“Is the inspector coming to observe us too? Why not to our group as well?“ sighed some of Lingva‘s students on Wednesday, 1 March 2017. They were bypassed by the regular teaching reinspection for the purpose of YALS accreditation renewal. It is not customary that students are not afraid of inpectors, but this time it happened that inspector Ana Djordjević, Teaching Fellow in Applied Linguistics at the Faculty of Philology of Belgrade University, engaged by YALS Association of Language Schools of Serbia as an external inspector, dispelled all the fears with her professional and unobtrusive approach to the observation of lessons held by 6 teachers in 12 groups, from preschool to adult levels. Teachers did their best to show that all their work is of exceptionally high quality and students responded with utmost interest and cooperation. A lot of enthusiasm and positive energy filled all Lingva classrooms, as well as an all-pervasive feeling that hard work always pays off in the end.
Immediately before summer holiday, as planned in the Lingva’s Annual Teacher Training and Development plan, the topic of our 24th in-house workshop, held by Director-of-Studies Mirjana Ljiljak-Vukajlović on 24th June, was Speaking Assessment Standardisation, as a sequel to earlier workshops on the same topic held on 15 October and 14 december 2010.
As in the previous workshops, the first part of our session was dedicated to familiarizing with CEFR speaking overviews and descriptors. In contrast to the event in 2010, when the second part included watching and discussing filmed samples of CEFR-calibrated oral production as part of a CoE-EAQUALS project, this time video clips of Cambridge English Examples of Speaking Tests were used first to identify the CEFR levels on the basis of the given speaking criteria and then to analyse which particular features of students performance indicate each specified level. The third stage involved studying the examiners’ commentaries on students performances and comparing them with our own.
The workshop proved to be very useful, especially in providing a much clearer picture of the performance required of students at each particular level and clarifying what each of five speaking assessment criteria – Range, Accuracy, Fluency, Interaction, Coherence – actually implies. Once again it was concluded that we have to be very careful not to be overly demanding when assessing lower level students and that students should not be penalized too much for mistakes as long as they do not impede understanding.
In accordance with the needs analysis of Lingva English language teachers, the 23rd in-house workshop was dedicated to writing assessment. A similar workshop was held On 18t February 2011 with some of the teachers attending both of these events.
Being one of the two most elusive and difficult areas for assessment, besides the speaking skills, since no black-and-white criteria can be set as in the case of listening, grammar and vocabulary, language teachers always appreciate efforts to practice assessment and marking. It is also beneficial for our language school to improve quality and consistency of writing assessment in order to ensure unifed and fair school assessment procedures for young adult and adult groups.
In the first session, teachers brushed up their knowledge of overall CEFR written assessment criteria and then familiarized themselves with the relatively new Cambridge Writing Assessment (sub)scales, first of all four subscales referenced to CEFR level descriptors: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language. Special attention was given to clarifying the meaning of specific criteria in each of the subscales. In the second session, teachers were given samples of written students work at B1 and A2 levels to rate them individually and in pairs, which was followed by the whole group discussion. On this occasion, too, agreement was the highest in rating the language, while communicative achievement marks required more harmonizing.The session was ended by agreeing on the exact sets of criteria that will be used uniformly by all teachers for progress test and final exam assessment at each of language proficiency levels.
The workshop was prepared and facilitated by Mirjana Ljiljak-Vukajlović. The next workshop, which will focus on speaking assessment standardisation, will be held in June.
Since it was founded on 24 April 1990, Lingva has applied high quality standards and innovative approaches in language teaching/learning. Harmonization with European standards was performed in its first years of operation owing to its membership in YALS Association of Language Schools of Serbia. We have achieved very good cooperation with both domestic and foreign institutions, such as the Institute for Advancement of Education and the British Council, through both our own or joint projects with other schools and non-governmental organisations.
As early as 1995, Lingva integrated computer-aided learning activities into its curriculum, which was soon followed by a systematic use of multimedia projects, supported by the internet, IWB and mobile digital devices. Although the low profitability of the core educational activity has frequently necessitated use of additional translation income to support financing of new technologies, Lingva has never regretted making investments in expensive equipment since the attractiveness, topicality and relevance of the teaching content, along with the teachers’ enthusiasm, have always resulted in better motivation and more successful language acquisition. The plan for the next period is integration of interactive Lego Education systems, which are specially designed to stimulate curiosity, creativity and critical thinking as the necessary tools for effective lifelong learning.
In addition to general and special-purpose language courses, Lingva organises preparation for internationally recognized Cambridge and TOEFL exams. It has been the only school in Valjevo since 2000 to prepare 16 generations of 7 to 12 year old children for Cambridge Young Learners’ exams. All of this has contributed to high language proficiency levels of Lingva school leavers. It is exactly for this reason that many former Lingva students of different profiles have easily found employment all over the world. Numerous former Lingva students are studying to become or already work as language teachers, and some have come back to Lingva to apply the same methods as those through which they were once taught foreign languages.