IATEFL 2014: Highlights in Materials and Assessment Writing

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I really admire those ELT bloggers who somehow manage to find the time to blog during IATEFL. Between spotty WiFi, days jam-paced with sessions, and social events in the evening, I’ve given up trying to write anything substantial up until after the conference is over.

I gravitate toward 4 types of presentations: those in the areas of materials and assessment writing, EAP, edtech and ELT management. Over the next few posts, I’ll reflect on the highlights in each of those areas.

Materials and Assessment Writing

Writing for Digital: Challenges and Solutions.
Fiona Mackenzie and Russell Whitehead lead us through a series of activities meant to raise awareness of what is involved in writing for digital in in what ways it is similar to and different from writing for print. As we worked in teams and Fiona elicited responses from the audience, one thing became incredibly clear to me: if you actually use digital–mobile devices and apps, edtech platforms, apps for language learning–then awareness of the differences between writing for print and digital comes a lot more naturally than if you don’t. Kind of like a vegetarian preparing a steak dinner.

More than Just a Worksheet: Writing Effective Classroom Materials
I’m a big fan of Rachael Roberts‘s blog, and so I was quite interested to see her speak in person. It was a nice, informative talk that covered  a lot of the fundamentals of classroom materials writing. Her handouts can be found here. Besides her showing us the Oxford 3000 highlighter, which I wasn’t familiar with, another particular highlight was when, after putting PARSNIPS up on the screen and asking if anyone was familiar with the term the woman beside me laughed dismissively and said, “Of course! They’re a root vegetable that’s just lovely roasted.”

Test Tasks that Work and How to Write Them
I”m in awe of the data heads that work in the assessment side of ELT, developing assessments, standardized and other, that are accurate, reliable and consistent. As I’m in charge of developing and maintaining assessments at my institution, I have come to realize what a complex task it is. Jamie Dunlea and Kevin Rutherford are in that world, as they worked on developing the Aptis test for the British Council, and they shared a variety of very helpful tips, experience, web tools and references helpful to those involved in test writing and management. While Felicity O’Dell‘s How to Write a Good Task for a Test talk on Thursday focused more qualitatively on what type of text content and style is appropriate for an assessment, these two focused on the syntactic and lexical features that make a particular text appropriate for a particular level and gave us some tools to measure these features. Everything they talked about and demonstrated was grounded in research, and we all went away with a long list of works cited and essential resources, at least one of which I immediately went down to the book fair and bought.

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