Aslı Saglam's Blog about CPD in ELT

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.


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!

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:

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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.


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.

Wired In or Out?; 1st International ELT Symposium of Yildiz Technical University


The 1st International Symposium of Yildiz Technical University School of Foreign Languages kicked off today, with a top level programme and super-star speakers. The opening talk was followed by music and performance session.

1 (1)

The Rector of the university and the organising committee thanked the sponsors with plagues.

1 (2)

Plenary by Chuck Sandy, İTDİ Director, kicked off the conference. He started off puzzling the audience with an interesting poem and he went on sharing his philosophy of life; “I can’t do this but I am doing it anyway”. Among many others, he focused on the concept of “Open Space Technology”; “whoever comes are the right people. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. Chuck Sandy’s session was full of inspirational pictures, stories and quotations.


Partipants of The 1st International Symposium of Yildiz Technical University School of Foreign Languages are very lucky because the conference will give us the opportunity “to communicate” and “get networked”.


Many thanks to the organising committee and Isil Boy for the event.

The Edublogs Awards


I am looking forward to this year’s edublog awards. Nominations will end very soon. More info is at the Edublog’s website.

I would like to nominate Sultan Zeydan’s blog as the “Best Teacher Blog”.

Good Luck to all and happy blogging.

Training at Doga College Bostancı


A beautiful training day at Doga College Bostanci

EALTA Summer School 2012: Goteborg Diaries Day 5


In this last day of EALTA Summer School we started to work on real-life data that some of the course partipants provided.

Thanks to them, we had the opportunity to take a look at authentic data sets which portrayed students’ performance on a Maths test. Norman guided us by making us reflect on the data analysis and showed some short cuts to be utilized when we wanted to use our own data sets (instead off typing the whole data from scratch).

I met lovely people, had great fun and learned a lot. I would like to thank Gudrun, Marianne, course tutors and all partipants of 2nd EALTA Summer School for making this course such a memorable event for me.

Some of the course content and list of references are shared on EALTA’s Website.

Happy testing everyone…


EALTA Summer School 2012: Goteborg Diaries Day 4


On a beautiful and sunny Goteborg morning 2nd EALTA Summer Course on testing started off with very interesting presentation by John de Jong about setting standards. There are many commercialized exams which argue that they measure the same construct in language development and when we compare these exams one to another it’s often assumed that they have exact same-equivalent scores.

To illustrate, my school accepts couple of external exams to exempt students that are enrolled in language preparatory school. Do these exams expect the same standards in terms of task difficulty, and standards expected form the students? I found this suggested point very interesting and you will be able to follow John de Jong’s point of view and data collection in detail when you refer to the presentation on EALTA’s website. Also, we talked about the standard setting procedures that took place in SurveyLang project and luckily we had Neus, Norman, Gudrun and other colleagues who were involved in the project. As a result, we had the chance to listen to their real life experience with respect to setting standards in a large scale EU project like Surveylang.


I would like to summarize the points that I reckon from these sessions:

  • Governments, universities and test developers strive to set standards and screen exams accordingly and the success of standards setting procedure depends on planning, training and rigor. The more judges are guided and trained in the process the better and more smoothly runs the process.
  • A variety of techniques including the Angoff Method, Basket procedure and Van den Schoot  aid standard setting.
  • Language development is conceptualized in 2 dimensions;

1) Quantity (How much a person can do in a test? How many different tasks?

2) Quality (How well can a person do these tasks? Efficiency?)
Furthermore, in the course of language development, combining these two dimensions (quality and quantity) is not a ladder. Instead, it’s a slippery slope which results in profiled development of students. E.G. a student being better in reading but relatively less able in speaking or listening abilities.

  • Self-assessment can be unreliable in determining quality and quantity due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
  • Instead ploting Rasch difficulty (Theta Values) against judgments (what people think about item difficulty) could give better estimates. A variety of approaches including odd& even ability estimates, split-half estimate, considering multi versus uni dimentionality per skill were mentioned.
  • What does “a B1 Exam” mean?

As far as I have understood to have an exam at B1 Level we need to sample from all possible tasks that could be done at B1 level (“sampling from a wide universe of tasks”) and consider a student to be at B1 level if that student can master 50% of the task samples.

  • Other Sources that you will not regret checking out  🙂

Neus Figueras & José Noijons (eds.) Linking to the CEFR levels: Research perspectives

Felianka Kaftandjieva. Methods for Setting Cut Scores in Criterionreferenced Achievement Tests A comparative analysis of six recent methods with an application to tests of reading in EFL

In short, setting standards requires meticulous work of considering expectations from students at a certain level, item difficulty and ratings of ability. It’s presented as a long, tiring, challenging  and a valuable process which contributes to fair practice in testing and assessment.


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The EduBlog Awards 2014 Finalist

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GEC 2014 Presenter

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