research do you use in your context?

I started to conduct teacher research projects in 2010. Having seen busy schedule and intensive work teachers were doing, I opted for a flexible professional development program.


Other reasons for choosing teacher research  are that it is;

  • practice-based
  • classroom-oriented
  • student-focused
  • process-based
  • reflection-integrated
  • exploration-oriented

When the teachers are going through so much cognitive activities such as thinking, understanding, exploring, deciding, creating knowledge, sharing and discussing, it is inevitable that they process new knowledge in a way that will have impact on them.

The project I am conducting also involves planning, conducting and writing up research as well as presenting it at the annual conference held in June in the institution.  These conferences, though they started as an institutional event, turned into national and international ones in four years where other teacher researchers and academics as well as project participants come together. This year I am helping more than 30 teachers in the project who are aiming for writing up and presenting their teacher research studies. Although it may seem an easy activity from how it is written here, teachers’ personal commitment play the key role in the accomplishment of the project.


3.       In 3rd ELT Malta Conference, your workshop focused on different forms of teacher research. Could you please give some information about different forms of teacher research?

For MALTA ELT Professional conference, I collaborated with one of the skillful teacher researchers and prepared a workshop. Our major purpose was raising teachers’ awareness towards understanding teacher research as an umbrella term which includes exploratory practice, reflective practice and action research. The workshop introduced these concepts with hands-on activities by focusing on the following key characteristics:

ScreenHunter_03 Nov. 07 14.17  

4. What could be the criteria or points to consider when thinking about selecting an appropriate form of research and applying it to a local context? What should be considered?

These three forms of teacher research are complimentary though they seem as different research activities because teachers generally start with an exploration process where they try to understand the context they are teaching and clarify the issues they want to understand. Following this they think about the specific issues they explored and theorize from their experiences. These two initial stages may help them develop a research plan especially when they identify a problem in their teaching and a practice they want to change or improve. This is where they decide on a particular action research by which to solve particular problem they have in mind.

My suggestion could be for them to decide whether they have a question in mind or problem. If they have the former, they can carry out an exploratory practice combined with a reflective practice. However, if they have a problem in teaching, they should also conduct an action research.

For those who are interested in any of these forms can contact me for further questions and help.


Thanks for the interview and valuable information.


Reflections on IATEFL ReSIG Workshop; “Quality Research in ELT” by Simon Borg


1Professor Simon Borg gave a pre-conference workshop entitled “Doing Quality ELT Research” at the onset of 3rd ELT Malta Conference “The Learning ELT Professional”. I was fortunate enough to attend it in sunny and beautiful Malta with more than 50 participants. It was great to see that many educators are into research. The workshop had a 360-degree look at the research process and focused on traits of a good researcher, dimensions maintaining quality in research, essentials steps to be considered in planning the research, objectives and research questions, points to consider while conducting research, analysing data and reporting.Throughout the workshop Professor Borg challenged participants’ preconceptions  about conducting research and encouraged reflection on assessing research quality through a criteria. I have to say that I really enjoyed being in the audience and benefitted a lot from the workshop. I would like to reflect on some highlights accompanied by some quotations that lingered in my mind at the end of the day.

What counts as data, what’s research and who is a good researcher?

We started off by framing our own questions that we hope to be answered in the workshop at the end of the day. Mine was about having a framework or a blueprint for conducting research. I mean, where do you start from? What aspects need to be examined and monitored?

2We worked in groups shared our views about what counts as data. One example was a research study which examined impact of pre-service English language teacher education on trainees’ beliefs through an innovative visual methods study at the University of Barcelona. Discovering alternative kinds of data that could be used in a study, including photos and drawings, was very beneficial because being aware of the full range of data can enable researchers to make informed choices among a greater spectrum of data collection.

“You can be subjective as long as you can support it in an objective way”

Also, we discussed traits that a good researcher should have such as being self-critical, patience, and perseverance in addition to the ones outlined by Zoltan Dornyeri (2007) such as experience, academic expertise, curiosity, common sense, good ideas, discipline, reliability and social responsibility. In the end, the researcher sounded like a Marvel character with super powers but it’s all in the name of maintaining quality in research and it’s definitely worth the try.

One area that we talked about was the concept of objectivity. Is it possible for the researcher to be objective in a research study? The overall conclusion was that researchers need to be disciplined about subjectivity since it’s very difficult to completely divorce the personal dimension and human element from research. In other words there is always an element of subjectivity but it should be controlled and monitored in order not to direct the research and findings towards the results you were hoping for as the researcher. Therefore the cure is “disciplined subjectivity” as Professor Borg stated.

“You don’t fall out of bed and say I’ll do research”

As for what research is Professor Borg suggests a generic definition which states that research is planned, systematic, purposeful, empirical, analytic and made public. During our discussions planning stage received the utmost attention because as Levine says: ‘There is nothing more practical than a good theory,’ (1952).  These characteristics are important because these differentiate research from reflective practice.

Quality in Planning, Conducting and Reporting Research


A number of tasks were mentioned as prerequisite agenda items for the planning stage. These tasks involve defining the focus of the study, developing a rationale for research, conducting a literature review, specifying research objectives and questions as well as design of the study. We were presented with common critical comments made by journal reviewers when papers were rejected and these comments highlight some common deficiencies that stem from lack of a critical literature review. It was stressed that literature review should provide a theoretical context rather than a historical one. Professor Borg provided couple of on-line resources as well. On-line resources for language education research 

“Original doesn’t mean no one in the universe has ever thought about it before”

Choice of topic is of vital importance for a quality research and discussion about writing good research questions provided good insights. It was concluded that topics should be;

  • timely (aligned with the current ELT trends and/or current school policies and strategies),
  • focused, original (understudied),
  • relevant, and
  • practical (value of the topic with respect to offering practical solutions to educational world).

“Why do weak students get low scores?”

After examining the suggested criteria to assess quality of research questions we went over example research questions and screened them against the given criteria.

It was concluded that research questions should be clear, specific, and answerable, interconnected, linked to previous research, worth of the effort and knowledge extending in order to contribute one drop of water to the knowledge ocean.

Conducting the study

Regarding research design the workshop stimulated quality discussion about dimensions of research that should be taken into consideration. These range from determining the research philosophy, methodology (qualitative, quantitative, mixed method), research approach (case study, experiment…etc.), participants, ethics, data collection methods, time (longitudinal, cross sectional …etc.) to approach to data analysis. Some of the buzz words that guided our discussion were validity, reliability, generalizability, and objectivity. Then, Professor Borg introduced certain ways in enhancing quality in collecting and analyzing data such as being aware of data collection methods in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, evaluating methods in relation to the purposes of the study and devising strategies such as prolonged engagement, triangulation, member checks, inter-reliability and avoiding poor coding of qualitative data among many others to overcome validity threats.

Reporting Research

In this section of the workshop we delved into strategies to make research public, maintain and increase credibility as researchers by providing thick description regarding how the research was conducted and having a good discussion session critically weaving previous research with findings and extending knowledge in some way rather than repeating previous findings.

Fourteen Steps to Writing an Effective Discussion Section  

Writing a research article: advice to beginners 

As a wrap up, we were asked to revisit the initial question we had in mind at the beginning and reflect on ‘to what extent it had been answered’. Mine was answered comprehensively.

Now, I wonder how widespread research is as a professional development strategy. I mean, how many of us in our own context conduct research or are asked to carry out research as a strategy for professional development. How can research contribute to teaching practices?

I really wish that teacher research will flourish as a strategy for continuous teacher development…

Other Resources that could be helpful


Dornyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Lewin, K. (1952). Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers by Kurt Lewin.

London: Tavistock

Being a Digital Educator and a Citizen


I am getting really excited about our presentation on “Digital Citizenship and it’s applications in ELT” at TESOL Greece in 13 days. And we have all the motives to be excited because it seems that it’s going to be an excellent event!

Nil (Bilen) and I will share our ideas and we will be pitch firing many questions to our audience such as;  

What does it mean to be an educator and digital citizen?

What is our special role in preparing our learners to be digital citizens in blended learning environment

Which activities can be used in class?

In the end we hope to have a mutually enriching workshop experience with colleagues coming from a variety of educational settings and backgrounds. We really hope that our colleagues would join us on Saturday March 30 2013 at 17:40 – 18:25 and share their ideas about how to be a digital educator and a citizen.

In the meantime, you may want to take a look at a special tree of  links related to this subject that I have curated on PearlTree  

Digital Citizenship in Asli (aslilidice)

Please join us on Saturday or on-line :)



Reflections on “Language Assessment Course”: Part 2 Assessing Writing


Last week we had a “timed essay writing” practice with my intermediate level students which went really very bad.

We usually write essays in a process which involves multiple drafting and on-going feedback from the teacher and peers. After reading and listening to some input materials that would give my students some ideas for their outlines, we write in class and at times if they can’t finish their writing within due time, they also work at home. Occasionally we have timed writing as well. However this time only two of them were able to finish their writing within the given time frame (70 minutes as in their exam) and I thought “Well, they couldn’t do it because they didn’t want to…because they are not under exam conditions and they are not motivating themselves…etc.” But I have to admit that there were many statements regarding the difficulty of the topic which was gender inequality. Following this experience, last week in our “Language Assessment” course, we focused on assessing writing. Our discussions and Sara Cushing Weigle’s book entitled “Assessing Writing” helped me to view issues related to writing assessment under a different light. Here come the highlights…

Designing writing assessment tasks

According to Weigle (2002) development process for a test of writing involves certain stages such as 1) design, 2) operationalization and 3) administration. I would like to summarize points to consider that are suggested by Weigle (2002, p.78-82) at different stages to avoid potential problems with the test at a later test in the table below.

When Ece (a very dear classmate and a friend) said; “The stimulus material should be picked with respect to the construct definition of writing. Choosing a textual, a pictorial or a personal experience as a prompt in writing tasks should be in accordance with the construct definition and test takers’ characteristics” it rang a loud bell in my mind, explaining the inefficient timed writing experience I told you about at the beginning.

I have to admit that I may have overlooked some of the points listed above. For instance, as a teacher when I give my students a writing task to assess their language abilities I often skip pre-testing the items/ the writing prompt. But I have taken my lesson and you will see that in the coming Metamorphosis section :)

Importance of having test specifications

Test specifications are blueprints/ guidelines that give brief information about the tests so that when a group of educators have that in their hands, they can design assessment tasks that would be standard in assessing the constructs. Also test specifications provide a means for evaluating the finished test and its authenticity. There are many suggested formats for specifications but according to Douglas (2000 cited in Weigle) at a minimum they should contain:

  • A description of test content (how the test is organised, description of the number and type of test tasks, time given to each task, & description of items)
  • The criteria for correctness
  • Sample task items

I should also say that Weigle provided a particular format of test specifications in her book that was originally developed by Popham (1978) which entail detailed description and examples of test specifications that could help development of writing tests (2002, p.84-85).

Grading the writing papers

Weigle defines “score in a writing assessment” as the outcome of an interaction between test takers, the test/ the prompt or task, the written outcome, the rater(s), and the rating scale. She categorised three types of scales based on whether the scale is intended to be specific to a single writing task (primary trait score) generalized to a class of tasks (holistic or analytic scores) and whether a single score (primary trait or holistic) or multiple scores (analytic) are given to each written outcome.

In addition we discussed about advantages and disadvantages of using holistic and analytic scales in our class meeting and it was an interesting discussion, reflecting real life difficulties that we all encounter as teachers who need to score students’ written outcomes.

Holistic Scoring

Weigle argues that advantages of holistic scales cover 1) faster grading via assigning a single point rather than assigning different points for different aspects of writing, 2) focusing the reader’s attention to the strengths of the writer, rather than deficiencies in the writing, 3) being more authentic and valid than analytic scoring because it reflects the reader’s natural reaction to the text better. On the other hand some disadvantages of holistic scales are that a single assigned score may not provide useful diagnostic information regarding weaknesses in certain parts of writing ability.

 Analytic scoring

Advantages are that it provides useful diagnostic information about students’ writing abilities, higher level of reliability because the criteria is more detailed and comprises of more items. As for the disadvantages it is argued that it takes a longer time to score compared to holistic scoring and raters may read holistically and adjust their scores analytically based on the criteria.


After our Thursday evening classes of ‘Language Assessment’ with Prof. Farhady and classmates (Ece, Volkan, Ece, Merve and Jerry) focusing on writing assessment, I thought about how we deal with this issue at my school.

This is a picture of me and my lovely colleagues just before the writing standardisation session.

Before grading the papers we come together in a standardisation session and go over our criteria. Then, we grade papers together within groups and assign grades and discuss the rationale behind our grading.

Although at times they take time, I really think that standardisation sessions help me because they refresh my understanding of the scoring and criteria and set the scene.

In standardisation sessions we have the opportunity to talk about how raters should arrive at their decisions independently and then compare and discuss their scores, how to treat students who responded to the writing question partially or fully off topic, what to do about memorized and/or incomplete responses.



Metamorphosis: lessons to be taken

Piloting and pre-testing items with a sample group who represent the target group will become my routine in the future.

I will be much more careful about clarity, validity; (“potential of the writing prompt for eliciting written products that span the range of ability of interest among test-takers” (Weigle, 2002, p.90)), reliability of scoring and the potential of the task for being interesting for the test-takers.

While choosing the writing topic (personal or general topic) it’s always a good idea to keep the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the test takers, the test purpose (general or academic writing), test takers’ interests, abilities, and their background knowledge into consideration

In order to sustain fair practice, one of the requirements should be evaluating scoring procedures involving assessing reliability of scores, validity of scoring procedures and evaluating the practicality of scoring procedures. Scoring and issues related to the procedures should be revisited frequently.

I will definitely work on having a user-oriented scoring rubric and familiarising students with these criteria. I really believe that such an understanding will guide them in their writing.

How do you deal with assessing writing at your institution? What’s the students’ reaction to writing test(s)? Please feel free to comment.

Next week we will deal with Assessment in ESP and I am looking forward to our Thursday class with Prof. Farhady …

Reference: Weigle Cushing, S. (2002). Assessing Writing. CUP, Edinburg.

Reflections on “Language Assessment” Course: Part 1 Assessing Speaking


Lessons in Language Assessment

For the last 3 weeks I have been auditing Prof. Hossein Farhady’s Language Assessment course given as a part of Yeditepe University PhD program in English Language Teaching. Though I have finished taking classes and I am on the verge of writing the proposal of my doctorate thesis, I still enjoy participating in Prof. Farhady’s class for 4 hours on Thursday evenings; asking and answering questions, reading articles and books and reflecting on issues related to fundamental concepts and principles of second language assessment, with a lovely group of classmates.

The professor is also my thesis advisor and I believe that our Thursday classes and discussions will help me to develop a critical view on a variety of existing assessment procedures, establish a better understanding of fair practice, forms, functions, uses, and psychometric characteristics of language assessment procedures, paving the way to my future thesis.

“Surrender is easy but don’t”

Thought provoking questions are flagged, real life scenarios are suggested and Prof. Farhady often plays the devil’s advocate when he corners us with his questions, requiring us to analyse the course content and to screen it against our experience as teachers who give tests to their students. When coming with an intelligent and satisfying answer becomes hard and he sees the question marks in our eyes, he says: “surrender is easy but don’t”. So, we promise him that we will keep our discussions in mind and always have a critical eye to our practices and pursue validation and reliability. After all changing the world starts with changing yourself, isn’t it?

This week on our agenda we had assessing speaking and writing and I would like to reflect on lessons to be taken for me.


Assessing Speaking

Do you have a speaking test in your institution? I think that designing a speaking test, coming up with tasks to be used in the test and devising a scoring scale for the test-takers’ performance requires a lot of hard work. In “Assessing Speaking” Sari Luoma (2004) suggests Hymes’s (1972) SPEAKING Framework to make the initial planning of a speaking test.

  • Situation (Consideration of physical setting and nature of the test- Is it an end of term test of speaking?)
  • Participants (How many examinees to take the test? Will they work in pair work? Group work? What would be the specifications about interlocutor and assessor?)
  • Ends (considerations about the outcomes of the test involving formative or summative use, how to provide feedback, test score and fair assessments)
  • Act Sequence (the form and content of speech acts that will be elicited through the test)
  • Key (How examiners are supposed to conduct their act and presence in assessment situations: Any scripts that will accompany, assessors guide regarding how supportive or impersonal they need to be?)
  • Instrumentalities (Which channels or modes (spoken, written, pre-recorded)  and forms of speech (dialects, accents and varieties) will be used?)
  • Norms (Which norms of interaction, such as initiating conversation, asking clarification questions, elaborating, and (dis)agreeing, will be involved in the test?)
  • Genre

This framework can help design of a speaking test because it raises questions about linguistic, physical, psychological and social dimensions of the situation in which language is used. Consequently, task designer has to take input, goals, roles and settings into consideration.

Also, Prof. Farhady presented types of assessing speaking below:

  • Imitative (focus on repetition and pronunciation. E.G. Phone Pass test 
  • Intensive(production of controlled language use and short phrases via minimum interaction)
  • Responsive (interacting to short conversations)
  • Interactive (transactional and interpersonal)
  • Extensive (oral presentations, story telling…)

He stressed that differentiating and understanding these types will help us gear our speaking test to better cater for the needs of our students.

Types of speaking tasks

Luoma (2004) provided a comprehensive summary of what speakers are asked to do in assessment situations. According to Brown and Yule types of informational talk encompass; description, instruction, story-telling and opinion expressing/justification (cited in Luoma, 2004, p.31). Bygate differentiates speaking tasks into factually oriented (description, narration, instruction, comparison) and Evaluative Talk (explanation, justification, prediction and decision). In addition to informational talk, there are also communicative speaking tasks. Common European Framework (2001) divided functional competence into Macrofunctions (description, narration, commentary, explanation, and demonstration) and Microfunctions (giving and asking for factual information, expressing and asking about attitudes, suasion-suggesting, requesting, warning-, socialising, structuring discourse and communication repair). There is a variety of task types that could be used in assessing speaking. Then how can task designers for a speaking exam decide which one(s) to use? Luoma (2004) suggests that task designers should make the organising principle for the assessment and teaching curriculum coherent (p.35).

Other considerations when designing speaking assessment tasks

This week in our testing class we once more saw that task designer’s burden is heavy. In addition to types of talks and communicative functions, they need to plan about how to operationalize these tasks. They need to rationalise whether individual, pair or group tasks will be used. Also assessment developers will choose whether to use real-life or pedagogical tasks, tape-based or live testing and determine between use of construct-based and task-based assessment. They also need to manipulate the difficulty of speaking task with regards to complexity of task materials, task familiarity, cognitive complexity and planning time. (Luoma, 2004, p.46)

Examples of Speaking Scales

One of the highlights of this week’s classes was having the chance to discuss a variety of both analytical and holistic speaking scales examples as well as rating checklists. Luoma outlined;

  • The Finnish National Certificate Scale
  • The American Council for teaching of foreign languages (ACTFL)
  • The Test of Spoken English Scale
  • The Common European Framework speaking scales
  • The Melbourne medical students’ diagnostic speaking scales (2004, p.60)

Metamorphosis; Lessons to be taken

At the end of each week I reflect on our class discussions and ask myself; “How will your future conduct change?”. Here are points to keep in mind for me to change for the better:

It’s important to prepare various versions of speaking scoring rubrics and scales catering for the needs of raters, teachers and examinees.

Holistic and analytical scales have their pros and cons and therefore, their use should be considered carefully. Holistic ones can be accompanied with rating checklists (detailed lists of features describing successful performances on task) for feedback purposes.

To develop good and clear level descriptors stems from examining performances of test-takers from different levels and describe features that makes them a certain level.

Differences between levels should be clear on the speaking scales and should not be blurred with too much dependence on quantifiers such as: many, few, adequately…etc.

I feel that being able to talk about questions in mind, assessment related issues we encounter in real-life and hearing about different perspectives and settings enrich my personal understanding regarding assessment. I really learn a lot…

Thursday testing classes and reflections will continue. Please stay tuned :)

Reference: Luoma, S. (2004). Assessing Speaking.The Cambridge Language Assessment Series, CUP, Edinburgh.



Designing an online program; Relevant Learning Theories


I have enrolled into a very interesting and challenging course offered by Georgie tech Coursera; Fundamentals of On-line Education Planning and Application.

Course objectives cover; (1) understanding on-line learning pedagogy and androgogy, (2) reviewing  on-line learning components, (3) creating on-line learning components, (4) investigating on-line course design, (5) exploring learning managemnt systems, and (6) creating an on-line course. Especially ” creating an on-line course” will be really interesting.

The course has just begun and at the onset we were asked to react to course content which focused on learning theories.

Here is my response…

On-line Teaching has been becoming widespread and it has affected instructional design and implementation profoundly. The terrain of on-line learning environment has changed the notion of classroom, roles of teachers, roles of students, curriculum design, tasks, course content, methodology and assessment of learning objectives.

What’s the ideal learning theory to fit the on-line learning environment?

If I was designing an on-line course, then among constructivist (discovery learning- Bruner, social constructivism-Vygotsky, categories of learning-Gagne, progressive movement- Dewey) and cognitive approaches (cognitive load-Sweller, info processing approach, Androgogy) I would build the course around the premises of social constructivism and discovery learning to cater for the needs of on-line learners. Social constructivism involves cycles of related activities, dialogue, talk, collaboration and the social context in order to help the individuals to construct his or her own reality and understanding. Learning involves (re)learning, (re/de)construction, reflection and change of the input (assimilation). Also, social constructivism does not abstract the person from socio cultural landscape and ignore social dimensions of experience, learning and communication.

Teaching Approaches:

Peer instruction and The Flipped instruction would suit on-line learning environment because in both methods teacher is nor perceived as the sole authority and traditional teaching principles are not prioritised. Instead students are actively engaged in course content and learn from each other, constructing representations of their learning. Also they are compatible with Kolb’s experiential learning and Bruner’s discovery learning.

An Example On-line Program Model

Roger Schank reports their experience of building an online program model which is based on learning by doing principles in the video entitled “How Does Online Learn By Doing Actually Work?”. 

In this program the instructional design is modelled after ecological validity of real life situations. In other words, the program is project-based, theme-based and curriculum emulates real-life settings. So, when students work together on real-life projects they also get oriented to real-life situations that will be encountered in their professional life later on. In this design students are not tabula-rasa, not empty vessels to be filled in with information. Perception of education is not transmitting knowledge to passive students. On the contrary, in this model students put in greater effort, they are active actors who take on responsibility of their own learning. It’s also stated by the course participants that their retention was higher because they actively engage in class tasks and focus on and interact with course content. In “What We Learn When We Learn by Doing” Schank labelled the long retention and positive backwash of the curriculum design as “The Acquisition of Functional Knowledge”. According to him “learning by doing allows for the natural acquisition of micro-scripts that supply a learner with a set of individual or packaged executable procedures that, if practiced, will be of use for as long as necessary”. Furthermore learn by doing model does not assign directive roles to teachers. Here, teachers are Socrative mentors who monitor and guide students in order to assist them to become independent thinkers. Therefore, teachers have abandoned traditional methods of teaching, especially standing in front of large classes and lecturing. Instead they have increased quality interaction time with their students via project-based, task-based projects which aren’t outcomes of the curriculum but the curriculum itself.


Schank, Roger C.  (1995) What We Learn When We Learn by Doing. (Technical Report No. 60). Northwestern University, Institute for Learning Sciences. (http://cogprints.org/637/1/LearnbyDoing_Schank.html)

Lowes, S. 2008. Online teaching and classroom change: The trans-classroom teacher in the age of the internet. Innovate 4 (3).


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