Testing During the Pandemic

It has been over a month since we were on lockdown and teaching online. I have already conducted four tests using my Pustułka app just like we had done before the lockdown. My subjective impression is that my students have not outperformed themselves as compared to tests they had written before the pandemic. Their individual results are very similar.

However, in the case of „take-home” tests which students could do on their own just for revision purposes some results have been much better than those of the tests invigilated by me in class.

I have asked my students a question in an online survey conducted among my 63 students whether tests administered now test their knowledge the same as the tests we had had in computers labs. Over a half of students agreed (35%) or strongly agreed (23%), about a third (32%) remained neutral, and only one out of seven students disagreed (8%) or strongly disagreed (6%).

The conclusion is, therefore, that we can proceed with administering online written tests to evaluate students’ performance while teaching them online using distance learning methods. My recommendation is to set a very tight time limit and either use test questions such as multiple choice, cloze test, true/false or longer pieces of writing such as essays, reports, letters, longer paraphrases, etc. Short answer questions like definitions, synonyms, translations, etc. are unfortunately the easiest to copy from dictionaries and websites.

How to Anonymize Students

At the end of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union came into force. More or less around that time I was informed by the authorities of my university that now my students cannot use their names and surnames or even their student numbers when they do tests online in e.g. my testing software pustulka.edu.pl.

Some teachers consider it as a nuisance and are afraid to start doing that because they say it takes time and is messy. Dear teachers, don’t be so easily discouraged.

Below I would like to show a few possible ways of anonymizing students for tests.

  1. You can generate students’ IDs online as there are numerous websites generating nicks, logins, e.g. http://www.name-generator.org/. After generating them, distribute them among your students, tell them to remember them and use each time they enroll at the test.
  2. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves. You can tell them that you want these to be e.g. adjectives beginning with a specific letter. In this way you will distinguish between your groups quickly by letters. You may wish students to add a year in which they began their studies to the word or some other numbers indicating the group number or the year of studies, anything that will let you quickly identify which group the person belongs to, e.g. assymetric2019 or asleep1/2018. There are websites which can help you and your students generate adjectives beginning with a specific letter, e.g. http://adjectivesstarting.com/with-a/
  3. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves but according to a special pattern: two first letters of their surname + two first letters of their name + year in which they began their studies = e.g. lual2018 (for Aleksandra Łuczak). This solution is practical as the students’ ids will be grouped alphabetically in the same, or almost the same, order the surnames.

My suggestion is to generate or create the IDs once and use the same ones throughout the course. You will quickly learn them by heart and some of them can really become nice nicks of you students.

How I inspire my students

I believe that teachers inspire their students when they are enthusiastic about their work.

When I started teaching legal English 15 years ago, I was a fresher, although I had been teaching for another 15 years so far. I had to learn this complex variety of English myself and now I manage to prepare my students to sit (successfully) advanced level of legal English exams. 15 years ago I showed bravery and thanks to this I developed professionally.

Now I help my students develop linguistically and help them prepare enter their professional careers.

My recent greatest achievement was creating software for language testing. Initially the software was aimed at teachers and speeding up their work by saving the time teachers spend on grading tests. However, apart from the testing component, the apps has also a collection of public exercises which I create pro bono.

Public exercises are available for free to anyone who has a link. Students can use these exercises to revise and expand their knowledge of business and legal English.

Since last summer I have been running a OEAD (one exercise a day) project in which I create one public exercise a day (or almost every day). In this way, I encourage students to learn every day. The collection of public exercises comprises now about 160 exercises and is still growing.

This project teaches me systematic work with which I am trying to infect my students. It develops our media competence and proves that sharing is caring.

It shows the power of collaboration and how great value it constitutes. Collaboration – because the software was created in cooperation with my husband, an IT developer. Collaboration – also because other teachers can use my exercises for their purposes.

My students like the apps very much. My survey showed that over 90% of them had positive attitude to it. They appreciate innovations in the classroom and are aware that they get free high quality specialist content which is really scarce online.

Come and check out on your own: pustulka.edu.pl