How can we Persuade Students What is Realistic for their Level #ELTchat Summary 31/08/2011

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How can we Persuade Students What is Realistic for their Level #ELTchat Summary 31/08/2011

This is the summary of the #ELTchat on 31st of August 20111 12:00 P.M. BST


Moderators for this chat were @Marisa_C, @barbsaka (who had trouble with Tweetdeck and whose attention/attendance was therefore intermittent), and @esolcourses (guesting – much to the relief of @Marisa_C, in view of @barbsaka’s problems).



This was widely agreed to be a difficult topic. There were many interleaved themes, and repeated suggestions to get back on-topic or questions that suggested that maybe we needed to get back on topic. The trouble was that an understanding of those themes was a pre-requisite to dealing adequately with the topic, and we couldn’t deal with the topic until… So, there were more questions than answers. There was wide agreement with @OUPELTGlobal’s

I like the idea that these chats help define a teacher’s role in the classroom – whatever the topic has been

And @esolcourses summarized several of the themes neatly with her

…Ideally, goal-setting should be done in partnership with teachers and learners & not imposed by exams etc

This has turned turned out to be more ‘recorded higlights’ than ‘summary’!




All these are interlinked in various ways, and many tweets could have fitted comfortably into two or more sections!

  • Goals
  • Motivation and incentives
  • Portfolios
  • Exams and Levels
  • Real-life
  • Teacher’s role
  • Expectations


Key tweets
efl101 2:06 PM could someone say what we mean by ‘realistic’ i.e. in terms of results, exams or general functional ability…? #eltchat
barbsaka 2:06 PM Perhaps a working definition of “realistic”–something achievable, with work #eltchat (Other definitions?)Many RTs
theteacherjames 2:06 PM …and thus they can have a distorted view of what they can achieve in the correct time period. #ELTChat
barbsaka 2:08 PM @efl101 Yes, a realistic aim or outcome is something that students can achieve #eltchatMany RTs
AlexandraKouk 2:11 PM have to set clear, measurable goals  #eltchatMany RTs
efl101 2:13 PM convincing a St that they will b out of their depth @ higher levels can make difference between them sticking with it and giving up #eltchat
lu_bodeman 2:14 PM I present results from their study period and we discuss outcomes. RT @ELTtech: @lu_bodeman how do you usually talk to these stdts? #ELTchat
efl101 2:15 PM good placement needs, interviews, diagnosis, sample work and time! #eltchat
AlexandraKouk 2:21 PM apart from placement, we also have to set clear, measurable goals for the course itself  #eltchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:22 PM @ELTExperiences I find helping ss understands their wkness and strngths and what they hve to do to achieve their goals is important #eltchatMany RTs
AlexandraKouk 2:23 PM perhaps, have Ss write down expectations at start of course, discuss what’s realistic and try to adjust goals ?  #eltchatMany RTs
AlexandraKouk 2:25 PM then review goals regularly during the course  #eltchat
help4ielts 2:24 PM sometimes there’s a lack of transparency/ criteria for moving sts up – esp with subjective elements.  #eltchat
efl101 2:26 PM Does setting goals equate to convincing sts of how realistic their expectations are? #eltchatUh oh – going off piste?
theteacherjames 2:29 PM @ELTtech @AlexandraKouk I think it’s essential. The sts & the teacher need to share their goals, collaborate & feedback on them. #ELTchatMany RTs
Stylianou_E 2:32 PM @AlexandraKouk writing goals on paper brings us closer to achieving them. It would definitely help Ss! I’ll try that, thanks:) #eltchat
efl101 2:33 PM Goal setting I think only works where there is no externally set goal such as in an exam or qualification? #eltchat
esolcourses 2:35 PM @efl101 I’d say you can set goals for exam-based courses,  provided that they are broadly mapped to the exam syllabus #eltchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:35 PM I don’t mind an exam as a goal. I can then work with sts on what that goal means and what they need to do to achieve it.  #eltchat
Stylianou_E 2:44 PM @esolcourses @efl101 passing the exam can only be a short term goal, not the long term one  #eltchat


Key tweets
esolcourses 2:14 PM @Marisa_C  @AlexandraKouk @OUPELTGlobal think s’s sometimes underestimate the amount of work they need to put in to progress #eltchat
harrisonmike 2:14 PM @lu_bodeman IME, placement tests are usually not enough. Oral interviews most necessary to ensure good placement. #eltchat
AlexandraKouk 2:14 PM is it parent/peer/work pressure to get on with it and “finish” with English fast?  #eltchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:24 PM @cherrymp It’s always been part of my classes – making the learning personal, to each student #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:31 PM On the other hand, I don’t see what is wrong with some challenge #ELTchat – Ss may rise to motivating challenges
AlexandraKouk 2:32 PM @efl101 I see what you mean, but at least they can see they’re making SOME progress and avoid getting too demotivated  #ELTChat
efl101 2:34 PM @AlexandraKouk True about motivation, but… motivating sts not the same as convincing them of realism of expectation? #eltchat
help4ielts 2:38 PM extrinsic motivation -> problems that interfere w/ intrinsic motivation. Increase  intrinsic thro autonomy, competence, relatedness #eltchat


Key tweets
Marisa_C 2:26 PM Another very good idea is the use of student portfolios – print or online, they provide evidence of progress +/- #eltchat
JoHart 2:28 PM @Marisa_C #ELTchat Agree we use portfolios always in lit & with ESl students who join us ‘cos no specialist ESL available in region
Marisa_C 2:29 PM @JoHart but portfolios too need clear descriptions of criteria – very often Ts unclear – why art of testing so difficult #ELTchat
lu_bodeman 2:30 PM They R wonderful. RT @ELTtech: @Marisa_C portfolios Hum din’t think of that b4. This is also gr8 #ELTchat
cherrymp 2:29 PM @Marisa_C @ELTExperiences portfolio is a wonderful idea – once again the T n the Ss need to be patient to see it evolve over time. #ELTChat
Stylianou_E 2:36 PM portfolios can help reflecting, SS can see what they achieved through time,and feel confident,even if little progress was made #eltchat


Key tweets
efl101 2:05 PM In my case all sts aim for a certain grade, but different goals are more realistic ie up or down – which causes upset
efl101 2:11 PM Students on exam course expect to pass the exam, whether that is realistic or not, this is a systemic problem I think #eltchat
barbsaka 2:12 PM @JoHart So an idea of achievement not related to growth in skill but in passing grades 🙂 #ELTchat
JoHart 2:18 PM @barbsaka #ELTchat stdnts in literacy often just want to know what they need to do to “pass” hve found ESL stdnts less focussed on “pass” ..
efl101 2:19 PM @JoHart good point, expectation often bound up in exam pass, not ability per se. #eltchat
Mr_Schenk 2:36 PM @efl101 #ELTChat I agree. The extrinsic motivation of Passung the exam will always be strongest. Sadly…
help4ielts 2:36 PM @OUPELTGlobal passing exam = real goal, not just perceived goal. we have to take that on board. #eltchat
theteacherjames 2:37 PM @efl101 I would hope the sts have other expectations for Eng beyond passing an exam. Hopeful? #eltchat
efl101 2:41 PM @esolcourses agree totally but whether a st has realistic shot at exam or no is tricky, if no then why bother if focus is only exam #eltchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:43 PM @efl101 If the exam is good, then teaching to it should help the sts too. no? #eltchat
efl101 2:45 PM @Stylianou_E but for many sts it is THE goal for career etc and actual ability is a by-product – box-ticking world #eltchat
BobK99 2:46 PM RT @AlexandraKouk: what is a good exam?  #ELTChat ! Aha – maybe the key is to get the sts to buy into the specifics of the exam (not jst IT)Usually I’ve edited out retweets, but here the tweet says more than the RT (Bobk99 finally getting the point!)
OUPELTGlobal 2:50 PM My university sts pass exams which give them a false sense of achievement – very seriously problem in my classes #eltchat
AlexandraKouk 2:51 PM many edu systems are exam-oriented, alas  #ELTChat
Marisa_C 2:57 PM @cherrymp I know…. 🙁  but they have PASSED they have the Certif they just can’t communicate #ELTchatAppropriate last tweet for this section!


Key tweets
ELTExperiences 2:33 PM One question: is levels more important for groups of sts or one-to-one? If there’s a difference why? #ELTChat
efl101 2:33 PM @OUPELTGlobal think it depends where they are headed, many are so focused on exam etc that interim steps are not important to them? #eltchat
efl101 2:33 PM @OUPELTGlobal think it depends where they are headed, many are so focused on exam etc that interim steps are not important to them? #eltchat
Mr_Schenk 2:36 PM @efl101 #ELTChat I agree. The extrinsic motivation of Passung the exam will always be strongest. Sadly…
theteacherjames 2:37 PM @efl101 I would hope the sts have other expectations for Eng beyond passing an exam. Hopeful? #eltchat
ELTExperiences 2:38 PM @Englishonthenet Interesting. So are mixed classes suitable so stronger sts can help lower level sts? #ELTChat forgot the tag.
efl101 2:41 PM @esolcourses agree totally but whether a st has realistic shot at exam or no is tricky, if no then why bother if focus is only exam #eltchat
ELTExperiences 2:41 PM @ELTtech @Englishonthenet Are mixed ability classes any different to multi-level? #ELTChat
ELTtech 2:42 PM @ELTExperiences @Englishonthenet I see a lot of benefit w lower level stdts multilevel classes They boost learning dramatically #ELTchat
ELTtech 2:47 PM @ELTExperiences @Englishonthenet Maybe these r tech terms multilevel / mixed ability in ELT I guess no difference. I might be wrong #ELTchat
efl101 2:53 PM @sandymillin can u send them up temporarily? seeing for themselves is probably most convincing method #eltchat
sandymillin 2:54 PM @efl101 theoretically I think we could send them up temporarily, but depends on space in classes – not enough for all #eltchat
help4ielts 2:54 PM @sandymillin I have had sts ask why teachers let them go up to next level when they weren’t ready & where they crashed & burned #eltchat
efl101 2:56 PM a good level for a student is probably slightly above their comfort zone but logistics often get in the way of this 🙁 #eltchat
sandymillin 2:57 PM @efl101 agreed, but it depends on their level of confidence. an unconfident SS can benefit from a slightly lower level I think #eltchat
3ty3 2:58 PM @Englishonthenet Totally agree that learner “levels” are inexact; however, bands can broadly be measured, as with IELTS #eltchat


Key tweets
esolcourses 2:03 PM @efl101 think it depends on the course, and what learners are hoping to achieve at the end of it #ELTChat
efl101 2:09 PM time and ability to commit exclusively, many students have competing demands on their time and attention #eltchat
ELTExperiences 2:20 PM @Englishonthenet I totally agree. Everyone learns and acquires languages differently depending on their experiences. #ELTChat
Marisa_C 2:39 PM The problem is general to other education fields – the notion that “I have attended sth” therefore I now know it? #ELTchat

Teachers’ role

Key tweets
Englishonthenet 2:13 PM #eltchat Ss compare themselves with others, not taking into account variety of factors that determine progress
harrisonmike 2:19 PM @AlexandraKouk Proper education abt language & what learning it involves is needed 4 parents & bosses. They wouldn’t listen tho =( #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:23 PM But to do tutorials and stocktaking  course objectives must be transparent & accessible to Ss #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:23 PM I think a good idea is the concept of tutorials – 1-2-1 if members of a class – stocktaking  time #eltchat – how measuring up
ELTExperiences 2:25 PM @cherrymp @OUPELTGlobal but it is a useful exercise reacting to learners rather than dictating lessons. #ELTChat
efl101 2:25 PM what’s realistic is also negotiated, not just my judgement as tchr.  Sts commitment and motivation have heavy impact on outcome #eltchat
cherrymp 2:26 PM @ELTExperiences @OUPELTGlobal reacting to the learners make it more spontaneous. Ts need to be open for that. #ELTChat
cherrymp 2:28 PM @ELTExperiences that’s the whole point rt – to capture the construct n operationalise it and retest it n d cycle goes on. #ELTChat
OUPELTGlobal 2:30 PM I think learner autonomy and learning to learn are very important aspects of the EFL classroom – making ss more reposbonsible #eltchat
theteacherjames 2:31 PM @efl101 If they are guided in making them effectively, goal setting gives sts a realistic target to achieve. #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:38 PM @Englishonthenet with  1-2-1 there is much more room for negotiation  and experimentation #ELTchat
help4ielts 2:42 PM @Marisa_C  Not just sts – get some t’s who say “I’ve taught sth” so they should know it. #eltchat
esolcourses 2:44 PM @efl101 by focusing on the syllabus in the broad sense, I mean aiming for the bases but also being willing to take a detour 🙂 #eltchat
help4ielts 2:45 PM too often we teach coursebook / to exam / syllabus – rather than teaching the sts #eltchat
parrpakala 2:47 PM i teach what I think the students need for settlement, and bring the modules/assessments into it, like weaving #eltchat
Stylianou_E 2:49 PM @Marisa_C @Mr_Schenk in my context some teachers don’t care if their ss can communicate,as long as they pass the exam! So wrong. #eltchat
efl101 2:51 PM @help4ielts why are we doing this? is 1 of best questions sts ask imho #eltchat
help4ielts 2:51 PM worst question from sts halfway thro really creative lesson= “Why are we doing this?” (transl. why aren’t we  doing exam practice) #eltchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:52 PM @help4ielts couldn’t it also mean the reverse? Why are we only doing exam practice and not really learning? #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:54 PM @OUPELTGlobal Good point – it’s a T’s job too to ‘translate’ exam goals into real life skills #ELTchat


Key tweets
theteacherjames 2:05 PM I think this problem can stem from the fact that the better a student gets, the harder it becomes for them to measure progress. #ELTChat
AlexandraKouk 2:06 PM Ss expectations often too high – easily disappointed  #ELTchat
Stylianou_E 2:10 PM How do you deal with parents, when you think a student is not ready to move up a level or take an exam? #eltchat
AlexandraKouk 2:12 PM should we touch on why ss have unrealistic expectations sometimes? #eltchat
efl101 2:14 PM Sts have unrealistic expectations because of advertising, career pressure, peer/parent pressure, over-estimation of own ability #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:16 PM @barbsaka By defining the level thru independent means Ss don’t seem to have unrealistic ideas abt selves #ELTchat
OUPELTGlobal 2:16 PM @esolcourses not only the amount of work, but they type of participation – shy students expecting to speak  #eltchat
ELTExperiences 2:19 PM I remember in Korea, the parents were demanding more from the teachers than the YLs. I suppose it depends on who you’re teaching. #ELTChat
esolcourses 2:21 PM @OUPELTGlobal yes, agree that reluctance to join in with speaking activities can sometimes hold learners back #eltchat
efl101 2:29 PM @AlexandraKouk Just not sure if getting sts to measure their progress will convince them that they have an unrealistic expectation #eltchat
cherrymp 2:31 PM @efl101 @AlexandraKouk @OUPELTGlobal sometimes Ss may not be ready for self-evaluation. learner expectations might be different. #eltchat
Marisa_C 2:50 PM @Mr_Schenk No it’s rather shoddy teaching #ELTchat but it’s what the ‘client’ expects, pays for and wants
OUPELTGlobal 2:53 PM @Marisa_C I think sts expectations and demands are part of the class and TTs can help sts adapt and achieve their own goals #eltchat


There were fewer links than usual (continuing the ‘more questions than answers’ theme), but still a good dozen:

  • Goals


A gift for a closing exchange:

AlexandraKouk 2:44 PM what is a good exam?  #ELTChat
OUPELTGlobal 2:45 PM @AlexandraKouk seems like a good topic for an eltchat! #eltchat

About the compiler

Bob Knowles (@BobK99) is a self- (that is, mostly, un-) employed teacher of ELT and MFL (mostly EFL 1-2-1), retired from a life of technical writing. He moderates the UsingEnglish forums and contributes resources to TESconnect (both as BobK tout sec – he came late to Twitter, by which time ‘@BobK’ had been taken.)


One Response

  1. Cap Lee says:

    Goal setting at the beginning of every day , by the student and teacher helps define the day and maintains the students focus. It is important to take kids from where they are rather than where their grade level tells them they sholud be. This requires a variety of formal and especially informal assessments.

    Also requires a whole new system of education. Grade levels become mute, letter grades, so damaging to kids, must be eliminated and the concept of all kids being at the same place at the same time, at the same age in the same grade, on the same page of the same book, at the same seat taking, the same test goes out the window. The Stepford Kids must no longer exist!

    All documented in my books

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