Student level assessment in pronunciation

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Student level assessment in pronunciation

Post by AGD » Wed Dec 14, 2005 7:02 pm

I'm teaching a higher (Int 3 to Adv) class of adult students the suprasegmentals mainly. My problem is how to assess the pass level of these students at the end of the course. An advanced student might get a low test result and vice versa. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Robert Hsu
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Post by Robert Hsu » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:08 am

I've been using this evaluation sheet. It's nothing perfect, but it's better than nothing. Hope this is helpful. :)

Speaking Evaluation Sheet

Pronunciation (How well does speaker pronounce English sounds)
_____ 5. Has few traces of foreign accent.
_____ 4. Always intelligible though one is conscious of a definite accent.
_____ 3. Pronunciation problems necessitate concentrated listening and occasionally lead to misunderstanding.
_____ 2. Very hard to understand because of pronunciation problems. Must frequently be asked to repeat.
_____ 1. Pronunciation problems so severe as to make speech virtually unintelligible.

Vocabulary (Does speaker use appropriate vocabulary)
_____ 5. Very good use of vocabulary and idioms.
_____ 4. Sometimes uses inappropriate terms and/or must rephrase ideas because of lexical inadequacies.
_____ 3. Frequently uses the wrong words and appears to have inadequate vocabulary.
_____ 2. Misuse of words and very limited vocabulary makes comprehension quite difficult.
_____ 1. Vocabulary limitations so extreme as to make conversation virtually impossible.

Accuracy (Does speaker control grammar appropriate to level)
_____ 5. Make few noticeable errors of grammar or lexis.
_____ 4. A few minor grammatical and lexical errors but this does not obscure meaning.
_____ 3. Several grammatical and lexical errors which occasionally obscure meaning.
_____ 2. Grammatical and lexical errors make comprehension difficult.
_____ 1. Severe grammatical and lexical errors make speech virtually unintelligible.

Communication (How well does speaker communicate ideas)
_____ 5. Excellent. Completely at ease in his/her use of English on all topics discussed.
_____ 4. Good. Expresses himself/herself quite clearly. Experiences little difficulty in using English to communicate.
_____ 3. Although verbal communication is usually fairly satisfactory, there is occasional re-phrasing and re-patterning of sentences.
_____ 2. Own understanding is severely limited. Large number of errors in grammar and lexis.
_____ 1. Extreme difficulty in communication on any subject. Failure to understand adequately and to make himself/herself understood.

Fluency (Does speaker speak with sufficient ease and clarity)
_____ 5. Speaks fluently and without too great an effort with a fairly wide range of expression.
_____ 4. Fairly smooth delivery mostly though speed occasionally affected by language problems.
_____ 3. Has to make an effort for much of the time. Rather halting delivery. Range of expression limited.
_____ 2. Long pauses, halting delivery, almost gives up making an effort at times.
_____ 1. Speech very halting and fragmentary. Conversation virtually impossible

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Post by AGD » Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:59 pm

Thanks Robert, this will help in my speaking and listening class but unfortunately not in my pronunciation class. It is my experience that to improve a student's production is almost impossible in a short term class unless the student is dedicated to daily practise. My intention is to raise their awareness of the concepts particularly of suprasegmentals and to hopefully improve their listening and writing by doing so and hopefully long term then their production.
These students when they come into my class come in at an assessed level, from Intermediate 3 to Advanced. I can then end up in the dilemma of passing or not passing a student at what is their overall appropriate level in other classes. Seems unfair to me. :?:

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Post by EH » Sat Dec 24, 2005 3:41 am

It's a little late for this now, but next time you might want to record each student at the beginning of the class to provide a baseline from which to judge later progress. Give each student a passage to read, maybe the Rainbow Passage, the Grandfather Passage, or anything you like from a book (1-4 paragraphs). Record it. Then at the end of the semester record each student reading the same passage.

It's not a foolproof method because of the practice effect (the second reading will always be better...), and because oral reading is not the same as spontaneous conversation. But at least it measures individual progress rather than comparing one student to another.

In general, suprasegmentals are tricky to quantify, and therefore to objectively assess. Whatever you come up with will be a little subjective, so there's no point in stressing over it too much. The only way to decrease subjectivity would be with a computerized speech analysis program, but I'm not sure the technology is there to analyse the naturalness of speech--all you can do are things like quantify pause length, measure formant frequencies, etc.

Oh, and if you do use a form like the one Robert Hsu recommended, you might consider having another teacher do the evaluations. Ideally you'd have a naive listener deciding how intelligible the speech is, because you are already pretty well adjusted to understanding the students' speech patterns--whether or not their clarity has improved.

Good luck!

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