The Evolution of an Online Writing Test Standardisation in a Pre-service Communications Skills Course for Teachers in Singapore

by Mary Ellis
National Institute of Education, Singapore
Anitha Devi Pillai
National Institute of Education, Singapore

and Chan Hsiao-yun
SIM University, Singapore

Abstract

The National Institute of Education (NIE) is the provider of teacher education in Singapore and is an institution within the Nanyang Technological University; NIE is simultaneously accountable to the Ministry of Education in Singapore. A Communication Skills for Teachers course (CST) was introduced for all pre-service teachers at NIE in July 2005. A catalyst for the development of this course, which focuses on speaking and writing skills, was the perception that the standard of English of Singaporean teachers had declined. Since 2010, the course has been offered as a blended course and increasingly, several aspects of course administration have also been conducted online. The two main areas of assessment for the course are an oral presentation and a written test. In order to ensure that grading is consistent, standardisation meetings for these tests are important but not always possible given the tutors’ varied schedules. This paper outlines the development and implementation of online standardisation for the written assessment component of the CST course. Utilising collaborative tools for standardisation saves time and reduces the need for face-to-face meetings for this important aspect of assessment.


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The Novice Disciplinary Insider: How Novices Can Write Research Papers Like Disciplinary Insiders

by Percival Santos
Dongbei University of Finance and Economics

Abstract
EAP foundation programs should prepare students to write at least at the novice disciplinary level by the time they leave the program. To do so, they must situate the writing process within a given discipline. This paper proposes to teach research paper writing, a specific genre of academic writing prevalent in many social sciences disciplines, according to a 4-phase process. It adapts a novice disciplinary insider model wherein each phase corresponds with the kinds of knowledge needed to achieve the writing expertise of the novice disciplinary insider. Phases 1 to 3 pertain to the cognitive, epistemological and behavioral aspects of quantitative research methods (i.e., subject matter and discourse community knowledge) whereas phase 4 pertains to the skills needed to produce the research paper (i.e. genre, writing process, and rhetorical knowledge).


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The Impact of Use of English Outside the Classroom by Mandarin and Tamil ESL Learners in Their Accuracy with the Simple Past Tense

by Mike Tiittanen
Seneca College, Canada

Abstract
This study examined whether the self-reported use of English outside school by Mandarin-speaking and Tamil-speaking ESL learners played a role in the accuracy of the oral use of the simple past tense. The participants were primarily in their thirties and were mostly students in an ESL class of a lower intermediate or intermediate level of proficiency. This study used an interview questions task which was designed to elicit the oral use of the simple past tense. The results indicate that there is an interaction between L1 and the use of English outside an ESL school environment. The Tamil-speaking ESL participants who reported using English outside their ESL school were more accurate than those Mandarin-speaking ESL participants who also reported such use of English. For those learners who reported no use of English beyond the classroom, there was no difference in accuracy between the two L1 groups. However, the fact that the data on English use outside the class was self-reported throws some doubt upon the reliability of the data.

Previous SLA research indicates that L1 appears to play a role with regard to the accuracy of use of the simple past tense by ESL learners who speak different Chinese dialects (Goad, White & Steele, 2003, p. 245; Yang & Huang, 2004, p. 49). Mandarin Chinese-speaking ESL learners tend to have a low rate of accuracy in using the simple past tense in obligatory grammatical environments when apparently drawing on their procedural knowledge (Witton-Davies, 2004, pp.14-16). Their accuracy issues with the simple past appear to be related to the fact that Mandarin does not have a grammatical past tense (Smith & Erbaugh, 2005, p. 713). Some research appears to indicate that ESL learners whose L1 has a grammatical past tense (e.g. Tamil) have a higher rate of accuracy with the simple past tense than Mandarin-speaking ESL learners on tasks intended to induce use of procedural knowledge (Tiittanen, 2013, p. 89).

Some SLA research indicates that L2 learners tend to benefit from greater exposure to the target language outside the classroom (Beebe, 1998). A number of studies within the interaction paradigm of SLA are consistent with the notion that such exposure to the target language outside school may promote L2 learning. For instance, Long’s (1996) interaction hypothesis asserts that conversational interaction facilitates L2 acquisition (pp. 451-452), including the development of L2 morphology (p.414), and possibly the English simple past tense. In addition, Swain’s output hypothesis (Swain, 1985; 1995) may also be relevant in this regard. Swain’s studies of Canadian French immersion students led her to conclude that these students’ limited opportunities to use the target language stifled their language growth. Swain (1995) asserts that output of the target language may promote more accurate production of, amongst other things, morphology (p. 128), including possibly the simple past tense. However, little research to date has investigated whether there is a relationship between use of the target language outside the classroom and learner first language (e.g. Mandarin and Tamil) with regard to the accuracy of oral use of the simple past tense. This research was conducted in order to derive preliminary results on whether such a relationship appears to exist.


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Reaffirming the Teacher Role within the Context of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A Case Study and Relevant Issues

by Ourania Katsara
University of Patras, Greece

Abstract
The issue of quality teaching has been the subject of educational research, but there is not much empirical support noted in research for connection between quality teaching and the teachers’ abilities. Quality teaching is also discussed in terms of culturally responsive pedagogy, indicating that this teaching approach underscores the learner-centred approach. The main argument of this article is that emphasis is placed on the role of the teacher as a facilitator in the learning process, suggesting that the Greek teacher role is reaffirmed within the context of culturally responsive pedagogy. In addition, the article describes and explains how cultural variables are determining factors in designing appropriate syllabi for Greek university students, and in choosing appropriate teaching methodology techniques for effective teaching in university settings. Specifically, the reason why the dimension of instructional clarity is important in relation to teaching any Greek national cohort is illustrated. Some examples of lesson plans are also presented, explaining in detail the materials used, the learning environment and classroom management in relation to a course on English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) taught in the first term. A number of activities done in class during this course are described, offering some key pedagogical implications.


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