The power of peer-assessment and using your students as experts

This week in my business English class, we have been discussing the topic of meetings and negotiations. I wanted to include a lesson on the differences in meetings for various cultures and I also wanted to include the countries that the students come from as a basis for this topic. I thought of using one country as an example and then use that as a template for talking about the other countries. My other criteria was that I wanted the material to use natural language and not something prescribed for a language class.

I eventually came across this video on business meetings in Japan.

I have one student in my class from Japan and I thought it might be nice to use him as our ‘expert’ in this lesson. I wanted to hear from him if he thought that this video was valid and if he had anything to add. What I ended up planning was this:

1. Before watching the video, I had the students discuss the topics of the video with a partner using some guiding questions:

What do you think you need to do in a Japanese business meeting regarding:

* bowing or shaking hands?
* where to sit?
* taking and giving business cards?
* giving and receiving gifts?

How are these different from your own culture?

2. Then I had students read over the comprehension questions before watching the video.

a. What should you do: bow or shake? Why?
b. Where should you sit in a meeting? Why?
c. What should you do with a business card you’ve been given? Why?
d. What should you do about giving gifts? Why?

3. After watching the video, the students answered the questions by posting their answers on their personal work space (I use TitanPad to set up an individual writing space for each student that is password protected that only the student and I have access to).

4. I then had the students work on their own to write a introduction to doing business in their country using the same outline as the video. They had to provide 4 topic areas and were to demonstrate the use of the two grammar areas we had been working on over the past three weeks. This was to be about the same length as the video which is 215 words long. Once they were done that, they were to post the text to a group discussion page (once again, a TitanPad page, this time set up for three students). The other group members were to post their text as well.

5. Once all three were done posting, they were to read and comment on the other group members’ texts using a comment ‘guideline’ (rubric) that included grammar and spelling, content, and additional comments. I have access to all of the writing pads so I can keep tabs on what is happening in real-time and can use the chat function to add some guidance while they are commenting.

6. After each student was finished commenting on the other students’ work, I added my own comments to fill in the blanks. Students then edited their work according to the comments.

7. Once all of the students were done, I had the them audio record their text using RecordMP3 and had them post the link to their audio file below their text on the discussion. I then posted all of the links on one page and had the students listen to all of the audio files as homework.

8. The next day, I had a class discussion on what they had learned from their fellow student ‘experts’.

The students were a little nervous at first about doing this, but did a wonderful job. They really enjoyed listening to the other students and the class discussion went really well. I kept track of the comments and changes to the texts and noticed a remarkable improvement in the overall text.

This type of lesson uses the student’s previous knowledge and encourages peer-assessment and collaboration. Students mentioned that they felt empowered by being the expert in their areas and this helped build their confidence.

If you would like more information about any part of this lesson or have a comment, let me know either by commenting here or contacting me on Twitter.


Alberta Learning Information Services: Mountains of material

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The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) is a website designed to give assistance to people wanting to find job or career advice. Since it is entirely funded and run by the Alberta provincial government, the advice is targeted at people wanting to work in Alberta, but a majority of the material is useful for anyone. This website is loaded with documents, videos, and electronic databases that would be very helpful for the ESL classroom. I decided to isolate a few of them here to showcase what could be possible for teaching English.

Publications: You can search for documents for download by name or by category. For lower level students, try “low literacy” as the audience or “easy reading” as a category. There are a few documents that are specific to Alberta labour laws, but some that are fantastic as workbooks in any location.

There are also a number of publications not meant for lower language skills, but are still within the understanding of higher level students, especially those in business English classes.

There are also a number of ‘Tip Sheets‘ that can’t be downloaded, but are viewable online.

There are also a few PowerPoint presentations that go together with the publications.

What could be the best material is the video section. Here there are 214 short videos that each introduce a different occupation. These are fantastic! You can combine these with the Easy Reading Job Profiles listed above to help teach vocabulary and encourage discussion in the classroom.

There is much more here, but it would take too much time to go through it all. One last thing that may be of interest is the CAREERinsite interactive section (registration required). I haven’t had the time to do it yet, but it looks quite good.

Have you used any of this material before? Where do you see it fitting in your curriculum?

The Times 100: An Excellent Business English Resource

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The Times 100 is a fantastic resource for anyone teaching business English. While a lot of the material is for more advanced learners, quite a bit of it could easily be adapted for intermediate level learners.

The focus is on business case studies. Categorized by topic, each case study focuses on one aspect of business such as communication, morale, ethics, and so on. Within the teaching resources, there are PowerPoint presentations, word searches, crossword puzzles, readings, listenings, and more. All of the case studies are centred around a UK or international business and uses authentic material to support its case. Unbelievably, all of this is free to use and is constantly updated.

For anyone teaching business English, this is a solid resource.

Have you used The Times 100 in your business English class? How did it work out? Did you have to adapt the material?