SL in Action: IATEFL TEA SIG Conference in Cyprus
IATEFL TEA SIG CONFERENCE IN CYPRUS – 23-24 October 2009, Famagusta
Meral Güçeri, School of Languages, Sabanci University
The latest IATEFL TEA SIG Conference was held at the Salamis Bay Conti Hotel, very near Famagosa, located on the seaport of the north east coast of Cyprus. The conference, which hosted about 145 participants from 16 countries, dealt with the crucial areas of assessing speaking skills with its 24 sessions, 4 plenaries and a round up discussion. Cocktails, social activities, folk dancing and a Cypriot menu accompanied by the warm sea with the sunny beach made the event an unforgettable one for all the delegates. Everyone was so inspired that no session was missed, notes were taken and hot discussions took place both in the session rooms, at coffee breaks and on the beach.
The conference has achieved its aim by looking at different contexts of teaching, assessment and speaking as well as exploring related issues.
The first day started with Zeynep Ürkün?s intriguing opening speech, which was followed by Liz- Hamp Lyons? plenary talk entitled ?Spoken English Proficiency: Bringing together teaching and assessment? describing an innovative speaking assessment that they have developed in Hong Kong, focussing on not only how the criteria for assessment have arisen, and how they have been validated and communicated to the stakeholders, but also the role of teacher as an assessor in a classroom-based assessment context.
On Friday morning my session entitled ?Let?s assess life skills: Here is the criteria? aimed to discuss a seminar presentation criteria designed to assess Freshman English learners? seminar skills. A learner?s seminar presentation video was shared and half of the participants were invited to evaluate learner performance by using the chunks of an analytical criteria while the other half used a holistic criteria. Student involvement in oral assessment was explained in detail.
In the afternoon Meltem Bizim and Devrim Demirezen Uygan had a workshop called ?Optimizing Speaking in the EFL classroom?, which emphasised the recent trends in the field of teaching speaking and the crucial role of task design to optimize speaking skills in EFL classrooms . They shared the highlights of the study that they conducted at Sabancı University, the key principles for designing tasks, and sample tasks that they designed as part of their study. One section of the workshop was also allocated for providing hands on experience.
The second plenary session was by Evelina Galaczi on ?Assessing Speaking: An approach grounded in theory and practice?. Galaczi stressed the fundemental role speaking skills played in language learning, teaching and assessment. She explored the close relationship between learning and assessment through a focus on specific exam features. She argued that the role of speaking tests should be to promote beneficial washback.
The Saturday morning plenary speaker was John H.A.L. de Jong whose session was on scaling speaking. Jong discussed the issues related to scaling that are either not understood or ignored, including the mathematical relation between levels and the definition of the boundaries between levels. Examples of the scaling speaking of speaking tests and the procedures underlying the levels of CEF were provided.
The final plenary talk was by Susan Davies who highlighted crucial areas of the issues in testing spoken English. Her workshop aimed to raise participant awareness on the various challenges of portfolio assessment or use of a test. She stressed that it was possible to overcome some specific issues in testing spoken proficiency and to understand the process which would enable them to take up the challenge of producing their own tests.
On Saturday afternoon Adam Simpson?s session ?What constitutes effective pre-oral exam practice?? shared findings of research conducted on student perceptions of what constitutes effective pre-oral exam practice. What students consider beneficial, what they find less useful, overall feelings regarding oral assessment and the mismatch between teacher and student perspectives at the preparation stage were highlighted.
The conference ended with a round-up discussion by the plenary speakers.