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Getting there


Friday, April 16, 2010

This is now my sixth (?) odd year teaching at the university.

I have changed the rooms where I teach so that they are in the computer room with constant access to the internet, with screens and mike, and have moved the teaching time to the afternoon so students can get up on time...The room is much closer to the station so students don't have far to walk. The department also streamlined classes into electives, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced, and I teach Basic and Intermediate.

So now I have 70 Basic students registered! And 60 in the intermediate. Last year I never imagined the response to these changes would be so radical (nobody told me about the elective thing), and had 112 show up, and couldn't cut the numbers in one class as I hadn't posted up the class limit.... and as of this year I am teaching three classes instead of two, but with class limits of 70 because that's how many fit in the computer room. Wow! Thank you webheads, this is a major transition into IT and computer worlds....


Thursday, July 20, 2006

This is amazing...I have spent the morning trawling through the spring terms of 2004 and 2005 to look for blog entries related to the vocabulary worksheet and autonomous vocab learning that I did, and about which I am now going to write (some kind of a) dissertation to crown my MA.

Really deep, particularly as I cut and edit 2005 down to about 8 pages of word, to see how anal I am, with being late and not accepting train tickets and handing in stuff late. I seem almost arbitrary, crazy, inflexible to myself, as I read it. ( I hate the word anal, inflexible, pedantic seem much better...but it does seem appropriate...)

I've had rebound syndrome this spring term, sympathetic, gentle even with students being late, although still threatening them with lower grades...they don't seem able to get up in the mornings, for them it is a GIANT hurdle, and some even commenting they came on time every day and should get an A just for that. And thus far this year, I have been generous with it, and not docked grades as I had said.

Plus of course they are getting late trains, I see my own son now in animation vocational school getting the last possible train to get in by the skin of his teeth, and complaining about jammed ticket barriers leading him to a two-minute lateness, rather than making efforts to be able to leave home that extra train early, even with me making him tea and toast and waking him.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I remember reading some study about teens and early twenties having different metabolisms so that the first morning study period is a goner for them....


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ripping open the paper of a parcel from India to find inside my first book! Well, a chapter in a book, and here’s the reference:

Renata Suzuki (2006) ‘Diaries as Introspective Research Tools: From Ashton-Warner to Blogs’. In
Satish, D. & Rajesh Prabhakar, K. (Eds.) Blogs: Emerging Communication Media. Hyderabad:ICFAI University Press (pp153-168).
ISBN 81-7881-773-X
The original is here: http://www.kyoto-su.ac.jp/information/tesl-ej/ej29/int.html

A giant thank-you to Vance Stevens, whose generous inclusion of the article in his column and judicious editing made things happen, and also to TESOL Electronic Village online Blogs team and Daf and the BaWebhead team for sharing and caring and supporting me in learning about the opportunities here online. THANK YOU ALL!

Now I am trying to begin my MA thesis, unfortunately weighed down this spring by maddening (and mad?) in-laws and children moving into new life-paths, so that I am not progressing at all…this publication is an encouragement to battle on, the last hurdle. I am really quiet lately, I know, forgive me, I will be back when all is wrapped up safely in September.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Day 10 Thursday Presentations on Environmental and Socio-Economic Topics

I am reminded as I look at the orange attendance slips of my students where I ask them to write mini meta-cognitive comments on what they learned, noticed or found interesting, that the skill we were after was teamwork, using Q&A, repetition and so on to liven up the different voices, not just presenting one after the other.

11 students commented on this aspect of the presentations:

  • Communication among the team during the presentation makes it more interesting than each person speaking independently.
  • Bird Flu & Chiina's Pollution are very good. Because their teams talk each other.
  • Today's presentation, the contacts in a group each other is very important, I think. We need more communication.
  • I realized again that teamwork is a very important factor for presentation. If we support each other, presentation will move smoothly.

I must remember to say (again,methinks) that the same techniques, asking rhetorical questions, repetition, groups of three and so on are great for an individual presentation too to liven it up.

4 people mentioned they noticed the overall improvement and it made them feel they want to do more:

  • Every group's time-keeping skill went well! We are getting closer to the good presentation : )
  • I think that the level of presentation is better than last time. At last presentation I will have a best presentation.
  • My classmates got better, I think. I need more effort.
  • I have to practice presentation more. And next time, I try to practice more and support team mates.

4 people mentioned the use of graphs and sources:

  • It's important to paste the resource, because we can check and research if we want to know about the topic more.
  • We'd have more information on visuals.
  • I learned the difference of map, table, graph and pie-chart.

6 people commented on posture and delivery:

  • I thought that using eye contact and using communication in the presentation was difficult
  • I can't eye contact, use body. [Student name] is very good at those. Next presentation, I want to try them.
  • I couldn't be very cheerful expression in presentation. Next time, I will communicate listener.

3 students commented on the contents:

  • I was surprised that Japan's stockprice is decreasing because of bird flu. BUT I eat chicken without change. Promotion KFC was very good performance!!
  • Green GDP is not much of efficiency, but in these days Cleaner Production Law bring in China

My favorites ( i had one abstention of comment) to wrap up a truly wonderful day:

  • Today I enjoyed presentation, because every groups did great presentation.
  • I think that all classmates feel more relax this time than last time.

i fell asleep on the train and went past my usual stop, so I changed to a different train from usual and arrived. I need a coffee, I thought, and indulged in a latte while reading Bachman's (1990) Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing Oxford University Press.

I really liked the idea (p.54, 55) that we have to think about the purpose of tests, and Bachman has two major ones mentiond, tests as sources of information for making curriculum decisions, and indicators of abilities of interest in research. BUT I thought (having made my test only yesterday!) that a further view of the purpose of testing would be to review the course, explore a bit more of the ideas and celebrate achievement, or is that already included in what Bachman meant?

Anyway, on p.55 Bachman then says we have to think about the assumptions which allow us to use tests as a source of evaluation info, "First, we must assume that information regarding educational outcomes is essential to effective formal education...second...it is possilbe to imporve learning and teaching through appropriate changes in the program, based on feedback...Third, ...that the educational outcomes of the given program are measurable' (1990:55)

Those are some mighty big assumptions! Radical me gloating as I wonder if i dare beg to differ??And Bachman on the same page says that "It should be pointed out that ...the description and evaluation of the processes that are part of an educational program are equally important (Long 1984). However, since these processes are arguably even more complex than the outcomes, or 'products' of educational programs, they are more commonly described and evaluated on the basis of qualitative information.'
Justification for blogging as the operationalized course process evaluation methodology??!!

Another great quote that really hit me was overleaf: "In educational programs the decisions made are generally about people, and have some effect on their lives. It is therefore essential that the information upon which we base these decisions be as reliable and as valid as possible. Very few of us, for example, would consider the opinioins of our students' friends and relatives to be reliable information for evaluating their classroom performance." (1990:p.56)
...And here am I with my rubric marking, placing my judgement on a par with that of my students, who are judging the performance of friends!

So here are today's superb Thursday presentation results, first the average grade which the students get (five students grading, one from each group, and me, divided by six) and me:

Av:54 Me: 57 (This group had excellent delivery.)
Av: 51 Me: 48.5 (This group worked hard to make the bird flu topic relevant)
Av: 51 Me 47.5 ( I note this was the first presentation of the day, had great visuals)
Av: 55 Me: 50.5 (This group went last, excellent graphs)
Av: 54.8 Me 55.5 (This group wore suits, and did some excellent analysis of economic repercussions of bird flu, but also had realllll humor, handing out flyers for Kentucky Fried!)
Av: 53.8 Me: 51 (This group had a fantastic own opinion ending section to their talk, which left a really strong impression)

So there we are, is Bachman right? I would think not, the overall average is 53.2 for the class, and I agree, all presentations were A grade work! In fact I am running the paper vocabulary test in an attempt to justify not giving "A"s to everyone...kinda sad, but the quality of summer assignments and individual work show up individual strengths and weaknesses...is the course teaching to teach, in which case they are all "A"s, I was beaming the way everyone's presentations are getting better and better....Or is it teaching to test, mark down, differentiate, in which case various performances can be used to validate marking down...sigh! Yeah, the quality of the summer assignment and this last vocabulary test is what it boils down to for me to justify the A B C bit...


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

good presentations yesterday tuesday, altho I must say greening in china group simply hadn't read the article or begun to understand the need for relevance and quoting sources...great attempts to use mixing voices and questions for humor and teamwork, particularly the first presentation.

Meanwhile i have spent the whole day making a fantastic end of term vocabulary,which I have decided will review the financial vocabulary definitions of the first presentations, move into some newspaper articles on financial topics for the second and environmental third presentations, with vocabulary provided that students have to slot into the gaps in the text...

all from authentic sources which students should now be able to read, and a review of a more economic and problem focus on some of the topics they were working on. All students must work on two environmental texts I chose, Bird Flu and Renewable Energy (2o points), plus students get a choice of whether to read and fill in either a text on International Trade or Central Banks (10 points), plus they can fill in words wherever they can (four mini-texts on Accounting, LBOs, Bonds and Exchange Rates five words possible each, ten points total for this so ten words or two texts are safeguards).

Grand total of 40 points to add to the 60 for the last presentation. I'm thinking to do the marking in class after Xmas, for further review and to save me the energy. I also have been thinking about dictionary and open book tests, and told students yesterday to bring their dictionaries and that I was still undecided. I have decided to go for 15 minutes without, and 15 minutes with in the second half of the test, leaving some time for checking but not enough to do it all with the dictionary.

Yippee, feeling happier about the course now. Remains the grand task of commenting and grading the article reading assignments: roll on Xmas break!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Digging into the backlog of marking and filling up my markbook. Interesting to note the discrepancies in Presentation 2 between the average and my own grade of a presentation.

The system is five student markers, one from each of the groups listening to a presentation, and mine, added up and divided by six, so my own judgement is equal to that of one student. I discounted one student's rubric which had 60 (the perfect score) and Perfect! written on it with no name. The idea is that a marking student takes responsibility for their judgement and writes their name on the marked rubric.

For Tuesday Presentation 2

AV: 48.5 Me: 45
AV: 52 Me: 48
AV 54.3 Me: 54
AV 50 Me: 49.5
AV 45 Me: 43.5
AV: 49 Me: 47.5

My average score for this class: 47.9

For Thursday Presentation 2 (Who are using a different rubric with no marking of attire and added weight for content, ppt/handout and delivery)

AV: 52 Me:42
AV: 51 Me: 53.5
AV: 52 Me: 51.5
AV: 52 Me: 51.5
AV: 51 Me: 49.5
AV: 52 Me: 46.5

My average score for this class: 49.0

So overall my average rating of Thursday presentations is higher than Tuesday, although the lowest rating overall is for a Thursday presentation. Which low rating, when I look at the students' names, is a really serious good group of students, so that would explain why other people were rating them more on their image than on the actual presentation(?) to give a higher mark...or was I in a let's get serious and this is the first presentation mood? Marking is such an arbitrary business! Even with everyone using the same rubrics!


Friday, December 09, 2005

This is Friday morning, and i have been seriously pressured by the thought of blogging this week. I even thought, what would happen if I just stopped? Like, if i just taught away and didn't blog?
I then thought that that wasn't really a good idea, because the reflection that happens, and the sitting down to gather those thoughts (also for later perusal) and focusing for conversations with colleagues, things that are non-verbal and get more conscious so they can be discussed, and the whole benefit from that would be lost. I thought about the changes in the course I have made this year, using a yahoo group, using more ppt in presentations, having more links available to students for support beyond my own classroom exhortations, are the ones that come to mind, and I concluded I was able to change actively because I had somehow taken stock of what I was doing, and what worked/wasn't working, needed tweaking. Longitudinally.

So in spite of feeling somehow totally overwhelmed with a backlog of student papers to mark (the presentation 2 results to be logged, the vocabulary sheet to be looked over and double-checked, and the article reading report) plus family turbulence, Bham diss and last paper double and Columbia Peace Education module assignments to get out of the way, where oh where am i going to find peace of mind, plus papers written just aching to get published and not a drop of energy to write emails sending them in, (yes, the book deal fell through!)

here is this week's BLOG!!!

Tuesday, Day 9, Research in the Computer Room

Half the class came late. Really depressing, I spent a good half hour or more running round trying to record it all, being blocked in teaching by needing to deal with juvenile train late by at least twenty minute excuses, marking two really late students absent and having to deal with their petty whining attempts to wheedle me to mark them just late. I checked with the train station on the way home, the maximum train delay was 17 minutes, less for some. How come it's always the same students? is what is in my mind. Early birds are there and working.

One of my Japanese colleagues in another department has the same problem, absences and latecomers. The more I try and insist on being on time, the more lax some students are getting. I was thinking it was a silent protest, (???me being too touchy?) this Thursday class one student has left the course, (although they were thinking of coming, according to a friend), the relayed reason being it is too much work. One of the other Thursday students said they were up to their ears with other Economics courses and didn't see English as being on a par.

On my way to the station I saw my absent student running to catch the lights for the next class, I called their name, they didn't see me. Now I get an email saying they were sick one week and had urgent family business the following. Sick for my class and running to make the lights to cross over to campus and go to the next one, huh? Kinda sad, it will have to reflect in lower grades. Here am I thinking I could somehow guide students toward responsibility and ethical behavior by my upright model example...remembering bell hooks, we don't always see the results of our educating right away, ( and then accountability and performance measuring get in the way, for me and students)....

Anyway, having wasted a good 45 minutes on documentation of latecomers and so on, I settled in to circling groups. At the beginning of class I had sketched up on the board a sample of how to quote an article in a ppt slide, and also a reference slide at the end. I was able to offer support to the three groups that were working and researching, but the latecomers groups were all over the place, spent my last minutes of class showing someone how to load the presentation 2 ppt into eemsophia, our yahoo group, and then I was collecting the summer article assignments and feeling rather crushed on my way home.

I hope the presentations validate what's happening, I remember last year there was a dead spot in the energy of the research class, and I know that by contrast this year with the computer room I am making sure they come, and overlooking their process, while last year they left the classroom to research, so there was no guarantee they were actually studying during the research period.

meanwhile Thursday in the computer room, again beginning class with a short reminder of how to quote sources, and here no problem with latecomers, and good group work happening. In one group two students asked me to check their text for ppt slides, and I was able to work over with them, showing them how to cut vocabulary they don't understand, substituting easier words gleaned from the merriam webster, and how to simplify complex relational embedded written structures into two or three more simple sentences for easier listening. I also modeled how to include questions, so that the teamwork aspect and voiceplay are facilitated. Other groups were confident, brushed me aside happily, one group had no output, but we talked over how to approach things and I think got a hook on birdflu, with a scenario projection of how every senior citizen over 80 dying
of birdflu would affect the japanese economy. Will they produce it for next week?That is the question!