Posted by Alexei Kiselev
For any teacher working freelance it might be a serious challenge to evaluate the effectiveness of their course without peer supervision and control. It is vitally important to develop methods enabling them to see whether they are leading the students in the right way or may have already gone astray.
For me, a long term plan defines the direction to go and at the same time it is the first step to take towards the goal. However, walking this way is no easy thing, because there is a huge danger to take the wrong turn or get deceived by mirages and personal illusions.
I have developed certain rules I try to stick to when starting a new course with a new student or a group (I must note that I mostly work with adults, and the amount of online teaching constantly grows).
1. Set measurable goals and objectives. If there is an opportunity to take a widely recognized test at the end of the course, such as TOEFL, IELTS, or one of Cambridge tests, I do not miss this chance, because it makes the progress more tangible and motivating. And of course, there are mock tests in between the start and the finish.
2. Working online, I often record the students’ performance. I can do it at the beginning of a module to evaluate the initial functional competence, somewhere in the middle and at the end of the module. In this way I can see better what is to be corrected or improved, and on the other hand, there is the “before and after” effect that students also like a lot
3. Do not underestimate the value of L1 to L2 translation (not the other way round!). It clearly highlights the problem zones.
4. Do not underestimate the value of writing tasks at the end of the module. It had better be some kind of project with clear relevance to the theme and material of the module. This sort of output gives an idea of how the language learnt works when applied to real life tasks.
Teaching adults in their workplaces, it is easy for me to collect feedback on their English language performance in the company. This is what I usually do:
1. Talk to HR. As a rule, it is they who are responsible for organizing language courses for the employees, and they readily assist and advise on how to measure the employees’ performance in line with their business goals.
2. Talk to the students. I often ask questions like “How was your meeting?”, “How was your business trip?”, “Did you experience any difficulty with English there?”. They are very much willing to share this information.
3. Carry out the needs analysis before starting a course, and then do a few intermediate polls to update on the progress.
4. I also give them checklists “Now I Can…” at the end of the module or in revision modules. It helps the students be well-motivated and more aware of their progress.
I hope this short article helps!