Getting students to do more without checking

Often we need our students to do something but we are unable to check that they did it or we’re unable to check how well they did it. How can we deal with that situation?

For example, I often want my students to practice some language in groups. Right now with some freshmen college students we are learning how to do introductions. I want all of my students to participate in this practice but because there are so many students, I’m unable to monitor how well they are doing it or even if they are doing it wholeheartedly.

Sometimes students need a little pressure to do well. I put the students together into groups and ask them to not just practice but to make a role play of the activity. After sufficient time, I randomly choose a few groups to come to the front of the class to do their role play for all of us.

Because students don’t know which group will have to perform their role play, this puts a slight pressure on everyone to participate in the activity but the teacher does not have to check each groups work.

This approach can also be used for any activity like writing projects. I have done it for speaking projects, asking the students to create an mp3 on a group member’s mobile phone, and we choose a few group’s recordings to play for the class.

A score can even be handed out for these teams. Of course in scoring, you are not checking the whole class, only part of the class. But this should be fine if you repeat these types of activities throughout the semester and cover all of the students. One caveat is to not say that the ones who performed before will not perform next time as this causes them to slack off. Some students may have to perform and get scored more than others.


Can technology to improve health habits be used to improve study habits?

I study hundreds of these kinds of articles and often do further research into the white papers to get more details.

“Smart Phones Help Manage Chronic Illness” is an article about how smart phones are used to help remind people test their own blood sugar or blood pressure to manage their health. It’s easy to forget to do these things or to be a bit lazy about them.

To repeat, It’s easy to forget to do these things or to be a bit lazy about them. Hmmm, sounds like the problem a certain percentage of our students have about studying English. Continue reading “Can technology to improve health habits be used to improve study habits?”

Wisdom of crowds? Swarm scoring? Peer-to-peer assessment? Peer assessment honesty?

Last term I had my students check each others weekly quizzes. These quizzes were proctored in the classroom and had 9 questions and took a few minutes to answer and a couple minutes to check. This was beneficial for 2 reasons.

a. Through the process of going over the answers together, students got quick feedback on how they did.

b. The teacher had a quick assessment of how well each student understood the material.

Question: How honestly can we make peer-to-peer subjective checking in larger less controlled systems?

In this case, I am not referring to collaborative projects, team writing, etc, but I am referring to assessment that could be formative or summative.

Assuming the students have a carefully designed rubric to follow and that they are reasonably accurate in using it, how honest will students be in scoring each others’ works? Will they give a higher score than deserved? Will they help out a buddy with a higher score? While a teacher cannot eradicate cheating, what can be done to minimize it?

I know that as an IELTS examiner, I always knew that my scoring could be spot-checked by another examiner and if my scoring was off then I could be in trouble.

Imagine this. A student is given an assignment and has to do 3 things:

a. Produce some English (teacher could assign writing or speaking into an mp3) b. Score one other student’s English production c. Double check another student’s scoring

Students know teacher may or may not do a final spot check on some of the scoring. If the teacher finds the scoring off to an unreasonable degree, the student who scored off would have his own score lowered.

Watch This Trend – Accreditation

New York Times has an article about what is going to be a growing trend, people getting formal accreditation for things they learned in a casual manner.

This will impact us as teachers as well as our students.

Educational institutions have held a monopoly on accreditation and before, even if you knew the subject better than the instructors and perhaps the instructors may have never had any practical experience as you may have had, you had to go through the schooling routine to get credit.

New York Times Article

How to distract your students into paying attention

Great post from Speakeasy at the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s the oldest trick in the book: If you have a boring task, make it seem like fun. Maybe others will pitch in. You might even start enjoying yourself. Remember Tom Sawyer living it up while whitewashing the picket fence? The best teachers I encountered while researching “Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn” captivated their students’ attention by providing interactive and collaborative challenges with clear rewards. We can adapt some of their tactics.”

Go to How to Distract Your Kid Into Paying Attention


Teaching academic writing

Most writing books are pretty useless.


They are born out of a sort of academic incest, inbreeding. The authors look at what other authors got published and follow that. Publishers look at what other publishers sold and publish that. Jack Richards hints at this problem on his website. Shocking truth: Publishers are not in the business to help your students. Continue reading “Teaching academic writing”

Executive coaching

I have been teaching for many years the Chinese managers at an American company.  Some of these managers already have very good English skills and it became a challenge to keep their interest or provide something that they really needed.

From my research and experience, I found that managers with good English skills nonetheless felt they weren’t communicating well. They always feel that Continue reading “Executive coaching”