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  • A young child smiling in a classroom with a crayon in his hand.
    • The Global Scale of English
    • Language teaching

    Young learners of English deserve more

    By Ehsan Gorji
    Reading time: 3 minutes

    Imagine a class of English language students aged 8 – 9 taught by a dynamic teacher they love. The young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL). The vibe they bring with them to the class, plus the dynamic teacher and the creativity she develops in her lesson plans, is fantastic.

    I have been observing trends in teaching EFL to young learners, and it is clear to me that school directors, syllabus generators, teachers, parents and learners are all satisfied with this image… “Hooray! Young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language. And the teacher is able to manage the class. Bravo!” But is it enough?

    What causes the lack of focus?

    It all begins with the coursebooks. If you take a coursebook for young learners and thumb through the ‘Scope and Sequence’ pages, you’ll see holistic definitions of language input in each unit. The school authorities then design a course based on the coursebook, and the snowball effect happens, whereby they design a course without specific details on what exactly to focus on.

    It is the teacher’s turn now. The creative and dynamic teacher provides an excellent classroom experience through which young learners can learn English together. She also assigns a piece of homework: write an email to a friend and tell her about your last holiday.

    When the teacher reviews the emails, she smiles as she finds many uses of the simple past tense—both in affirmative and negative forms. She then drafts an email thanking everyone and praising them generously. She includes a link to a PDF of other exercises to reinforce the grammar (the next day in class, they will review the completed handouts).

    This hardworking teacher tries to blend her style with digital literacy and applies creativity along the way. Everything seems perfect in her class, and she regularly receives emails from parents thanking her. Nevertheless, some questions remain: What was the task? What was the learning outcome? Which learning objective should have been tracked?

    Let’s reconsider the task – this time with our critic’s hat on – and analyze what has been taking place in this class. It is very nice that young learners sit together to learn English, and the teacher is able to manage the class successfully, but having fun and ease alone is not enough. We should aim for “fun, ease and outcomes”.*

    *Assessing Young Learners of English: Global and Local Perspectives, Dr Marianne Nikolov, 2016.

    Which important dynamics should be considered?

    The assigned piece of homework said: write an email to a friend and tell her about your last holiday. However, what actually occurred was a shift from this task to the students’ best performance in producing simple past-tense sentences. There are other important dynamics that have migrated out of the teacher’s focus. Did the students begin their emails appropriately? Was the tone appropriate? Did they pay attention to organizing their thoughts into sentences and paragraphs? Was the punctuation correct? Did they end their emails in the right way?

    If the coursebook had been equipped with clear and concrete learning objectives, the course directors would have employed them while designing study syllabuses, and the teacher would have used them when lesson planning. Consequently, the student’s formative and summative progress would have been evaluated against those detailed learning objectives rather than according to what some did better than the average.

    How can learning objectives be applied to tasks?

    With the Global Scale of English (GSE), publishers, course designers, teachers, and even parents can access a new world of English language teaching and testing. This global English language standard provides specific learning objectives for young learners that can be applied to tasks.

    For example, for our task, the GSE suggests the following learning objectives:

    • Can write short, simple personal emails/letters about familiar topics, given prompts or a model. (GSE 40/A2+)
    • Can use appropriate standard greetings and closings in simple, informal personal messages (e.g., postcards or emails). (GSE: 37/A2+)

    By applying language learning chunks – learning objectives, grammar and vocabulary – and identifying the can-do mission each one is supposed to accomplish, teaching and testing become more tangible, practical and measurable. Going back to my original scenario, it is excellent that young learners sit together for two hours, three times a week to learn English as a Foreign Language – provided that we know in detail which learning objectives to focus on, which skills to grow and what learning outcomes to expect.

  • A business woman and man sat at a long table discussing with eachother
    • Business and employability

    Improving employee engagement: The crucial role of language learning in business

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 8 minutes

    The ways we approach employee engagement are rapidly evolving and changing. For HR professionals and global business leaders, understanding these trends is essential to encourage a motivated, productive, and loyal workforce. A key yet often overlooked aspect of this engagement is the role of language learning and cultural understanding. Failure to adapt to the international market doesn’t just hinder growth—it can lead to significant financial losses.

    This blog post will delve into current employee engagement trends, provide suggestions for improvement, and talk about the importance of language learning and company culture in fostering a thriving global workforce through an effective employee engagement strategy.

  • Children working together outdoors picking up litter
    • Language teaching
    • Young learners

    How to teach students to be global citizens

    By Jeanne Perrett
    Reading time: 4.5 minutes

    As teachers, we all want our students to work toward making the world a better place. Through focusing on global citizenship, this drive to change the world is something we can help foster every day in the classroom. In this post, we’ll explore how.

    What are global citizens?

     A global citizen is someone who knows that they are part of a worldwide community. They understand that there are people who have completely different lifestyles, appearances, cultures and routines but with whom we share common values and responsibilities. Global citizenship encourages tolerance and understanding, and learning about it helps children become open-minded adults.  

    In a primary English classroom, helping students become aware of themselves as citizens of the world will introduce them to a global way of thinking. We can do this while also helping them become familiar with, and proficient in, English.  

    How can we introduce the concept?

    Before students put themselves in a global context, they should get to know themselves as individuals. But they should also get to know themselves as people who are part of their immediate communities.  

    In the classroom, this can be done by encouraging students to think about something personal, such as their likes and dislikes. We can then encourage students to look a little further: What kinds of homes do they see in their communities? What makes a house a home to them? What about people working in their communities — what important jobs do they do, and how do they make an impact? 

    For language teachers, the idea is to combine vocabulary and grammar structures with a slowly widening view of our world. Simply by introducing the concept that we are part of a worldwide community can take the children out of their own experiences and help them start to consider others.

    Tips and activities

    Social media makes it possible for teachers to contact each other across borders and to collaborate between their schools. Something simple, like organizing a class video call for students after lunchtime and encouraging students in different countries to discuss what they ate in English, can help learners become more globally aware. 

  • A woman with headphones dancing in her living room
    • Just for fun

    Dance your way to fluent language learning and enhanced wellbeing

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Language learning can often feel daunting, with its endless vocabulary lists, grammatical structures and pronunciation rules. However, incorporating dance and movement into your study routine can transform this challenge into an engaging, enjoyable experience while significantly benefiting your overall wellbeing. This unusual approach is not only effective for language learners of all ages but also enriches the learning process with fun and physical activity.

    Engaging in movement and dance can substantially impact mental health, as evidenced by various studies and academic research. For instance, a notable study published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy highlighted that dance, particularly in structured environments, can reduce anxiety and improve mood among participants. This connection between dance and mental health improvement can be attributed to the release of endorphins, often referred to as happiness hormones, which occur during physical activity.

  • A teacher stood at the front of the class talking to her class
    • The Global Scale of English
    • Language teaching

    English for employability: Why teaching general English is not enough

    By Ehsan Gorji
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    Many English language learners are studying English with the aim of getting down to the nitty-gritty of the language they need for their profession. Whether the learner is an engineer, a lawyer, a nanny, a nurse, a police officer, a cook, or a salesperson, simply teaching general English or even English for specific purposes is not enough. We need to improve our learners’ skills for employability.

    The four maxims of conversation

    In his article Logic and Conversation, Paul Grice, a philosopher of language, proposes that every conversation is based on four maxims: quantity, quality, relation and manner. He believes that if these maxims combine successfully, then the best conversation will take place and the right message will be delivered to the right person at the right time.

    The four maxims take on a deeper significance when it comes to the workplace, where things are often more formal and more urgent. Many human resources (HR) managers have spent hours fine-tuning workplace conversations simply because a job candidate or employee has not been adequately educated to the level of English language that a job role demands. This, coupled with the fact that many companies across the globe are adopting English as their official corporate language, has resulted in a new requirement in the world of business: mastery of the English language.

    It would not be satisfactory for an employee to be turned down for a job vacancy, to be disqualified after a while; or fail to fulfil his or her assigned tasks, because their English language profile either does not correlate with what the job fully expects or does not possess even the essential must-have can-dos of the job role.

    How the GSE Job Profiles can help

    The Job Profiles within the Global Scale of English (GSE) Teacher Toolkit can help target those ‘must-have can-dos’ related to various job roles. The ‘Choose Learner’ drop-down menu offers the opportunity to view GSE Learning Objectives for four learner types: in this case, select ‘Professional Learners’. You can then click on the ‘Choose Job Role’ button to narrow down the objectives specific for a particular job role – for example, ‘Office and Administrative Support’ and then ‘Hotel, Motel and Resort Desk Clerks’.

    Then, I can choose the GSE/CEFR range I want to apply to my results. In this example, I would like to know what English language skills a hotel desk clerk is expected to master for B1-B1+/GSE: 43-58.

  • A group of business people sat together at a desk
    • Business and employability

    Beyond borders: Harnessing the power of English language skills for a global competitive edge

    By Samantha Yates
    Reading time: 7 minutes

    How does increasing English proficiency drive international growth? Read on to find out how future-focused business leaders are gaining a competitive edge globally by investing in English language training.

    The link between English language proficiency and global business growth is indisputable, and this presents leaders with an exciting opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.

  • A girl sat at a desk with a laptop and notepad studying and taking notes
    • Technology and the future

    AI scoring vs human scoring for language tests: What's the difference?

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 6 minutes

    When entering the world of language proficiency tests, test takers are often faced with a dilemma: Should they opt for tests scored by humans or those assessed by artificial intelligence (AI)? The choice might seem trivial at first, but understanding the differences between AI scoring and human language test scoring can significantly impact preparation strategy and, ultimately, determine test outcomes.

    The human touch in language proficiency testing and scoring

    Historically, language tests have been scored by human assessors. This method leverages the nuanced understanding that humans have of language, including idiomatic expressions, cultural references, and the subtleties of tone and even writing style, akin to the capabilities of the human brain. Human scorers can appreciate the creative and original use of language, potentially rewarding test takers for flair and originality in their answers. Scorers are particularly effective at evaluating progress or achievement tests, which are designed to assess a student's language knowledge and progress after completing a particular chapter, unit, or at the end of a course, reflecting how well the language tester is performing in their language learning studies.

    One significant difference between human and AI scoring is how they handle context. Human scorers can understand the significance and implications of a particular word or phrase in a given context, while AI algorithms rely on predetermined rules and datasets.

    The adaptability and learning capabilities of human brains contribute significantly to the effectiveness of scoring in language tests, mirroring how these brains adjust and learn from new information.

    Advantages:

    • Nuanced understanding: Human scorers are adept at interpreting the complexities and nuances of language that AI might miss.
    • Contextual flexibility: Humans can consider context beyond the written or spoken word, understanding cultural and situational implications.

    Disadvantages:

    • Subjectivity and inconsistency: Despite rigorous training, human-based scoring can introduce a level of subjectivity and variability, potentially affecting the fairness and reliability of scores.
    • Time and resource intensive: Human-based scoring is labor-intensive and time-consuming, often resulting in longer waiting times for results.
    • Human bias: Assessors, despite being highly trained and experienced, bring their own perspectives, preferences and preconceptions into the grading process. This can lead to variability in scoring, where two equally competent test takers might receive different scores based on the scorer's subjective judgment.

    The rise of AI in language test scoring

    With advancements in technology, AI-based scoring systems have started to play a significant role in language assessment. These systems utilize algorithms and natural language processing (NLP) techniques to evaluate test responses. AI scoring promises objectivity and efficiency, offering a standardized way to assess language and proficiency level.

    Advantages:

    • Consistency: AI scoring systems provide a consistent scoring method, applying the same criteria across all test takers, thereby reducing the potential for bias.
    • Speed: AI can process and score tests much faster than human scorers can, leading to quicker results turnaround.
    • Great for more nervous testers: Not everyone likes having to take a test in front of a person, so AI removes that extra stress.

    Disadvantages:

    • Lack of nuance recognition: AI may not fully understand subtle nuances, creativity, or complex structures in language the way a human scorer can.
    • Dependence on data: The effectiveness of AI scoring is heavily reliant on the data it has been trained on, which can limit its ability to interpret less common responses accurately.

    Making the choice

    When deciding between tests scored by humans or AI, consider the following factors:

    • Your strengths: If you have a creative flair and excel at expressing original thoughts, human-scored tests might appreciate your unique approach more. Conversely, if you excel in structured language use and clear, concise expression, AI-scored tests could work to your advantage.
    • Your goals: Consider why you're taking the test. Some organizations might prefer one scoring method over the other, so it's worth investigating their preferences.
    • Preparation time: If you're on a tight schedule, the quicker turnaround time of AI-scored tests might be beneficial.

    Ultimately, both scoring methods aim to measure and assess language proficiency accurately. The key is understanding how each approach aligns with your personal strengths and goals.

    The bias factor in language testing

    An often-discussed concern in both AI and human language test scoring is the issue of bias. With AI scoring, biases can be ingrained in the algorithms due to the data they are trained on, but if the system is well designed, bias can be removed and provide fairer scoring.

    Conversely speaking, human scorers, despite their best efforts to remain objective, bring their own subconscious biases to the evaluation process. These biases might be related to a test taker's accent, dialect, or even the content of their responses, which could subtly influence the scorer's perceptions and judgments. Efforts are continually made to mitigate these biases in both approaches to ensure a fair and equitable assessment for all test takers.

    Preparing for success in foreign language proficiency tests

    Regardless of the scoring method, thorough preparation remains, of course, crucial. Familiarize yourself with the test format, practice under timed conditions, and seek feedback on your performance, whether from teachers, peers, or through self-assessment tools.

    The distinctions between AI scoring and human in language tests continue to blur, with many exams now incorporating a mix of both to have students leverage their respective strengths. Understanding and interpreting written language is essential in preparing for language proficiency tests, especially for reading tests. By understanding these differences, test takers can better prepare for their exams, setting themselves up for the best possible outcome.

    Will AI replace human-marked tests?

    The question of whether AI will replace markers in language tests is complex and multifaceted. On one hand, the efficiency, consistency and scalability of AI scoring systems present a compelling case for their increased utilization. These systems can process vast numbers of tests in a fraction of the time it takes markers, providing quick feedback that is invaluable in educational settings. On the other hand, the nuanced understanding, contextual knowledge, flexibility, and ability to appreciate the subtleties of language that human markers bring to the table are qualities that AI has yet to fully replicate.

    Both AI and human-based scoring aim to accurately assess language proficiency levels, such as those defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or the Global Scale of English, where a level like C2 or 85-90 indicates that a student can understand virtually everything, master the foreign language perfectly, and potentially have superior knowledge compared to a native speaker.

    The integration of AI in language testing is less about replacement and more about complementing and enhancing the existing processes. AI can handle the objective, clear-cut aspects of language testing, freeing markers to focus on the more subjective, nuanced responses that require a human touch. This hybrid approach could lead to a more robust, efficient and fair assessment system, leveraging the strengths of both humans and AI.

    Future developments in AI technology and machine learning may narrow the gap between AI and human grading capabilities. However, the ethical considerations, such as ensuring fairness and addressing bias, along with the desire to maintain a human element in education, suggest that a balanced approach will persist. In conclusion, while AI will increasingly play a significant role in language testing, it is unlikely to completely replace markers. Instead, the future lies in finding the optimal synergy between technological advancements and human judgment to enhance the fairness, accuracy and efficiency of language proficiency assessments.

    Tests to let your language skills shine through

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  • Woman standing outside with a coffee and headphones
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Using language learning as a form of self-care for wellbeing

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 6.5 minutes

    In today’s fast-paced world, finding time for self-care is more important than ever. Among a range of traditional self-care practices, learning a language emerges as an unexpected but incredibly rewarding approach. Learning a foreign language is a key aspect of personal development and can help your mental health, offering benefits like improved career opportunities, enhanced creativity, and the ability to connect with people from diverse cultures.

  • A woman teaching in front of a laptop with a noteboard behind her
    • Language teaching
    • The Global Scale of English

    Implications for educators on fostering student success

    By Belgin Elmas
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Pearson’s recent report, “How English empowers your tomorrow,” carries significant implications for educators. It underlines that increased English proficiency correlates with improved economic and social outcomes. Educational institutions play a crucial role in preparing students for professional success, employing various pedagogical approaches and teaching methods to meet the diverse needs of learners across universities, colleges and schools. However, the main unfortunate result of the report for educators is the argument that learners are leaving formal education without the essential skills required to achieve these better outcomes.

    Furthermore, as stated in the report, many of them are not lucky enough to be adequately equipped for the demands of their professional roles as they continue their careers. This emphasizes educators’ underlying responsibility to critically evaluate their teaching and assessment methods to ensure their students are effectively prepared for real-world challenges, especially as they transition into higher education where the stakes for academic and professional success are significantly elevated.

    The data of the report comes from five countries, and while Turkey is not one of them, many of the findings are still relevant to the English language education system in Turkey. Given the significant investment of time and effort, with foreign language education starting in the second grade for the majority of students in the Ministry of National Education schools, better outcomes would be expected in mastering the global language.

    Numerous reasons contributing to this failure could be listed but I would put the perception of how language is defined, taught and assessed within the education system in first place. English language classes are generally approached as “subjects to be taught” at schools, and rather than focusing on finding ways of improving learners’ skills in the foreign language, the curriculum includes “topics to be covered” with a heavy focus on grammar and vocabulary.

    This, of course, extends to assessment practices, and the cycle continues primarily with teaching and assessing grammar and vocabulary proficiency. Participants in Pearson’s report claim the heavy emphasis on teaching grammar and vocabulary, and not having enough opportunities to practice the language both inside and outside the classroom, as the three primary factors contributing to their lack of communication skills. If this was asked to Turkish learners, it’s highly likely that we would get the exact same three top reasons. The implication for educators here is very explicit: we must first revisit the definition of what “knowing a language is” and align our definition with our teaching and assessment methodology. What use is knowing a language without being able to communicate with it?

    New opportunities needed for practice

    Another clear implication for learners’ lack of opportunities to use the target language both in and outside the classroom is evident; teachers must refrain from dominating classroom discourse and instead create opportunities for learners to actively engage with the language. Recognizing common learning barriers in this context is crucial, as these barriers can significantly hinder students' ability to practice language skills effectively in corporate settings, professional development, and adult learning environments. Especially in a foreign language context, like in Turkey, this would gain even more importance for the students who lack opportunities to practice their target language in their daily lives.

    Understanding different learning styles is essential in this process, as it allows teachers to design engagement strategies that accommodate visual, kinaesthetic, or auditory learning preferences, thus addressing the limitations and specific needs of individual learners. Teachers, who are reported to dominate 80% of class time with their own talk, have the primary responsibility for this issue. These teachers, which refers to the majority, should monitor themselves to ensure they are creating opportunities for active participation and language practice for their students.

    Encouraging the learning process as an everyday habit

    Students seem to need guidance for practicing the language not only inside but also outside the classroom to improve their proficiency, where external factors such as limited access to resources and environmental distractions can significantly hinder their ability to learn. Integrating technology into education and guiding students to continue their learning beyond classroom settings would undoubtedly be valuable advice. Language learning apps and especially social media can empower students to engage with the language in creative and meaningful ways, addressing extrinsic barriers by providing access to resources and support that overcome the lack of support from teachers or peers and environmental distractions.

    Being able to function in a foreign language, such as negotiating, giving opinions, and making suggestions, were indicated as areas where the gap exists between what is needed and what students possess in language skills. Such a result would again require a shift towards more communicative and task-based language teaching approaches, giving opportunities for students to exercise these skills not only in professional but also in academic and social contexts.

    Raising awareness among students about the benefits of language proficiency can be suggested as another implication that will also inspire them. Aligning educational curricula with real-life needs and raising awareness of both students and teachers about the rationale behind it is crucial for helping students set their own goals more accurately while their teachers guide them with realistic expectations.

    Understanding motivational learning barriers

    "I didn’t feel as if I was making progress" was one of the barriers participants indicated was stopping them from achieving greater proficiency, highlighting an emotional learning barrier that stems from internal challenges such as peer pressure and resistance to change. This gives another implication for assisting students to recognize and appreciate how much they have achieved in their learning process and how much more there is to achieve. Additionally, motivational barriers play a significant role, as they reflect the obstacles that arise from losing curiosity and desire for learning, leading to students missing classes or refusing to take courses. The Global Scale of English (GSE) is definitely a valuable tool to track learner progress by providing a concrete framework and by improving their confidence, thereby helping to overcome both emotional and motivational barriers.

    In conclusion, while the list of implications for educators might be enhanced, the most significant suggestion lies in reconsidering our perception of language learning and proficiency. This shift in perspective will have a great impact on all aspects of language education, particularly teaching and assessment methodologies. Embracing this new understanding of language teaching will not only enhance the effectiveness of language education but also better prepare learners for real-world language use and interaction and better life conditions.