Saturday, April 29, 2006

Maybe it is all about me!

Yesterday we learned that the two students who had taken the TOEFL earleir in the month did not get the scores they needed to leave ESL and enter the regular program. It was the end of the day, and we were all pretty shocked by the news.

My first thoughts were about what I could have/should have/might have done differently so that they would have done better. TO eb honest, I guess that is still what my thoughts are.

I find it interesting since, a few short weeks ago, I felt that my students' performance wasn't a reflection on me. As I write this, though, I think this is slightly different. Maybe that is a rationalization, though!

I am coordinator of the ESL program. I designed it. I developed most of the courses intially. Until this new TOEFL, what we were doing worked. Our students seemed to advance through our program and get the TOEFL scores they needed to move on.

This new test tests different things in different ways. And my institution has set the scores pretty high. These are the first two of our students who have taken the iBT, and this is the second time they took the test. Their overall score was about the same on both attempts, but there was significant difference in some individual section scores.

So my question for myself has to be about what we can do differently to help students on this test. It may require some substantial changes to the program or they may just be minor tweaks. But I will be spending a lot of time this summer trying to answer that question!

It could, of course, be these students, both of whom have been in this country for years and have some pretty well-established bad habits. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we will have anyone else ready to take the TOEFL for a while, so I can't test that hypothesis. So in the meantime, I have to assume that there is something we could be doing differently.

If any of you have experience with the TOEFL iBT, I would love to hear about it. How are your students doing? What scores has your institution set? If you do not want to post here, please email me.

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