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Research Notes Issue 56 May 2014 ISSN 1756-509X2 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Editorial Welcome to issue 56 of Research Notes, our quarterly spent on speaking practice and increasing learner awareness publication reporting on matters relating to learning, teaching of the assessment criteria. Simon Cosgriff then describes his and assessment within Cambridge English Language action research, which involved the use of feedback to both Assessment. improve speaking skills but also to develop autonomous This issue presents the research undertaken within the learning strategies. He used a range of activities to raise 2013 English Australia/Cambridge English Action Research in students’ awareness of the assessment criteria and to engage ELICOS Program, which supports teachers working in English them in the feedback process. language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS) The next three articles report on ways of improving learners’ sector in Australia. speaking skills using online tools. Jennifer Wallace explores The issue begins with Katherine Brandon, the Professional ways of improving learners’ grammatical range and accuracy Support and Development Officer at English Australia, when speaking while also encouraging autonomous learning. describing the background and rationale of the action research Although she tried several different interventions, she found program. Then Professor Anne Burns, the key academic that having students record and analyse their own speech reference person for the program, explains why disseminating samples for grammatical errors was most popular and the participants’ action research via publication, conferences, effective. Her action research project helped raise students’ workshops, etc. is a crucial aspect of the program. awareness of their grammar while speaking, which resulted in Next, six funded projects are presented by the teacher- more self-correction and peer correction. Then, Jessica Cobley researchers who participated in the 2013 program. The first and Becky Steven, the winners of the 2013 Action Research article investigates ways of helping students prepare for the in ELICOS Award, investigate ways of improving their Cambridge English Knowledge About Language module of students’ speaking fluency. They used various online tools to the Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT), which tests a teacher’s measure students’ speech rate and the number of non-lexical understanding of the systems of the English language for the fillers used over time. Students responded positively to the purposes of teaching it. Martin Dutton and Arizio Sweeting intervention and the fluency program developed has been had found that their students were challenged by the section incorporated into other classes within their institution. Finally of the TKT test that focuses on answering questions on Tim Dodd and Selena Kusaka were interested in helping connected speech. They implemented a strategy called their learners improve their ability to both lead and engage in ‘auditory thinking’, which involves hearing the sounds in your academic tutorials. They recorded their students’ academic mind rather than just reading the phonemic transcription. discussions using Audionote, which allowed them to provide Their students were very positive about the intervention oral feedback which students could review as they listened to and felt that engaging in auditory thinking improved their their own speaking performance. Students had a portfolio of performance on the test. their speaking performances that they could review and reflect The rest of the articles in the issue explore different aspects on. Dodd and Kusaka were also able to better monitor the of improving the speaking skills of learners. Emily Mason and type of feedback they were giving and student uptake. Akile Nazim’s action research focuses on preparing students Due to the success of this action research program, for an academic presentation in a limited time period. Cambridge English Language Assessment has recently After conducting surveys and focus groups with teachers launched a similar program with English UK. We hope that and students, the teacher-researchers rewrote the course this issue, along with issues 44, 48 and 53, which also present material, then trialled and evaluated it. Their new course action research, inspires other teachers to become involved included increased amounts of feedback, more class time with research. The English Australia/Cambridge English Action Research in ELICOS Program: Background and rationale KATHERINE BRANDON ENgLISH AUSTRALIA, NEW SOUTH WALES around the country and range from publicly funded as well English Australia as private institutions attached to universities, vocational English Australia is the professional association for over 100 colleges and high schools, to branches of international member institutions that offer English language intensive English language schools through to standalone private courses for overseas students (ELICOS) in Australia. Member providers. Member colleges offer a wide range of courses, colleges are found in major cities as well as regional centres © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 3 including general English, English for Academic Purposes and very successful and is the current model for implementation. preparation for proficiency exams, such as the Cambridge The 2013 program focused on teaching, learning and assessing English suite and the International English Language speaking, as illustrated by the teacher reports in this issue. Testing System (IELTS). English Australia is also the peak representative body for ELICOS, promoting the interests of more than 270 accredited ELICOS providers in Australia. Program outcomes The strategic direction of the association is guided by a Through the program, English Australia is already seeing 14-member board of elected member delegates and the an increase in the professionalism of Australian ELICOS by association’s operations are implemented by a secretariat led by the development of teachers actively involved in classroom an Executive Director and including a full-time Professional research; the development of teacher peer networks; increased Support and Development Officer (PSDO). The PSDO works teacher engagement with research and academic researchers; to provide professional support for staff in member colleges and more teachers furthering their formal professional through managing a number of initiatives including: development. Outcomes have been published and presented • a national conference, the English Australia Conference, widely, and national and international recognition of the held in September each year success of the program is growing. The initiative is now into • the Action Research in ELICOS Program its fifth year and the 2014 program will support 11 teachers • Guides to Best Practice in ELICOS, collated from member researching six projects relating to aspects of teaching, learning and assessing reading in ELICOS classrooms. contributions The board of English Australia continues to be delighted • twice-yearly publication of a peer-reviewed journal: the with the outcomes of the program to date. We would like to English Australia Journal recognise the continued material and professional support • professional development events at branches in Australian provided by Cambridge English, in particular by Drs Hanan states Khalifa and Fiona Barker and the team at the Research and • annual English Australia awards for contribution to ELICOS, Validation group, and the invaluable contribution of Professor contribution to professional practice, academic leadership, Anne Burns to the ongoing implementation and success of innovation and action research. the Program. For more information on English Australia and ELICOS, please go to External recognition of the program In 2013 the work of Katherine Brandon (English Australia), Background to the Action Research in Professor Anne Burns (University of New South Wales) ELICOS Program and Dr Hanan Khalifa (Cambridge English Language Assessment) in the development and implementation of The English Australia/Cambridge English Action Research in the English Australia/Cambridge English Action Research ELICOS Program featured in this issue has the following goals: in ELICOS Program was recognised nationally. They were • to equip teachers with the skills to enable them to explore awarded an International Education Association of Australia and address identified teaching challenges in the context of (IEAA) Award for Best Practice/Innovation in International Australian ELICOS Education for ‘a ground-breaking development in international • to share outcomes of this research in the form of education’ (see presentations at local events and at the annual English winners-2013). Australia Conference, as well as through publication. English Australia was delighted to see its counterpart, English UK, join forces with Cambridge English for its Action The program was inspired by action research funded by the Research Award Scheme, which builds on the model adopted then Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural for the Australian program. We hope that the UK scheme will Aair ff s through its Adult Migrant English Program from the bring as much professional development and energy to UK early 1990s. A pilot program, developed by English Australia teachers as it has to those in Australia. and funded by Cambridge English Language Assessment, was implemented in 2010 with Anne Burns, Professor of TESOL at the University of New South Wales and Professor in Language Education, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, as key reference person. The success of this program of six projects (see Research Notes 44, May 2011) led to funding being offered for similar programs in the years since. In the first two years the focus of research within the program covered a wide range of topics selected by the program Reference group, and informed by input from English Australia member colleges. However, in 2012 a program Participants from the 2013 program with Dr Hanan Khalifa, Cambridge theme was selected, that of assessment, to provide increased english Language Assessment, from left: Martin Dutton, Arizio sweeting, Hanan Khalifa, Becky steven, Jessica Cobley, Tim Dodd, focus on an area of particular concern to Australian teachers selena Kusaka, Anne Burns, Katherine Brandon, simon Cosgriff, emily and thus to add more cohesion among projects. This proved Mason, Jennifer Wallace. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.4 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 ‘Systematic inquiry made public’: Teacher reports from a national action research program ANNE BURNS UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, SYDNEY made public’ (1975:142). In this respect, Stenhouse saw Introduction educational research as the province, not only of academic The teacher research movement (e.g. Cochran-Smith and researchers, but also of those involved in the daily practice of Lytle 1999), of which action research is a well-recognised teaching. Systematic, in this view, means having a plan that strand, has gained ground in general education generally, moves actions in the classroom away from being intuitive, but also more recently in English language teaching. Among routine or taken for granted to being systematic and open the many opportunities for professional development now to experimentation and discovery. Systematic investigation available to language teacher educators and language involves being able to demonstrate to others that the teachers (e.g. Richards and Farrell 2005), action research knowledge gained is credible, defensible and trustworthy. (AR) has gained an increasingly prominent place. Research Teachers undertaking action research should be able to by teachers in their own classrooms refers to practitioners demonstrate how they know that a teaching activity works, who are involved ‘individually or collaboratively in self- or why the action they take with students is effective. In order motivated and self-generated systematic and informed to do so, their research needs to be made public, open to inquiry undertaken with a view to enhancing their vocation scrutiny and available for future reference. as professional educators’ (Lankshear and Knobel 2004:9). Over the last two decades, as action research has gained in Thus, action research emphasises local and situated inquiry, stature in the field of English language teaching, Stenhouse’s on issues of direct concern to teachers themselves, initiated, call for the dissemination of the research done by teachers carried out and managed in their own classrooms or schools. has been consistently echoed by others. Brumfit and Mitchell The outcomes of this research are intended to provide the (1989:9), for example, recommend that ‘if the research is to basis for deeper understanding, and can lead to change and be more than personal value (and hence to justify the term improvement in the lives of the teachers and their students. ‘research’ at all)’, it should conform to recognised investigative The Action Research in ELICOS Program, offered each procedures. They argue the need for research that provides year in Australia through the professional association for descriptive accounts of work in classrooms, noting that 1 institutions teaching English to international students, this is an area to which teachers can readily contribute. In English Australia, and funded by Cambridge English Language addition, they stress that, as with other forms of research, Assessment, has its foundations in the teacher research investigations conducted by teachers in their classrooms must movement. More specifically, it draws on the concept of include ‘a willingness to publish the research’, as research is action research (see Burns 1999, 2010a) carried out by the ‘not another name for personal study’ (1989:7). practitioners who are the most closely involved in teaching In a similar vein, Nunan opines that ‘it would be and learning processes, ELICOS teachers themselves. The unfortunate if the research projects which are carried out program offers teachers from different parts of Australia by teachers never saw the light of day’ and that ‘all projects the opportunity to come together to discuss plans for should have a reporting mechanism built in’ (1989:121). investigations in their classrooms and then to undertake the Crookes (1993:137) reiterates this argument that action research in their various teaching locations. However, while research ‘should be disseminated’. He also makes the planning for their individual research is crucial, one of the important point that action research reports must be most important features of this program is the dissemination communicated by teachers for teachers and other interested of the research to other teachers, in Australia and elsewhere, parties in forms they can actually use. He argues that, if they who might benefit from these accounts. The publication of are to be accessible, accounts by teachers may therefore the teachers’ accounts in this journal is an important way of disrupt the usual norms of academic reporting, but in so doing reaching this goal. may provide a pathway for teachers into more conventional In this article, I discuss why practitioner action research forms. His position chimes with that of Nunan (1992:xi) who dissemination is seen as an integral part of the program states: ‘if teachers are to benefit from the research of others and offer some insights on the main ways that this has and if they are to contextualise research outcomes against been achieved. the realities of their own classrooms, they need to be able to read the research reports of others in an informed and critical way’. Crookes also sees action research accounts as offering Why teacher research should be ‘made ‘progressive’ opportunities for disputing standard research reporting practices (1993:135). public’ Burton and Mickan (1993) too take up these points. Stenhouse, a leading figure in the teacher research movement, They refer to the benefits to be gained through teachers’ argued for an inclusive view of research as ‘systematic inquiry 1  English language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS) © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 5 experiences of writing ‘for a professional audience’ and note to teachers: ‘If you are already engaged in this kind of work, that, for the teachers they worked with in Australia, this please do communicate your experiences to others’ (Edge experience also led to teachers feeling ‘more at ease with (Ed) 2001:11). Further support for story-telling narratives reading more widely’ (1993:119). Moreover, they note that in action research is given by Bailey, Curtis and Nunan 92% of these teachers indicated that their writing experience (2001:149), who emphasise that ‘we benefit from listening led to greater interest in continuing to read professional to other teachers’ stories’. Richards and Farrell (2005:184) publications. These authors also note that the research also support publicising the outcomes of action research, accounts produced were of great interest to other teachers, saying that ‘part of the philosophy of action research is because they adopted story-telling forms that other teachers sharing the findings with other colleagues’ in order to lead to could relate to. better understanding. From an Exploratory Practice perspective, Allwright Teachers who have read the published reports ... have found them a and Hanks (2009:239) argue that the case for reporting rich source of ideas for their own practice. The reports are written in a practitioner research, however local and provisional it may narrative style which reflects the teaching context of readers and makes appear, is ‘compelling’, as it contributes to educational them comprehensible in a way which academic reports do not (1993:121). decision-making and theory-building. It is also important to Subsequently, Freeman (1996:105) re-emphasised the pass on knowledge about the research process to others, necessity for teacher research to be made public. He argues which does not imply ‘slavish imitation’ but instead has the that if a ‘discipline of teaching’ is to be developed teacher potential to prevent ‘unproductive dead-ends’. Finally, they knowledge of teaching must be a contributor to the debates argue that reporting findings may ‘encourage others to join and ‘cannot dissipate in the recesses of private conversations, in the debate and in the search for yet deeper meanings’. staffrooms or schools’ (1996:105). He reiterates Crookes’ Edge’s theme of teacher researchers’ responsibility to enhance concept of new genres of reporting, that need not conform access to the discipline of teaching is taken up again by to ‘specialized forms in order to be heard or considered Barkhuizen (2009:124). He argues that teacher-researchers legitimate contributions’ (1996:109). He continues: must share their work through disclosure to ‘other teachers, curriculum developers, school-policy makers, and the wider The usual forms of telling associated with research are impoverished. They language teaching community. Not doing so would mean are restricted as well as restricting. Current ways of articulating research missing the opportunity and ignoring the responsibility are not readily available to teachers or learners who are unprepared to alter to contribute to discussions and debates in the field of their voices and what they have to say in order to fit within the confines language education.’ of the genre (1996:109). Freeman’s position also echoes that of Crookes (1993), Nunan (1989, 1992), and Burton and Mickan (1993) in seeing teacher research as an opportunity for teachers to create a larger The need to make teacher action research public framework for their work by entering and engaging with even more public ‘discussions of policy and disciplinary knowledge’ (1996:104). Despite the strong endorsement for dissemination offered The theme of reporting on action research by teachers in these publications, there is still an urgent need for more continued to be taken up by others. McDonough and teacher researcher contributions that are accessible to other McDonough (1997:230) note the impact of having ‘gone classroom teachers. Dörnyei’s (2007: 191) criticism, public’ through presentations and publications among a group ‘there is one big problem with action research: there is too of teacher researchers with whom they worked, arguing that little of it. Published studies of action research in applied ‘in these ways their findings can be brought to a wider linguistics are small in number’, does indeed highlight audience and can be subjected to critical analysis by their the relative scarcity of teacher action research studies in peers’. A later publication by Freeman continues to reinforce comparison with other sources. There are various reasons this point: ‘you will doubtless learn from your inquiries and, for this situation. Overwhelmingly, teachers have not been if you make them public, others may learn from them as well’ trained or encouraged to do research and then to engage in (1998:193). reporting it, although this situation is changing as pre-service The publications across the 1990s laid down a strong and in-service courses increasingly include opportunities case for the public dissemination of teacher research, which for small-scale classroom investigation (Burns 2011). Also, continued to grow. In an edited collection of teacher action teachers may believe the research is too localised to be research internationally, Edge (Ed) (2001:2) views the of interest to others or lack confidence in presenting their need for teachers to make public their research in moral research for wider consumption (Burton and Mickan 1993). and philosophical terms. He argues that teachers have ‘a As Richards (2003:266) notes, going public with research is responsibility to act as well as we can in collaboration with ‘more daunting than any other aspect of the whole process’ the other actors in our own complex environments, and then and ‘frightens people’. He suggests that the best place for to communicate our experiences to colleagues around us teachers to start is with colleagues, perhaps sharing findings and elsewhere’. He sees the emergence of a ‘generation of in a staff meeting and then building up to other forms of action research’ across the preceding decade as a matter of dissemination. Teachers may also assume they cannot live greater ‘access’ to research for teachers, wherein ‘we want up to conventional expectations about academic publishing to hear firsthand accounts of personal involvement and or may not be familiar with the processes involved (Allwright significant outcomes for the teller of the research’ (Edge (Ed) and Hanks 2009). This situation may also be changing in 2001:7). He ends his introduction to the volume with a plea © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.6 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 the light of the discussions of alternative genres for reporting interactions that restrict the research from wider availability. touched on above. Richards states that engagement with other teachers about As recently noted (Borg 2013, Burns 2011), the body of one’s research can be thought of as telling ‘a story with action research publications by teachers is beginning to illustrations’ (2003:267). Teacher narratives are appealing increase, and many more examples have become available, to other teachers and, even when they are located in other particularly in the last decade. Among the more prominent destinations and with other learners, can speak creatively to recent examples are the Language Teacher Research series the interests and concerns of the profession more widely. published by TESOL with collections from Africa, the The six accounts in this issue aim to do just that, to reveal Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and not only the products of the teachers’ research but also the the Middle East, and articles from journals such as Language processes and emotional experiences involved. In many Teaching Research, Profile (Colombia), and the TESOL Journal contexts teaching is an insular and isolating undertaking (see also Burns (2010b) for a comparative review of other and making their work public is not part of most teachers’ teacher research publications in the 2000s). The articles now experience. They are also not accustomed to having their published in Research Notes, issues 44 (2011), 48 (2012), practices opened to scrutiny, or at least not by those other 53 (2013) and this current issue, 56 (2014), offer a further than their students, or to commentary and evaluation by collection of teacher research accounts from the Australian peers. However, if what we know about language teaching is context, where action research by language teachers has a to become more professionally mature, it is more important relatively long history of publication (see Burns 2011). than ever that public communication of teachers’ work is My own position on teacher research dissemination was integrated into debates in the disciplinary community. Like developed from my earliest experiences of working with their predecessors in other issues and their successors in teacher researchers to facilitate action research (see Burns future issues of this journal, the articles you are about to and Hood 1992). It has aligned closely with the development read are a further and important contribution to widening of the themes in the literature cited in this overview and is this debate. adopted as a central and necessary aspect of the design of the English Australia/Cambridge English Action Research Program. Dissemination in this context means not only enabling References teachers in the program to publish their research through Allwright, D and Hanks, J (2009) The Developing Language Learner: An an annual newsletter (see English Australia 2013) and the Introduction to Exploratory Practice, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. accounts in this journal, but also encouraging them to present Bailey, K M, Curtis, A and Nunan, D (2001) Pursuing Professional their research in their teaching centres and at other local Development: The Self as Source, Boston: Heinle and Heinle. meetings, state workshops and colloquia, the annual English Barkhuizen, g (2009) Topics, aims and constructs in English teacher Australia Conference and as far as possible internationally research: A Chinese case study, TESOL Quarterly 43 (1), 113–125. (see Burns and Edwards in press). In this respect, six of the Borg, S (2013) Teacher Research in Language Teaching, New York: teachers (Dutton and Sweeting, Mason and Nazim, Cobley Cambridge University Press. and Steven), whose work is published in this issue of Research Brumfit, C and Mitchell, R (1989) The language classroom as a focus for Notes, will shortly be presenting their work at the International research, in Brumfit, C and Mitchell, R (Eds) Research in the Classroom, Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language London: Modern English Publications and The British Council, 3–15. (IATEFL) Conference, as part of the Research Special Interest Burns, A (1999) Collaborative Action Research for English Language group Pre-Conference Event (SIg PCE) through poster Teachers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. discussions, and also through individual presentations. Burns, A (2010a) Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A Underpinning these opportunities is a belief that dissemination Guide for Practitioners, New York: Routledge. of their work by the teachers contributes ‘to building a Burns, A (2010b) Teacher engagement in research: Published resources community of practitioners aligned towards teacher research for teacher researchers, Language Teaching 43 (3), 527–536. and a professional climate that is open to public scrutiny and Burns, A (2011) Action research in the field of second language teaching constructive critique’ (Burns 1999:183). More recently, Borg and research, in Hinkel, E (Ed) Handbook of Research in Second provides further support for this stance (2013:9), arguing that Language Teaching and Learning volume II, New York: Routledge, dissemination is a ‘basic characteristic of all research’ and 237–253. advocating a broad view of teacher research dissemination, Burns, A and Edwards, E (in press) Introducing innovation through in ‘the many varied formats, oral and written, formal and less action research in an Australian national programme: Experiences and insights, in Hayes, D (Ed) Innovations in the Continuing Professional formal, through which they can make their work available for Development (CPD) of English Language Teachers, London: The British public scrutiny’ (see also Burns (1999, 2010b) for a wide range Council. of practical suggestions for dissemination). Burns, A and Hood, S (1992) Teachers’ Voices: Exploring Course Design in a Changing Curriculum, Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research. Burton, J and Mickan, P (1993) Teachers’ classroom research, in Edge, Conclusion J and Richards, K (Eds) Teachers Develop Teachers Research, Oxford: In action research, teachers develop knowledge and Heinemann, 113–121. understandings of their teaching spatially and temporally, Cochran-Smith, M and Lytle, S L (1999) The teacher research within the localised conditions of their classrooms and across movement: A decade later, Educational Researcher 28 (7), 15–25. the duration of the research. It is vital that these experiences Crookes, g (1993) Action research for second language teachers: going are not lost to other practitioners, confined to private beyond teacher research, Applied Linguistics 14 (2), 130–144. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 7 Dörnyei, Z (2007) Research Methods in Applied Linguistics, Oxford: Lankshear, C and Knobel, M (2004) A Handbook for Teacher Research: Oxford University Press. From Design to Implementation, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Edge, J (Ed) (2001) Case Studies in TESOL Practice: Action Research, McDonough, J and McDonough, S (1997) Research Methods for Language Alexandria: TESOL. Teachers, London: Hodder Arnold. English Australia (2013) Action Research in ELICOS Program. Research Nunan, D (1989) Understanding Language Classrooms: A Guide for Summaries 2013: Focus on Teaching, Learning and Assessing Speaking, Teacher-initiated Action, London: Prentice-Hall. Sydney: English Australia, available online: www.englishaustralia. Nunan, D (1992) Research Methods in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Action_Research/2013_AR_summary_FINAL.pdf Richards, K (2003) Qualitative Inquiry in TESOL, Basingstoke: Palgrave Freeman, D (1996) Redefining the relationship between research and Macmillan. what teachers know, in Bailey, K M and Nunan, D (Eds) Voices from the Richards, J C and Farrell, T S C (2005) Professional Development for Language Classroom, New York: Cambridge University Press, 88–115. Language Teachers, New York: Cambridge University Press. Freeman, D (1998) Doing Teacher Research, Boston: Heinle and Heinle. Stenhouse, L (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London: Heinemann. Preparing students for answering connected speech questions in the Cambridge English Teaching Knowledge Test MARTiN DuTTON INSTITUTE OF CONTINUINg AND TESOL EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, BRISBANE ARiZiO sWeeTiNG INSTITUTE OF CONTINUINg AND TESOL EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, BRISBANE program called ESP: TESOL A. The aims of this ESP program Introduction are to (a) develop students’ English language skills through The purpose of this action research (AR) project was to aid TESOL and other topics, and (b) prepare students to take TKT: students preparing for the Cambridge English Knowledge Knowledge About Language and TKT Module 1: Background About Language (KAL) module of the Teaching Knowledge Test to language teaching. Students on this course are non-native (TKT) at the Institute of Continuing and TESOL (Teachers of English speakers considering English language teaching as a English to Speakers of Other Languages) Education at the career. University of Queensland (ICTE-UQ), Brisbane, Australia. In our class, we had one male and 17 female students, aged KAL tests students’ ability to recognise concepts of English in their late teens and early twenties. Their countries of origin language systems in the areas of lexis, phonology, grammar were Chile, Korea, Japan, and Thailand. Two-thirds of the and discourse. participants were Chilean, who were mostly tertiary students In our project, we wanted to specifically improve our of linguistics or TESOL education. This meant that they students’ ability to answer questions on connected speech had some awareness of teaching methodology and English in this test, where they needed to identify the processes of language systems. The proficiency level of the students from elision, intrusion, assimilation, weak forms, or consonant– Chile ranged from B2 up to C2 of the Common European vowel linking. We did this by developing and trialling a range of Framework of Reference (CEFR) (Council of Europe 2001). activities involving different interaction patterns, macro-skills The other nationalities in the class also had a high level of work, and learner styles. We concluded that speaking and proficiency up to C1, and many of these participants had a listening practice should be used as a way of strengthening theoretical or practical background in TESOL. The students’ knowledge of connected speech for the purposes of a KAL test. primary aim was to prepare for and attain TKT qualifications, We also conceptualised that students needed to develop an which offered either credit-bearing advantages in their ability to hear the sounds between connected words in their undergraduate degrees, or recognition from prospective minds, which we called ‘auditory thinking’. TESOL employers in their own countries. The context The main focus of the research The context of our AR was ICTE-UQ, a language centre at the We chose to focus on connected speech processes because University of Queensland which offers programs ranging from our experience in preparing students for KAL in previous general English to customised English for Specific Purposes courses had shown us that they often encountered problems (ESP) for international students. The project was conducted and expressed frustration when completing such questions in during an intensive five-week English for Specific Purposes practice tests. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.8 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 There are two fundamental differences between KAL and KAL question scores. However, after the first AR workshop in other English Language Teaching (ELT) examinations. Firstly, it Sydney, we felt clearer about our core issue and recognised is a test of knowledge, not a language proficiency examination. that our students’ main objective was to do well in a Therefore, an ability to communicate in English is not knowledge test rather than improve their spoken fluency. assessed. Secondly, it only requires completion of paper- Consequently, we revised our research question to reflect this based questions in a matching, odd-one-out or multiple- new focus, while not denying the possibility of using speaking choice format (see Appendix 1). activities. As a result, our research question was framed as: In previous courses, input sessions on connected speech What tasks and strategies can we develop to prepare students for tended to be centred on terminology, and interpretation TKT: KAL items on connected speech? of phonemic script. We believed that alternatives to this approach merited exploration, especially the employment of activities to develop deeper understanding of how speakers Data collection connect words in speech. In this project, we felt we needed to collect data to assess two aspects of our investigation. First of all, we wanted to know if the new activities would result in better student Auditory thinking performance than in previous years in KAL questions, and An important strategy which we hoped students would thereby demonstrate adequate preparation. Consequently, we develop is what we have termed ‘auditory thinking’. We wrote a pre-test and a post-test in similar format to typical viewed this as the cognitive ability of a reader to call upon KAL questions. Using these tests, we attempted to show models of how the written word sounds from their memory. overall student improvement from the start of our project to This has also been labelled as the ‘intuitive knowledge’ of the end. We also wrote a weekly quiz, using a web-based tool how language samples sound, which native speakers possess called Socrative, to monitor and diagnose student progress (Fraser 2001:20). in answering connected speech multiple-choice questions With reference to Figure 1, in previous preparation courses, (Figure 2). This tool also acted as a guide for developing tasks. students answered KAL practice questions by interpreting A useful feature of Socrative was that it emailed a report of supporting phonemic script. In our intervention, however, we results to us after each quiz. wanted students to engage in the interim stage of ‘auditory The second purpose of our data collection was to gauge thinking’ to imagine the language being spoken. We intended our students’ response to the activities. To do this, we gave to introduce activities involving listening and speaking practice them a survey at the end of the course (Appendix 2) asking to help develop this ability. them to recall the ‘most useful’ and ‘not so useful’ activities from the course. We designed this survey with open questions to find out which activities had been most memorable to the Figure 1: student cognitive process before and during this research in answering a TKT connected speech question students and to draw comments on the project as a whole. Finally, once students had taken KAL, we immediately asked Cognitive path Cognitive path (BEFORE research) (DURING research) them to rate how well they thought they had performed using a scale from poorly to excellent (Appendix 3). Student reads phonemic script Student reads words with in a practice test question no phonemic transcription Figure 2: screenshot of socrative weekly quiz question Auditory thinking (hearing the sounds in the mind) Students answer the question Action taken The steps we took to address our research question were Research question guided by the AR cycle of Plan, Act, Observe and Reflect, Our research question was refined from an original proposal conceptualised by Kemmis and McTaggart (1988:11–14, cited we submitted for the English Australia program, which in Burns 2010) and inspired by our interest in activating the focused on developing activities to improve the fluent learners’ ‘auditory thinking’ skills. production of connected speech and measuring any effect on Our project involved five cycles, each corresponding to a © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 9 Figure 3: Weekly action research cycle and project summary Observe Reflect effect on data Week 5 cycle Plan for Week 4 cycle Act on next plan week Activities: Warmers and fillers Activities: Week 3 cycle KAL practice tests Self-study Activities: Feed forward Week 2 cycle Post-test Listening contextualisation Vocalisation Exit survey Activities: Reflective learners Listening to Week 1 cycle sounds Individual connected Pre-test Spelling speech Planned activities week in the KAL preparation course. During each week, we Week 1 cycle trialled new activities with the class (Act), while recording In the first cycle, we gave students the diagnostic pre-test the effect that these tasks had on the participants (Observe). to establish their existing level of understanding. Then, Then, we considered our observations (Reflect), before while correcting this with students, we delivered an input deciding on a course of action to address student needs for lesson explaining the different types of connected speech. A the following cycle (Plan), as shown in Figure 3. Consequently, feedback discussion afterwards and the results of the pre-test the results of each cycle fed forward to the implementation of told us that there was wider awareness and understanding activities in the following week. of consonant-vowel linking than assimilation, intrusion and It is important to emphasise that, before the start of elision. One student, in particular, showed great surprise our investigation, we had carefully considered the most when she was introduced to intrusion. She mentioned she suitable way of scheduling our research. Firstly, we decided had never been aware that there was a /r/ sound between to integrate our activities into the existing program rather ‘China_and’. than conducting extra-curricular workshops, as we could Our next actions in this week consisted of introducing not guarantee consistent attendance outside course times. the class to the three planned activities, and observing how We also decided to use the existing phonology lessons and students would apply what they had learned in the first materials. The resulting schedule of the investigations was lesson. three or four sessions per week, limited to 30 minutes each. When we reviewed our classroom observations and data This limitation was to ensure that connected speech did not from the weekly quiz, these told us that we should focus dominate the course content. more on individual aspects of connected speech to address confusion, especially about intrusion (see Figure 4). In addition, the student feedback concerning the three Planning for week 1 activities encouraged us to repeat it in week 2. It was obvious While planning for the first cycle, we recognised that the Figure 4: Quiz overview for week 1 cycle scope for designing needs-based activities was limited % of class correct because we had not met our students at that stage. Nevertheless, we felt we should design activities with a variety of characteristics to help map out an initial avenue of intrusion (hurry_up) development that could go on into the second cycle. intrusion (argue_about) assimilation (put_you) Therefore, we created three activities encompassing a range intrusion (I_am) of interaction patterns (pair, individual, whole class), macro- assimilation (would_you) skills (listening, speaking, reading) and learner styles (visual, assimilation (Green_Park) consonant-vowel (top_of) auditory, kinaesthetic). We also ensured that the models of consonant-vowel (of_interest) language were an even mixture of consonant–vowel linking, elision (and_then) elision (first_step) intrusion, elision, and assimilation. Descriptions of all of our 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 activities can be found in Appendix 4. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.10 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Figure 5: ‘Rules of Assimilation’ poster to us that listening practice of natural speech was important for developing our students’ awareness. For example, some students said: ‘It was useful in terms of real language . . . it helped me to recognise when connected speech can be used.’ ‘It was useful because we were exposed to . . . real sentences.’ We also considered that this awareness could extend to the fact that speakers sometimes make a choice about the form of connected speech they use. This aspect emerged after some students thought more deeply about some utterances in the ‘Multiple-Choice Listening’ task, such as ‘Just a bit more’. In this example, an elided /t/ was recorded. However, one of our students correctly said that some speakers may use assimilation, with the /t/ approaching a /p/. This comment extra practice. We therefore considered increasing self-study was a very worthwhile piece of information because it helped options in the following week. to show us that the students were starting to train their brains Furthermore, we felt we should explore students’ ability to analyse the language they heard without reliance on the to recognise connected speech processes by listening to written form. longer pieces of discourse, a decision motivated by students’ observations of the lack of contextual cues in the ‘Multiple- Choice Listening’ task. As one student commented: Week 2 cycle ‘The questions were just group of words without any context or written form . . . No 1 was ‘old motel’’. In the second week, two of our activities were aimed at developing awareness of intrusion, and another two focused ‘When I heard that first I didn’t get what is it saying. on distinguishing elision from assimilation. Therefore I couldn’t answer of which aspect of connected Following these activities, students’ difficulties with the speech’. KAL questions on these features started to become clearer to us. Predominantly, we noticed a reliance on spelling rather than sounds. A good example of this was the word Week 4 cycle pair ‘ABC_entertainment’ in the weekly quiz. A third of the One focus of this cycle was to introduce more self-study class identified this as consonant–vowel linking, not as an options, which was achieved by creating web-based flashcards intrusive /j/. In fact, in the ‘Intrusion Onion Ring’ activity, using Quizlet (Appendix 5). This activity allowed students to some students avoided vocalising the words and simply practise matching word-pair samples to connected speech showed their cue cards to their partner. We therefore felt labels. After a short introduction, we saw many students using that further listening practice and pronunciation work was these materials in the computer room after class. needed. During this cycle, we felt that the students had internalised A second point referred to the ‘Rules of Intrusion’ activity, our cognitive path strategy. For that reason, we then decided in which the specific phonemes of intrusion (/w/, /j/, /r/) to move forward and experiment with more communicative and how they are used were built up on the board with the aspects of connected speech. For this, we developed a class. This seemed to result in an improvement in that area, ‘Listening and Role-Play’ Activity. This activity was particularly as shown by the weekly quiz. Consequently, we decided to interesting, as it showed us that many students were include the activity in the following cycle. increasingly able to detect examples of connected speech from discourse both in and out of class. One student, for instance, mentioned that she had observed intrusion in Week 3 cycle the language used by her homestay family. This was a very empowering moment for her. In this third cycle, three new activities were planned and In planning for the next cycle, however, we sensed that implemented to address our concerns from Cycle 2. We class energy had dropped in the course overall, so we decided also gave students a homework task to prepare a colourful to reduce the intensity of our research actions in favour of poster illustrating the rules of assimilation (see Figure 5). We shorter activities, which would still prepare students for the considered this to be an opportunity for students to activate test at the end of the week. knowledge of the rules in their own time. In addition, we thought this activity would appeal to more artistic or creative students. Interestingly, by the end of this cycle, we had seen some Week 5 cycle students continue their development and do very well on the A normal feature of the course timetable for the final weekly quiz. However, others were not progressing to the week is that more emphasis is placed on TKT practice same degree and we felt these students would benefit from © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 11 Figure 6: student pre-test and post-test results tests. In the final KAL practice test, we decided to explore whether there was any difference between student ability 100 to answer connected speech questions with and without 90 phonemic script. This was an interesting avenue of enquiry 80 because the majority of our activities had been conducted 70 Pre-test score % 60 without the support of phonemic script, whereas KAL Post-test score 50 % questions supply a phonemic transcription. Throughout the 40 course, our position had been that we wanted to develop 30 students’ deeper understanding through listening rather 20 than simply teaching knowledge of phonemic script and its 10 interpretation. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In this exploration, we first separated eight connected Student number speech items from a KAL practice test, removed the phonemic transcriptions, and asked students to complete the questions educational or non-linguistic background, such as student under test conditions. Following this, later in the day, 9, who scored 10% in the pre-test and 90% in the post-test. students were given the same KAL practice test, but in its Three students (8, 11 and 16), however, appeared more entirety with no modifications to the original questions. After challenged by this area of the test, despite scoring around marking and collating the results, we found that scores were 60% in the post-test. unaffected in one-third of the students, whereas performance in the remaining students either improved or decreased by one point. In addition, three-quarters of the students scored greater than six out of eight questions correct in the Student evaluation unmodified test. In evaluating the activities, when students were asked to cast The results demonstrated that, in general, students were their minds back, there were some interesting findings. From able to accurately recognise connected speech in practice Figure 7, it can be seen that the highest number of positive test items with or without phonemic script. This was very comments were given to what was mainly a data collection rewarding for us, as it showed us that the students had tool, the Socrative weekly quiz. developed greater awareness of how written words are For example, some students commented as follows: spoken. ‘I did enjoy . . . Socrative quiz . . . we could check Finally, we gave students the post-test and the written ourselves and see improvement.’ survey to gather their evaluations of the activities during the five weeks. ‘. . . the Socrative tests were useful to think by yourself about which phenomenom could take place when saying certain words together.’ Analysis Clearly, these comments show that students felt the weekly quiz allowed for personal reflection leading to greater The objective of our research was to develop activities to understanding. Another activity which received similar help our students answer connected speech questions in qualitative feedback was ‘Assimilation Posters’. Although KAL. The preparation in previous courses had not been only four students commented on this, their feedback was entirely satisfactory, and we wanted to investigate alternative especially insightful: activities which involved a deeper level of processing by students. After the course had finished, we had generated ‘We could learn the rules of assimilation in our own a total of 19 activities, and data which we could use to learning style.’ determine (a) student improvement and (b) student ‘While I made this poster, I had to think about what and evaluation of the new tasks. how someone who looked at my poster understand what I want to present.’ Student improvement Figure 7: Count of positive student comments regarding activities By comparing the pre-test and post-test results, we could Socrative see that students appeared to improve (Figure 6). In addition, Multiple-Choice Listening student rankings of how they thought they performed after the actual KAL test were overwhelmingly positive, with 16 Cards-Matching students rating 4 or 5 (very good – excellent), and the rest Posters choosing 3 (average). The results of the weekly quiz had All quizzes/games also consistently shown development throughout the project, Traffic Lights from an average student score of 72% in week 1 to 89% in Elicitation of rules week 4. Quizlet When we consider individual students, improvement 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 was particularly noticeable in those who were from a non- Number of positive student comments © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. Test results 12 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Students also seemed to remember favourably those speech samples in their minds (auditory thinking), and we activities involving pair interaction, such as ‘Cards-Matching’ actually achieved this through focused and varied practice, and ‘Intrusion Onion Ring’. The latter of these in particular including speaking and listening. Regardless of whether involved a high number of speaking repetitions, which was students’ speaking abilities improved, this approach helped seen as a benefit by some students: to build and strengthen students’ knowledge of connected speech, and was effective in preparing them for a test such as ‘One activity that . . . was useful for me (Cards- KAL. In general, this view was also supported by the students’ Matching) . . . because we did it more than once, so at opinions. the end I was able to recognise some of this features.’ On a personal level, Arizio feels that this project has ‘I learnt everything I know about intrusion during that reinforced his passion for teaching pronunciation. As a lesson. The practice helped me to remember it.’ pragmatist, he has found AR to be a new interest in his career as an English language teacher. He has particularly enjoyed ‘Multiple-Choice Listening’ also received positive feedback. the opportunity to network with other ELICOS professionals Students saw the opportunity to listen to connected speech as in Australia and found the workshop discussions valuable helping their overall cognition. in helping to guide the direction of this research. He was ‘. . . it was good to identify connected speech features pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and practical this style when native speakers speak . . .’ of research is for practitioners. Martin has found himself more aware of the influence of his ‘. . . it consolidated our knowledge.’ earlier engineering career on the way he conducts research. We concluded that we would recommend the use of most For example, he has attempted to be more mindful to use activities featured in Figure 3 because students found them numerical data in moderation and to consider the whole encouraging and supportive in various ways. journey of discovery in a more humanistic light. With respect However, other activities were less well regarded. In to teaching, he has seen the importance of seeking feedback particular, 10 students in the class commented negatively on from students on their own progress. He recognises that the ‘Traffic Lights’ activity. One student wrote: students can provide some of the most valuable insights into how teaching is conducted and can collaborate with teachers ‘The traffic lights was confusing. Too many colours with in directing their own learning. too many structures combined in one learning tool.’ In conclusion, we are sure that our centre and our future We therefore decided that we would not use this activity students will benefit from the body of materials we have again in its current form because of the physical difficulty in developed. We also hope that this project will influence the synchronising the hand movements involved. way our centre approaches the teaching of other areas of language knowledge in future KAL examination preparation courses. Reflection During the workshops in Sydney, we sensed some difficulty in articulating our project to the other program participants References due to the distinctive nature of the KAL test. On reflection, Burns, A (2010) Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A we were aware that preparing students to take a knowledge Guide for Practitioners, New York: Routledge. test did not seem to sit comfortably within existing ELT Council of Europe (2001) Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, Cambridge: Cambridge approaches, which tend to focus on improving communicative University Press, available online: ability. In general, many teachers aim to develop their Cadre1_en.asp students’ proficiency, with language knowledge often taking a Fraser, H (2001) Teaching Pronunciation: A Handbook for Teachers and supporting role. In contrast, priorities are reversed in KAL test Trainers: Three Frameworks for An Integrated Approach, New South preparation, with the attainment of knowledge rather than Wales: TAFE NSW – Access Division. language production being the main consideration. Hancock, M (1995) Pronunciation Games, Cambridge: Cambridge However, looking back at our research, we felt we could University Press. help students by developing their ability to ‘hear’ connected © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 13 Appendix 1: TKT: KAL connected speech sample question                                 nÅt Wt ø…l     dW¨m pleˆ      ˝W¨ wÅn     reb bæg      sø… rˆt      sænwˆtß      reWlˆ jˆl      tø…lˆs ˝±…l     Source: Cambridge ESOL (2008) TKT: KAL Sample Paper, internal document © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.14 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Appendix 2: Survey (Part 1) Action Research in eLiCOs Program 2013 survey (Part 1) Thank you for your participation in the program above. We hope it has been a useful experience for you. We would be grateful if you could provide us with your opinions about the activities we used with you during the program by answering these two questions. 1.  Which activities do y ou remember as being the most useful in helping your understanding of connected speech? Please indicate which one, if possible, and explain your reasons. 2. Were there any activities which you thought were NOT so helpful? Please indicate which ones, if possible, and explain why. Once again, thank you very much for your cooperation. Without you this research project would have not been possible. Regards, Arizio & Martin Appendix 3: Survey (Part 2) Action Research in eLiCOs Program 2013 survey (Part 2) How well do you think you performed in the connected speech items ONLY in the KAL Module test? Please rank your opinion on the scale from 1 to 5, where 1 = Poorly and 5 = Excellent CIRCLE      1      2      3      4      5 © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 15 © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. Appendix 4: Weekly activities Traffic Lights Cards Matching Multiple-Choice Listening Description: Students (SS) introduced to marking connected Description: SS given one half of a pair in phonic-style, have to repeat the sound to Description: In the language laboratory, SS work individually to listen to 10 speech with colours within written sentences, and then find a matching partner. For example, ‘hau’ + ‘wiz’ is a match, equal to ‘how is’. SS then pre-recorded utterances and answer a multiple-choice question for each to encouraged to signal the linking features with different hand decide what the written English is and which type of connected speech was used in identify the connected speech type they have heard. Self-paced and repetition gestures while saying each sentence. Modelling provided by each pair. possible. teacher. Reason: Attempt to encourage SS to listen to final sound of first word and first sound Reason: Attempt to help students relate written form to longer authentic Reason: This was an activity to appeal to certain learner styles of linking word. Phonics were chosen because some SS did not know the Phonemic speech. This is intensive listening of all connected speech forms. Suited to (kinaesthetic and visual), and also allow users to see/hear/ Chart. This also was to demonstrate that there are differences between pronunciation of auditory/visual/independent styles. repeat models of all connected speech types within sentences. unlinked words and connected words. Favours visual, auditory and kinaesthetic styles. Rules of intrusion song Lyrics Rats and Rabbits intrusion Onion Ring Description: SS given examples of intrusion, rules of production Description: Using the lyrics of a song from the course’s Receptive Description: Adaptation of filler by J.J. Wilson. Description: A multiple-pair interaction in elicited and presented on whiteboard in class in terms of three Skills lesson, SS identified elision or assimilation in the words of the SS worked in pairs and were each assigned one which one S says words (in turn from a cue intrusive sounds /w/, /j/, /r/. song. Then SS listened to check their answers. Learners then practised feature to focus on e.g. elision for student A list) which end in vowel sounds, and the the connected speech features using the ‘Traffic Lights’ system. and assimilation for student B. The tutor would partner links this by saying intrusive sound Reason: Decision to focus on individual connected speech then utter some language samples at random. plus their given word which starts with a types. Socrative and multiple-choice listening indicated Reason: giving the learners another opportunity to use the ‘Traffic If the utterance contained elision A would vowel. For example, S1 says ‘how’ and S2 intrusion to be most problematic area. Also, SS commented Lights’ system, but this time approaching it differently from the try to hit B’s hand for a point, if the utterance makes a pair using ‘is’ by saying /w/+/iz/. during cards-matching that they had learned the rules as part previous practice. Also an attempt to raise learners’ awareness that contained assimilation B would try to hit A’s of their university studies in their own country. It occurred areas such as elision and assimilation are dependent on speaker’s Reason: Consolidation of ‘Rules of hand. Reason: An attempt to integrate short to us that we had never presented rules to guide student choice. This was also used as a review of connected speech for the Intrusion’. This repeats cards matching and fun burst of practice of areas which seemed production of connected speech in this centre before. We had class. interaction but with many more speaking more problematic such as elision, assimilation only previously taught interpretation from written phonemic repetitions. and intrusion. samples. Connected speech Running Game Rules of Assimilation Connected speech Blockbuster Assimilation Posters (set-up) Description: A warmer team game where PowerPoint slides Description: Presentation/elicitation of rules of Description: Adaptation of blockbuster activity into a group Description: A self-directed homework display word pairs and team runners identify and run to put tag different types of assimilation on the whiteboard. competition to give extra practice of recognising connected speech. task requiring SS to present rules of into a box marked with correct connected speech type (points processes in short utterances. assimilation in a visually engaging Reason: Following on from Rules of Intrusion and assigned). poster format for display. Class prize seeing benefits of using that strategy from Socrative Reason: Attempting to recycle and extend the learners’ samples of for the best. Reason: Need for a warmer but also activities in week 2 data. language for recognising connected speech processes in utterances identified tricky word pairs where spelling interferes with while giving them short and fun practice as fillers during course Reason: From concern that no tasks to cognition of connected speech type. e.g. ‘really are’ = intrusion input. date had engaged reflective, self-study - /j/ has to be inserted. strategies. Assimilation Battleships Listening and Role-Play Connected speech stations Quizlet flashcards Description: Adaptation of task in Pronunciation games Description: Adaptation of two episodes of the Description: Different practice tasks, including TKT: KAL-type Description: Use of a web-based (Hancock 1995), to enable use of assimilated word pairs BBC Learning English soap – The Flatmates. Practice questions were designed and used as a carousel activity in which flashcard tool to create multiple using the language laboratory. Extended with self-recording of listening for or reading intensively for connected learners moved from one station to another completing and examples of connected speech with assimilated word pairs. speech processes, especially elision and assimilation, correcting each other’s answers. Tutor then wrapped up session connected speech type on reverse. in the context of the conversations between the soap with whole-class feedback to confirm achievement and deal with Introduced in class but available for extra Reason: Wanting to repeat the pair work interaction like characters. This then led to rehearsal, reading aloud problematic areas. practice. Intrusion Onion Ring. Used the language lab to prevent SS practice and role-play. looking at each other’s written cues. Reason: Wanting to give the learners more practice of specific Reason: Seeing that some SS didn’t need Reason: From comments from learners about the connected speech processes such as elision, assimilation, much help but others did – this provided multiple-choice listening not providing enough practice catenation and intrusion. To widen the focus to other phonology a self-access dimension. This was also of recognising connected speech in longer texts. features, e.g. contractions and weak forms of a vowel. the introduction of phonemic script to support items. Tricky Word Quizzes TKT samples (with/without phonemic script) Bombing Connected speech Description: Two variations of this activity were used. Description: Supplementation of exam practice work. TKT questions items on Description: Adapted kindergarten competition used as a warmer. Learners (1) difficult words were dictated – SS needed to spell them. connected speech were done separately from the rest of the practice KAL tests with threw a small sticky ball with little rubber suction cups onto shapes on the (2) words were shown on the whiteboard and SS had to say and without phonemic transcriptions to check if there would be any difference in their board and then gave the connected speech processes they recognised in the them or write the phonemic script. responses. utterances for points. Reason: Some SS had demonstrated difficulty with awareness Reason: An experiment to see the effect of having phonemic script on student Reason: Wanting to give learners short and fun practice activities to accompany of pronunciation of some words e.g. ‘debris’, ‘recipe’, ‘queue’, responses. To determine how SS were thinking about the questions. exam practice in the final week of the course. ‘law’, etc. This could affect their ability to answer connected speech questions correctly in the test. Week 5 cycle Week 4 cycle Week 3 cycle Week 2 cycle Week 1 cycle16 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Appendix 5: Quizlet flashcards Available online: Preparing students for an academic presentation: Maximising class time eMiLY MAsON UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES INSTITUTE OF LANgUAgES, SYDNEY AKiLe NAZiM UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES INSTITUTE OF LANgUAgES, SYDNEY of further academic study. The students were placed in class Introduction according to an International English Language Testing System Our action research (AR) project was driven by a desire (IELTS) score, or an internal diagnostic placement test. The to find out how we, as teachers, could best equip our focus of the EAP course involved in our research was on intermediate/upper-intermediate students for an academic writing and reading skills (75% of class time), with speaking spoken presentation within a limited time frame. Our research skills comprising only 10% of overall class time. took place in an English language intensive courses for The academic spoken assessment task was conducted overseas students (ELICOS) college which, like many others, in the fourth week of a 5-week module, which allowed faces various time restrictions, administrative requirements, for three lessons of 2 hours per week (see Appendix 1 for and classroom size parameters (maximum 18 students). the assessment task). Therefore students have 6 hours Within the context of a growing language institute, our of classroom input before they are assessed. In terms of research aimed to uncover the essential elements of academic assessment weightings, the assessment task comprises 20% oral presentation course design. of their final grade, which is the second largest assessment We wanted to examine how to best incorporate effective weighting (after writing (43%)). strategies for teaching speaking, while ensuring that students were also able to achieve the outcomes for their assessment task. We also wanted to explore how students could practise speaking in front of the whole class regularly before their final The main focus of the research assessment, without having to rely too heavily on technology With the above in mind, we wanted to explore how to prepare or software. We deliberately chose to take this focus, as we our students for their assessed academic spoken presentation wanted to design material that could work for other teachers within the existing parameters of the course and the student in the ELICOS sector, regardless of their levels of experience or cohort. Although the existing course material explained what availability of technology in their institutions. the students needed to do for the assessment task, we felt it did not comprehensively address their needs, nor was it particularly user friendly for teachers. We identified three issues, which gave rise to our research. Educational context and participants This research was undertaken at the University of New 1. Lack of formative feedback: The majority of the feedback students received was from their peers in pair and group South Wales (UNSW) Institute of Languages with 57 mixed work structured activities. While this in itself was not nationality students enrolled in an English for Academic necessarily a detriment to the presentation skills module, Purposes (EAP) course. The Institute of Languages EAP department has regular intakes of students who are at the there was however minimal and inconsistent feedback Common European Framework of Reference for Languages provided by teachers. Teacher feedback was summative, (CEFR) (Council of Europe 2001) borderline between B1 given at the end of the assessed oral presentation, with and B2 level. These students are not quite at the English formative feedback neither required nor made explicit in the course material. proficiency standard for a direct entry university pathway course, and are therefore placed in an intermediate academic 2. Lack of speaking practice for the assessment task: English course for anywhere between five and 10 weeks, to The material contained within the module was quite raise their proficiency in all macro skill areas to a B2 level. theoretical, with speaking practice limited to general interest Seventy percent of the students in our study had conditional topics. Even though the students’ knowledge about the university offers for the following semester intake. Twenty assessment task may have increased, they were failing to gain 1 percent of the students were on a Foundation Year study adequate spoken practice required to prepare them for the pathway, with only 10% taking the course with no intention assessment task. 1  Foundation Year pathway students have between a year and 18 months left of academic study before starting their university degree program. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 17 3. Lack of teaching consistency: After holding a focus group approach allowed for a guided and less intimidating context with current and former presentation skills teachers and for our students. students, we found that, for various reasons, the utilisation Another essential element of the course design was our of the prescribed materials varied from one class to another. desire to incorporate regular feedback into each lesson. While Although the assessment task remained the same, teachers many factors influence performance, feedback is considered were either adapting the material or not using the material. an integral component for the progression of learning (Hattie Students were also unhappy with the inconsistency and and Timperley 2007). Moreover, Wiggins (1997) states discrepancy between the information they received and the that the quality of feedback is determined by whether it is activities carried out in classes. timely, specific, and understandable to the learner and allows We decided to rewrite the 5-week presentation skills the student to act upon the feedback. This highlights the module, keeping in mind the issues highlighted above. Our importance of ongoing feedback which will ‘feed forward’, research question was: How can we assist students to prepare improving a student’s learning and enhancing their future for the assessment of an academic presentation within a restricted performance (Carless 2006). In order for feedback to function timeframe (6 hours)? as feed forward and for the feedback itself to be beneficial to learners, three main areas need to be addressed: Where am I going? How am I getting there? Where to next? (Hattie and Timperley 2007, Sadler 2010). Through the incorporation of Intervention these three questions, we hoped that learners would have a The intervention itself can be broken down into four stages, clear concept of what their goal was, have an understanding with Stages 3 and 4 being repeated with different groups: of their level of performance and of what actions were required in order to achieve the intended goal. 1.  Conducting focus groups and surveys with current and former teachers and students. 3. Trialling the new course material: The material was trialled 2. Rewriting the course material. by each of us with different classes over a period of 10 weeks. During the trialling period no deviations were made from 3. Trialling the new course material. the newly prepared material. During each of our classes, 4. Evaluating the new course material. we monitored the following using on-task behaviour as an indicator of engagement and motivation: 1. Conducting focus groups and surveys with current and • student engagement with the task former teachers and students: Past and present students completed an online survey. The survey consisted of 10 • student motivation and interaction with each other (see questions: both multiple-choice and open-ended questions Table 1) (see Appendix 2 for survey questions). This was then followed • feasibility of the material for a 2-hour lesson. by various focus group sessions, which explored student At the end of each class, we met and reflected on what feedback in greater depth, and allowed students to elaborate worked and what modifications could be made for future on their responses. We also held a focus group with both cohorts, making notes of our conclusions. past and present teachers (see Appendix 3 for focus group discussion points). 4. evaluating the new course material: After students had completed their assessment task and prior to receiving a 2. Rewriting the course material: We organised our grade and summative feedback on their final presentation, the course material into a teaching–speaking cycle which online survey and focus group was conducted in order to find consisted of six stages. This cycle was based on the feedback out how students viewed the new course. provided by the surveys and focus groups, influenced by the teaching–speaking cycle as advocated by goh and Outcomes Burns (2012:151–168), and based on a genre-based cycle of By analysing the student surveys, focus groups, interviews language teaching and learning (Butt, Fahey, Feez, Spinks with teachers, and our classroom observations, we noted the and Yallop 2000:263–265) (see Appendix 4 for diagrams of following outcomes. both cycles). One of the benefits we felt could be achieved by using student surveys and focus groups both goh and Burns’ (2012) and Butt et al’s (2000) The students’ responses, both qualitative and quantitative, methodological approaches in a blended way, is the relative were positive and provided us with a good insight into ease and flexibility for the teacher. For example, within the how students felt about the new course material and their 2 hours of class time available, teachers could choose to individual progress. When asked whether the 6 hours were spend longer on modelling and deconstructing the text (i.e. used efficiently to prepare students for their final presentation, Explicit Instruction) or focus on language strategies while 44% of the students strongly agreed while 54% agreed. giving students opportunities to practise speaking and It was also encouraging to see that students felt their engage in feedback or reflective practices. An additional presentation skills had improved over this short but intensive benefit of this approach is the focus on the end product period of time (see Table 2). that the students would ultimately have to reproduce. given our restricted time frame, the scaffolded nature of the © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.18 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 Table 1: Outline of each 2-hour lesson (6 hours in total over three weeks) that we created and the staging involved in each leading to the final assessment in week 4. Week 1, Lesson 1: The introduction section and the assessment task (2 hours) Goh and Burns (2012) Butt et al’s (2000) teaching– Activities teaching–speaking cycle learning cycle stage stage Stage 1. Focus learners’ Stage 1. Context exploration • In pairs, students discuss their experiences of doing an oral presentation in English. attention on the task • Students present a short talk on a general interest topic that they have prepared for homework. • Students are then provided with feedback from the teacher. •  (The rationale behind these activities is to increase the students’ confidence when presenting, and to also provide a diagnostic tool for the teacher to know what areas to focus on for each student.) • Students are then introduced to the assessment task and the assessment criteria. Stage 2. Provide input and Stage 2. Explicit instruction•  Students are shown a sample presentation for analysis. guide planning Stage 3. guided practice and •  Students then look at the introduction section of the presentation and deconstruct in joint reconstruction pairs – looking at language and expressions. • Students are asked to prepare a 2-minute introduction section to present in the next class. Week 2, Lesson 2: The main body section and signposting expressions (2 hours) Goh and Burns (2012) Butt et al’s (2000) teaching– Activities teaching–speaking cycle stage learning cycle stage Stage 3. Conduct speaking Stage 4. Independent •  Students individually present a 2-minute introduction. tasks application Stage 4. Facilitate feedback on •  Students are given immediate verbal and written feedback from the teacher on the learning introduction section genre/content as well as body language and timing criteria. Stage 5. Focus on language Stage 1. Context exploration• Students are shown the three stages of a presentation and the structure required. skills/strategies Stage 2. Explicit instruction •  Signposting expressions and useful language are introduced then used through different tasks. Stage 3. guided practice and joint reconstruction Stage 6. Direct learners’ • Students complete a self-evaluation checklist on what they have learned from their reflection on learning practice presentation to engage student reflection on the lesson and their learning. Stage 1. Focus learners’ Stage 1. Context exploration• Students’ attention is now drawn to the main body and concluding stages of the attention on the task presentation. Stage 2. Provide input and Stage 2. Explicit instruction •  Students discuss and list strategies they can use to make their presentations more guide planning interesting/engaging in groups. Stage 3. guided practice and joint reconstruction• F or homework, students are required to prepare a 2-minute presentation on a key point within the main body of the presentation that they will be presenting. Week 3, Lesson 3: The concluding and discussion sections and voice (2 hours) Goh and Burns (2012) Butt et al’s (2000) teaching– Activities teaching–speaking cycle stage learning cycle stage Stage 3. Conduct speaking Stage 4. Independent • Students present a key point (2-minutes). task application Stage 4. Facilitate feedback on • Students are given immediate verbal and written feedback from the teacher on the learning structure of the key point, content as well as voice and pronunciation. Stage 5. Focus on language Stage 1. Context exploration•  Voice, pace, stress on words and pitch are introduced. In pairs students look at how skills/strategies to incorporate these into their final presentation. Stage 2. Explicit instruction Stage 6. Direct learners’ •  Students complete a self-evaluation checklist on what they have learned from their reflection on learning practice presentation to engage student reflection on the lesson and their learning. Stage 1. Focus learners’ Stage 1. Context exploration•  Students are now shown how to facilitate a discussion session after their attention on the task presentations. Stage 2. Explicit instruction Stage 2. Provide input and Stage 3. guided practice and •  Students discuss strategies for the discussion section and in pairs/small groups guide planning joint reconstruction construct suitable discussion questions and engage in ‘mock’ discussion scenarios, focusing on voice and pronunciation. Week 4, Lesson 4: The final assessment (4 hours) Goh and Burns (2012) teaching–speaking Butt et al’s (2000) teaching–learning cycle Activities cycle stage stage Stage 3. Conduct speaking task Stage 4. Independent application •  Students present their final assessed presentation. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder. CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 19 Table 2: Question results material we trialled. For example, during one of our focus Response to ‘The presentation lessons have helped me improve my group sessions, we noted that all the students had ‘strongly presentation skills’ agreed’ that the course had met their needs on the online Answer options Response % Response count survey. However, when investigated further through a smaller focus group session, a small percentage claimed that they Strongly agree 35% 20 felt that the course could be improved in various ways. Agree 58% 33 Often, but not in all cases, this small percentage commented Disagree 7% 4 that upon further reflection, they felt that the course had Strongly disagree 0% 0 not met some of their needs, in terms of grammar or language development. Total 100% 57 Another factor we felt could have influenced our data was that some students were repeating the course and Students were also asked to explain why they thought thus repeating the presentation module. These students their presentation skills had improved or not. Some of the provided negative feedback, in both the online survey comments we received are summarised below (see Appendix and focus group, claiming that either they did not receive 5 for sample comments): enough teacher feedback, or that the feedback given was not necessary. More feedback from teachers Receiving regular formative feedback was integral to the students’ perception of progress. Several students commented on the benefits of feedback as they were able to observe the Classroom observations changes in their weekly performance. Through our classroom observations, mainly analysed by on- task behaviour, we noted the following: More speaking practice in class 1. student engagement with the task: Students seemed A majority of the students felt that their confidence had engaged and willing to participate in tasks during class, improved, with many students expressing that they were and often would approach us at the end of each lesson to no longer nervous while presenting in English in front of comment on how much they enjoyed the lessons. However, a class. Students also found that regular practice enabled approximately 60% of students did not complete the self- them to become more confident in speaking in front of a evaluation checklist administered at the end of the class for group of people. homework, or completed them incorrectly, or commented that they felt that they had not improved. We thought this Good materials indicated that our students were either unwilling to self-reflect a) Assessment/genre or to self-regulate their performance, were unable to do so, Students stated that they had a good understanding of the or perhaps had a tendency to be negative about their own assessment task requirements and this was mainly due to the performance. We also believed that, as the benefits of the fact that each lesson focused on a particular stage of their self-reflective checklist were not perceived by our students presentation. as connected to their overall assessment success, they might b) Language and other skills have felt that it was unnecessary to engage in self-reflection. However, at the end of the three weeks, when asked if they felt Students found the language and presentation skills input to that their performance throughout these weeks had improved, be valuable in assisting them towards their final assessment. 93% responded positively (as can be seen in Table 2). Many also commented that this was an area of the module they had really enjoyed. Students commented that they 2. student motivation and interaction with each other: successfully applied many of the strategies learned in class. While the majority of the class was interested in the lessons and seemed motivated throughout the 2 hours, Therefore, from the observations above, we discovered that we found that the level of motivation among the student by addressing the three initial issues identified in relation group related quite strongly to the students’ academic to the course material, our response to how to prepare pathway plans. Students seemed to be more engaged in students for an assessed presentation in limited time could be a task if they had a direct offer for university for the next addressed by: semester. These students also interacted well with other • providing formative feedback on learning that functions as students evidenced by their willingness to provide and receive feed forward feedback from their peers. We also discovered that if the • increasing student speaking practice in class time students were on a Foundation Year pathway, or had missed • focusing students’ attention on the assessment task and the next university intake, they were often disengaged and providing input. unmotivated to participate in class. It was encouraging to see the positive feedback we 3. Feasibility of the material for a 2-hour lesson: There was had received from the course, and we felt that the course enough material for a 2-hour lesson with a maximum of 18 materials overall were a success. However, despite students in the class. One observable benefit was that, if the relative success of the material, there were certain there were fewer than 18 students, the teacher spent more limitations that had impacted on our confidence in the time on feedback, or allowed the students to complete the © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.20 CAMBRIDgE ENgLISH : RESEARCH NOTES : issue 56 / MAY 2014 self-reflection checklist in class rather than for homework. The teachers to emphasise the benefits of self-reflection and material and activities were flexible and accommodating in evaluation in class, and to encourage students to engage in that sense. However, as each lesson dealt with a distinct stage independent reflection at home. We will definitely continue of the assessment task, if a student happened to be absent, to teach presentation skills as outlined in our AR project they would miss out on vital material, as the previous lesson’s and hope that other teachers will give it a try as well. Finally, input was unlikely to be repeated or reviewed in the following working together as a team with the support we had has been lesson. an invaluable experience. Finally, although student perceptions of their own improvement may be unreliable for a variety of reasons, the data suggests that the best approach to preparing students for References an assessed academic oral presentation in just 6 hours should Butt, D, Fahey, R, Feez, S, Spinks, S and Yallop, C (2000) Using Functional include the following: Grammar: An Explorer’s Guide, 2nd edition, Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research. • scaffolding of course material which raises metacognitive Carless, D (2006) Differing perceptions in the feedback process, Studies awareness of the assessment task and language feature in Higher Education 31 (2), 219–233. • the implementation of feedback as feed forward through Council of Europe (2001) Common European Framework of Reference for short in-class presentations Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, available online: • an emphasis on self-reflection and evaluation. Cadre1_en.asp goh, C M M and Burns, A (2012) Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reflections Hattie, J and Timperley, H (2007) The power of feedback, Review of Educational Research 77 (1), 81–112. It has been interesting to reflect on the process of this AR Sadler, R (2010) Beyond feedback: developing student capability in project. Overall, it has been very encouraging for us to see complex appraisal, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 35 (5), that the question we set out to explore was answered to some 535–550. extent. This research has enabled us to further recognise Wiggins, g (1997) Feedback: How learning occurs, in Chaffee, E E (Ed) the importance of identifying a learner’s subjective as well Assessing Impact: Evidence and Action, Washington, DC: American as objective needs in the creation of course material. The Association for Higher Education, 31–39. research has also brought to our attention the need for ESL Appendix 1: The assessment task Type of presentation: Explanation or Argument Length: 15 minutes (10-minute presentation and 5-minute discussion) Presentation date: Week 4 (class teacher will determine schedule) Objective: To gain practice in oral presentation skills and leading an inclusive group discussion Task overview • Each student will have 12–15 minutes to conduct a presentation. Approximately 8–10 minutes should be used for the presentation and 2–5 minutes for conducting a group discussion. • You will choose a topic of your choice. You must email the topic to your presentation teacher for approval by the end of Week 1. • Support your presentation by appropriate visual aids (e.g. PowerPoint). • At the end of the presentation be prepared to respond to questions from the audience. • The presentation assessment will be weighted at 20% of the final grade. © UCLES 2014 – The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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