Evaluating an ongoing language program
Ongoing evaluation, which occurs during the progression of an action, is a widely used means of judging the progress and achievements of language programs. Developers and supervisors often use the results of their evaluations to rate programs. Evaluations may help directors decide such matters as ranking teachers, funding the programs, and promoting teachers. In some cases, evaluations include input from colleagues and supervisors, with teachers and learners playing only a passive role in the evaluation process.
The ongoing evaluation of language programs can assist in improving teaching and learning practices and help teachers and learners. First, teachers and learners can objectively view their work and performances during the course. Second, they can better understand the course progression and its relation to the programs goals. Third, teachers and learners can benefit from the evaluation by modifying their teaching or learning strategies, thus improving their performances. By participating in the ongoing evaluation program, teacher and learners become more involved in the program. Finally, the evaluation project can help to create good rapport between teachers and learners.
Ongoing evaluation is a systematic and reflective process to measure the program. Unlike other evaluations, this project usually involves only the teacher and learners. It can be considered a self-evaluation process. Administrators or supervisors of the program may provide background information or other materials. They also can be asked to inspect the project at its conclusion.
Stages in evaluating
The teacher and learners should perform ongoing evaluations periodically. An initial ongoing evaluation may be carried out in the first week. The tone here will probably have a greater overall effect on the success of the course than what occurs later, since initial impressions are very often more enduring than later ones (Hutchinson and Waters 1987).
Formal ongoing program evaluations may be at one month intervals or at each stage
of the program as a check on the progress of the courses. Informal evaluations may be
carried out whenever the teacher and learners think it is necessary. It is important at
all stages that data be stored in a database for analysis. The ongoing evaluation
process is divided into four stages.
Teachers and learners will need to observe each others performance. Besides teaching, the teacher should conduct studies on the learners styles and their learning strategies. This may include recording students responses to the teachers questions and the roles learners play in the discussions. The learners will need to observe the teachers performances during classroom activities and the teaching techniques used. Both the teacher and learners can share views on their observations and make comments on questionnaires and during periodical interviews and group discussions. Learners should receive feedback from the teacher on corrections and personal conversations with the teacher.
The teacher should become familiar with the learners learning styles in order to compare the learners classroom behavior to their learning strategies, which were collected during the first stage. Also, the teacher can assist learners in adapting their learning strategies to suit the present program. Conversely, the learners may study the teaching strategy of the teacher and make comments, so adjustments can be made to suit their own needs and the goals of the program.
Documents such as syllabi, informal evaluation results and materials of other similar programs can be studied and compared to the evaluation results, so as to obtain an objective view of the programs progress. The learners should also write brief summaries of their learning progress during this stage. The teacher can then revise the plan for the coming sessions.
During all the stages, feedback should be readily available to the teacher and learners, so they can understand what adjustments they must make throughout the course.
Factors and data collection
Within a language program, there are numerous factors which need to be considered and studied in order to get an objective view of the teaching process (Braskamp et al., 1984). These factors may be classified into four fields and are self-explanatory (See Figure 2).
Ways of collecting data are varied. In our own teaching practice, we used questionnaires and classroom discussions. During the classroom discussions, the teacher sat among the learners with a class monitor chairing the sessions. Both teacher and learners made comments about the classroom activities during a certain period. Frank criticisms and friendly suggestions not only provided direct and objective views on the teaching/learning process, they also created closer relations between the learners and the teacher. Both received immediate feedback from these sessions, allowing them to adjust their strategies.
The feedback on how the teacher teaches and how learners learn could be shared with the supervisor and the learners.
Learners completed these questionnaires anonymously. After the questionnaires were collected, the teacher statistically rated the value of each question in order to get the learners opinions on the teaching. The results of the questionnaire showed that the learners wanted the teacher to use the blackboard more often, wanted more opportunities to speak in English, and wanted the teachers help in their oral and listening practices. All these data helped improve the teaching and as a result, benefited the learners.
In addition to these two methods of collecting data, we found program record-keeping, class observations, and personal interviews effective means of data collection.
All these results should then be entered into a database for study and evaluation. By comparing these data, the teacher is able to monitor the progress of the program, and the learners also know where the program is going.
Feedback and benefits
Ongoing evaluations should never be a means of punishment for either the teacher or learners. Instead, it should help both parties in their practices. Teachers and learners should have positive attitudes and consider the evaluation process as part of the program. Teachers may not only pay attention to fulfilling the text objectives, but they may also learn about the students learning styles and strategies. On the other hand, the learners become aware of how the teacher teaches and why certain methods are used. By mutual observations and the exchange of ideas, both help improve the learning process.
By using the computer in the evaluation process, the teacher and learners get instant feedback, thereby allowing them to adjust the teaching and learning to suit the requirements of the program. The learners can also benefit by learning about other learning strategies. Thus, because teachers become aware of the learners styles, they are able to adjust their teaching methods to better serve the learners needs.
An ongoing evaluation is a systematic review of a language program. By changing the roles of teacher and learners in a program, the teaching and learning can improve. The process should include teachers and learners and various kinds of activities at the different stages of evaluating. The evaluation also benefits the teacher who becomes a researcher and makes research a part of the classroom activity. Finally, supervisors of the program can learn more about the program, making it easier for them to make decisions when setting up future programs. Most importantly, an ongoing evaluation benefits everyone involved by helping to maximize communication between the teacher and learners.
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