The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) meeting was held on November 18-20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) meeting was held in conjunction with the ACTFL annual conference. The annual CLTA meeting was the largest gathering of Chinese language educators in the United States where many presenters from overseas gathered to share the most up-to-date research and teaching trends in the field.
I presented “Evaluating Evaluations: Guidelines for Language Educators Evaluation” as part of the panel “Studies on Standards and Guidelines for Teacher Evaluation” at the 2011 ACTFL/CLTA conference. This is one of a series of topics from my previous presentation “A Case Study of TCFL Teacher Development: From Theory to Practice” at the 2010 ACTFL/CLTA conference.
This year’s presentation took a critical look at the conventional way language teachers are evaluated. Evaluation is crucial to the professional development of language educators and significant to program and department administrator hiring and promotion. Those evaluations from school or language program administrators and students also affect each language teacher’s own self-evaluation during the professional development and teacher training process. The presentation used different methods to probe the topic — through literature review of the evaluation processes and teacher development, the comparison and analysis of evaluation forms from different language programs, interviews with teachers of different Chinese skill-levels, and analysis of feedback and opinions on what makes an effective student evaluation.
The presentation indicated that most evaluation forms used today are not ideal for language educators or for administrators. Most of the time conventional evaluations only reflect limited facets of a language teacher’s effectiveness. When we review the guidelines for evaluating language teachers, we should consider incorporating these guidelines when developing future standards for language teacher evaluations. Specific suggestions include: 1) evaluations for language courses should be specially designed to meet the specific needs of the language course rather than based on those evaluation forms used for general courses; 2) the means, frequency, and timing for implementing the evaluation should be assessed to maximize the effectiveness of the evaluation; 3) evaluations for language courses should also be tailored to specific languages when necessary to incorporate differences in individual linguistic features; and 4) evaluations should differentiate subject categories of guidelines to evaluate the performance in the language classroom.
While attending the conference, I had the opportunity to attend several inspiring panels that I have summarized below. The presentations were based on extended action research and expertly integrated theory, material development and classroom practices.
1. Teaching Chinese Characters: Using Research to Guide Practice
Professor Meng Yeh from Rice University introduced the effect of Pinyin on visual processing based on research-supported strategies; other presenters compared current textbook practices in the introduction of character learning with research on the acquisition and mental representation of characters.
2. Should We Delay Teaching Chinese Characters in US-based CFL Programs?
Lijuan Ye from Messiah College introduced a dissertation study using data from national surveys, interviews, and action research; other presenters discussed US trends in the timing of character introduction and two case studies of US-based CFL programs.
3. Proficiency Assessments
1) Project-Based Assessment in Advanced CFL Classrooms, Nyan-Ping Bi, University of Washington
2) Assessing Chinese Oral Proficiency Gains and Implications for Curriculum Design, Jianlin Liao, CIEE Study Center
As a language educator, it is my belief that constant external and internal evaluation is the key to success in a teacher’s professional development.