Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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I'm a big picture person. In my work, I am always looking ahead and trying to make things better, and I feel most productive when managing long-term tasks and projects (i.e. getting beyond the daily grind). See my article on time management to understand my thinking here. Below I have highlighted a few of the initiatives I have taken in the past few years that highlight what I most enjoy doing. Many of them have now been taken over by other individuals, as I have moved on to other projects.

Training video for peer mentors. The ELP mentor program, in which domestic undergraduate students work as peer mentors in ELP classes, has been in existence since 2008. During that time, instructors have faced some challenges in helping these mentors to understand and fulfill their role in the classroom. For example, many mentors are unsure of how to approach students and engage them in conversation. I decided to create a video in which I would demonstrate how a mentor should act. With the aid of coworkers (in handling the camera) and iMovie, I put this video together, which was then shown in one of the mentor training sessions.

Orientation video and quiz. I put together a set of video segments (by filming my colleagues and myself) for students who may have missed the regular ELP program orientation. Students who arrive late due to visa issues are provided a link to the page where they can view the videos and answer "quiz" questions. Their results are sent back to me so I can verify that they did the activity. I just used iMovie for the editing and Google Forms to create the online quiz presentation. Below is a screenshot of part of the quiz.

In-Service workshop: Testing - Vocabulary-in-Context Items on Reading Tests. After attending a colloquium on testing, I began thinking more about our reading tests and the item types. I wanted to make the tests more consistent and to provide clearer test specifications. This turned my focus to our vocabulary-in-context items. Having created a lot of our tests myself, I became aware of the fact that sometimes we simply select words in a passage that seem unknown to our students and use them for vocabulary-in-context items. However, they may or may not actually have sufficient context clues to make them valid items. In Fall 2015, I suggested to our reading coordinator that we plan a workshop for our next in-service to train teachers on this and also look closely at some of our reading midterms and final exams. View the slideshow I created to facilitate the workshop here

Writing Workshop: Personal Statements and Resumes for Grad School Applications. Some of the course review feedback we received as part of our program review plan indicated there was some interest in help with writing graduate school applications, specifically personal statements. As this is not part of our course objectives for writing, I offered to conduct a special workshop outside of normal ELP class time to specifically teach this type of writing. I designed it to be a two-session workshop: The first day, I gave information, guidelines, and samples to go over with the students, and the second day was more of a hands-on session in the computer lab. I asked a couple fellow writing teachers to come in and help to give individualized feedback. Overall, it was a success and I hope to continue this in future semesters.

Test Specifications. This was a major project for me as testing coordinator in the academic year of 2014-2015. After receiving training at the LRC Testing Colloquium on test specifications, I returned eager to implement what I had learned. Collaborating heavily with the skill coordinators, I drafted test specifications for reading and writing exams. These included detailed item specifications and passage characteristics. For reading, I developed an initial bank of three standardized midterms and three standardized final exams for each level. As a program, we would then cycle through the tests each semester. For writing, I compiled all prompts into a bank for teachers to draw upon and worked with the writing coordinator to draft midterm and final exam templates that gave standardized directions and formats.

ELP Citizenship Award. In past years, we struggled to help some of our students rise to the expectations of our American university culture. It was clear that some of these students did not have the academic readiness, maturity, or motivation to succeed. I had the idea to recognized whatever good student behavior we did have in order to focus attention on how students should behave. Initially, I took it upon myself to coordinate and advertise this among our students and staff. Teachers would nominate and decide together on a recipient for each level, based only on citizenship, leadership, and participation (not academic achievement). I asked the program director to present the award at our final dinner at the end of the semester, and the recipients would give an acceptance speech. From the beginning, the ELP Citizenship Award has been a positive aspect of our project.

ITBE Convention Tech Showcase. After attending (and presenting at once or twice) TESOL International's Electronic Village & Technology Showcase), I thought we could do the same at our affiliate conference. In fact, I became the Vice-President of Illinois TESOL for the 2010-2011 year, which made me chair of the 2011 annual convention. As always, I wanted to find ways of making the event even better. I instigated the addition of a Tech Showcase component to our conference, allowing presenters to use just 20 minutes to highlight an effective technological tool. This worked wonderfully, and ITBE has continued to include this type of session.  Chairing the convention, by the way, is another example of my passion for big projects!

ITBE Link electronic format. Another contribution I made while on the board of ITBE was as newsletter editor. Previous to my appointment, the newsletter was still being published in PDF format, emailed as an attachment. I worked closely with our web hosting company to utilize their e-publication platform in revamping our newsletter, the ITBE Link. See the fruits of my labors (newsletters from Summer 2013 - Spring 2016).