From the U.S. to the U.K.

El Hassan Bouguern is an Arabic teacher and Postgraduate Teacher Trainer at SOAS University of London. Earlier this summer, he attended one of the CARLA Summer Institutes for Foreign Language Teachers. This particular summer institute was titled “Developing Assessments for the Second Language Classroom”. Below, El Hassan Bougern recounts details of the course and how he plans to implement the skills he acquired into his own language classroom! 

dsc_0001_29This course was organised for second and foreign language ‎educators and researchers. The course focus was on effective ‎classroom assessments for supporting teaching and learning, which ‎are essential in helping foreign language students achieve ‎higher levels of proficiency in the target language. Aligned with ‎standards and benchmarks, they are at the core of curricular and ‎instructional planning and engage students in meaningful activities ‎that present what they know and can do while learning a foreign ‎language. ‎

During the course, I had the opportunity to meet educators and ‎researchers and to discuss a variety of ‎effective strategies for assessing both language-teaching strategies ‎and students’ performance towards proficiency. We shared ideas and learnt new tools that ‎match the purpose of formal and informal assessments in language ‎classrooms. We explored a range of topics, such as the aspects of ‎performance, proficiency and the standards-based assessment. ‎Additionally, we discussed the role of portfolios and self-assessment ‎strategies by using and adapting “can-do” statements as well as creating ‎rubrics and scoring guides for a better standard-based assessment to ‎improve second and foreign language learning experience for ‎learners of different ages and levels. ‎

The educators who attended the course teach different languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Lakota, Arabic. etc. However, we all share the same objectives of motivating our students to learn these foreign languages and facilitate their learning journey for a better experience towards the communication proficiency in the target language. I liked the fact that we spent most of the time discussing assessment strategies we apply in our professional settings and the resources we use for planning lessons and designing units of instruction for enhancing our students’ performance, and above all making the foreign language learning class a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

As an Arabic teacher and a Postgraduate Teacher Trainer in SOAS, ‎University of London, I have learnt a lot of new ACTFL based ideas ‎and strategies that I will apply in my profession and which I would ‎encourage my trainees to explore in their teaching of Arabic. This ‎includes formative and summative assessment strategies of language ‎performance, which are based on interpretational, presentational, and ‎interactional competencies towards better language proficiency. This ‎is based on the ultimate goal of equipping foreign language learners ‎with language competences for improving their communication using ‎the target language in real-world, which is the ultimate goal of ‎Communicative Language Teaching approach (CLT). For this ‎purpose, we explored the techniques of teaching and assessing the ‎elements of 5 Cs; Communication; Cultures; Connections; ‎Comparisons; Communities.

As a forward looking educator, this course will be a trigger for more ‎research on how ACTFL based standards of language assessments ‎could be applied in UK and Europe as a whole in comparison with ‎Common European Framework Reference (CEFR) and how this could ‎inform foreign language design of units of instruction and teaching ‎approaches for improving teaching practice within the walls of an ‎Arabic language classroom. ‎

As a coordinator of a postgraduate course in teaching Arabic as a foreign language, I will add to our course syllabus the design of the language instruction units which is informed by the approach of equipping the students with useful real-world language skills. These techniques are aligned with effective assessment strategies of performance towards proficiency. Therefore, when my trainees become teachers or leaders in the field of teaching Arabic as a foreign language, they will be able to ensure that their units of instruction have all the necessary elements for improving the teaching and learning of Arabic. Along the thematic question and goals, each unit of instruction needs to include a summative performance assessment section. This section should suggest interpretive tasks which demonstrate the application of real-world application of language. These tasks should help learners to improve their performance in the modes presentational and interpersonal aspects of language. My trainees should also ensure their tasks incorporate the 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Additionally, no matter how much time is dedicated to each unit of instruction in a language learning course, I will encourage my trainees to make sure they incorporate the aspects of culture, connections, communities, comparison. These elements will help their students develop a range of cultural interpersonal competences for a better understanding of the target language and its culture towards enhanced social communicative performance.

This experience has also been an eye-opener on the teaching and ‎learning of foreign languages in the USA as I had the opportunity to ‎discuss with and learn from different foreign language educators from ‎different states about the strategies they apply and the standards they ‎use in different regions of the USA and how this informs their practice of ‎language teaching.‎ Finally, I would like to thank Qatar Foundation International for this great opportunity and for their ‎efforts in improving Arabic language teaching and learning and global ‎intercultural communication and understanding. ‎