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Presented by Travis Landers April 2014


ES0L Student

Mock Assessment

a Case Study Korean of aESOLSouthLearner


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Initial Assessment


Presented by Travis Landers April 2014





Step 1 Step 1 Step 2

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Introduction Initial Assessment Initial Assessment: In-Depth Solutions Sources

This case study was prepared for ESOL 883: Assessment and Appraisal. Travis Landers is pursuing a graduate degree in education with a focus on ESOL learners. This report was part of that process.





MEET TONY ( A Korean kid living in Korean Society. Tony lives in Daegu, South Korea. His city is the third biggest city in Korea but the competition to learn English is just as fierce as anywhere else in his country. To understand that competition, you have to know a little about Korean culture and history. Korea's economy rapidly grew from the 1960s to the 1980s through labor-intensive manufactured exports. Having little natural resources of their own, exports made sense. Today they enjoy being the fastest growing economy since 1960 despite a huge financial crisis in the late 90s. Their economy is still largely based on exports and that is why learning English is such a



huge asset to their country.1

Tony's Family.

Learning English has become a fiercely competitive endeavor because of their economy but also because of their culture.

Many Korean people keep to themselves and have a tight social circle that includes their family but not many outsiders. Perhaps for this reason, honoring the wishes of your parents is paramount. Tony might not like studying English but he will listen to his parents' wishes.

The popular English idiom "Keeping up with the Joneses"2 does a good job of explaining the situation. Korean people are constantly comparing themselves to their peers. Failing to maintain the same education standards as their peers is considered inferiority. Perhaps this is what originally gave rise to the private academy system in South Korea. Many students like Tony attend these after school academies to practice English amongst other subjects.

Tony's Academy Tony attends an academy where tests are given weekly. If he does not meet a certain score, he must stay after to practice the material further. This is known as retest. In reality, retest may be as little as 15 minutes extra work but to Tony this is a lifetime. Also, getting retest may carry some amount of shame from peers and his family.

[ 1,2 See Sources ]


More than just grammar rules and vocabulary. With the complex scenerios being played out at home, throughout the country's society, and within their global economy, English language acquisition in South Korea has a lot of hidden agendas. This is not to say it is an evil endeavor, although some parents have and do push their students too hard. For the most part, though, students are not being asked to do anything they can't or don't want to do. They desire to fit in just as much as their parents and are eager to learn under the right circumstances. Tony is a typical boy in South Korea. He wants to make his parents proud. His parents' ambitions for him are founded on the knowledge that English could help him get a better job in their global economy. They too want to fit in but being parents, it is probably more a desire for Tony to have a bright future. Tony doesn't mind his English academy but it is easy to get negative because of the pressures of retest and complaining of his peers. Also, he must play by the rules of the academy, meaning what is best in that system might not be best for him.

Almost ready. With this cultural and situational setting in mind let's dive into our assessment of Tony and try to help him become a better English speaker. Throughout this process we must keep these things in mind. Some issues are within our control and other factors we can not control. Dealing with these outside forces will be difficult but must be considered if we are to help Tony. Motivating him to be a great learner will take the right mixture of compassion, understanding, and discipline.

Caveats. Please keep in mind while reading this report that this is not meant to be a slam against Korea or its practices. This example is one of many different scenerios. Some children do perfectly fine in this system. However, the example in this paper is a situation that does occur from time to time. It is not the best situation but we can learn from it.






Intial Assessment A base assessment is needed to understand where Tony is and where he is going. Right now he is in a class that is stretching the limits of his abilities. Perhaps it is too difficult for him at this time.

As an English learner Tony seems to have trouble with these concepts the most.



Group Reading

During group reading it was observed that Tony has problems with many common letter combinations and basic vowel sounds.

Common Korean Learner Issues

Like many Korean learners I teach, Tony seems to have difficulties with the F/V, L/TH, vowel sounds, and other common letter combinations.




Open Discussion

During open discussion, Tony seems very shy. He never raises his hand. When called upon, although he answers, it often takes him a very long time . It appears he is worried about making mistakes in front of others.


It would be great to get him to a point where he would voluntarily answer questions.

Common Grammar Structures


Tony doesn't seem to have a grasp on any of the basic verbs to express himself or his feelings. This includes the BE verb.

Other Concepts

Tony also needs to learn to use common structures such as want, like, and gerunds with less errors.

IS Tony in the wrong class?


A bigger Problem The issues on the previous page seem common to many lower level language learners. It appears Tony is progressing normally except for one very important fact:

Tony is supposed to be an intermediate learner like the rest of his intermediate classmates. While they read circles around him and easily shrug off the teachers questions, he struggles to get a word out. Possibly, Tony has become a victim of the pressures of culture, family, and the academy's system. Even if this is not the case, he should be in a class with easier content.

Connecting and Speculation In Tony's academy, there are different levels for learning English. What most likely happened was Tony spent a long time in the previous level and it was decided he should try the next level. The reality was that he wasn't really ready for the next level. There are a few reasons why this could have happened such as: • The teachers just made a bad decision. • His mother wanted him to try the next level. • He wanted to try the next level. Family

I don't wish to paint a terrible picture of English academies in South Korea because it is not always like this but in this instance Tony's best interests were probably not taken into account. His mother, perhaps out of pressures to "fit in" to society's norm, asked that he be leveled up. It seems Tony's peers had leveled up long ago and now Tony was the last to do so. The teachers in charge of the decision hopefully advised the mother against such actions but at an academy she is a paying customer. Thus, Tony is now in a class beyond his level with the problems listed to the left amongst other problems to deal with.



As mentioned before, some things are within our control and others are not. Let's look a little closer at Tony's issues.


Initial Assessment 01

A base to work from...




Initial Assessment 01

An in-depth look....



What are the obstacles and Why? Here are all the issues Tony is having. Let's examine why they are important and why they may be happening.

Pronunciation & Confidence


These two issues seem to go hand-in-hand. There are many features to proper pronunciation such as intontation, word stress, and linking.3 However, Tony is not up to these advanced features yet. He needs to work on basic vowel and consonant sounds if for nothing more than to boost his confidence. "Limited pronunciation skills can decrease learners’ self-confidence, restrict social interactions, and negatively affect estimations of a speaker’s credibility and abilities."3 Obviously, Tony gets little practice outside our classroom because he lives in Korea and his family speaks Korean. He comes to class only 3 times a week. Therefore, poor prononuciation is expected but not to the degree he exhibits it. His poor pronunciation could be caused by being rushed through the topic when he was younger. Perhaps his mother felt a bit embarrassed by this and it was overlooked to maintain a positive image. Another scenerio is that his teachers chose to overlook it in order to avoid offending his family. Whatever the case, he most likely has some knowledge that he is behind others and he is self-conscious of it.


2nd Language




Roseberry-McKibbin stated that there are "normal processes of second language acquisition [that] ... need to be recognized as normal behaviors for students who are not yet proficient in English".4 Tony exhibits many characteristics that are common amongst all second-language learners and therefore these should not be confused as signs of special needs or a lack of intelligence. However, perhaps by recognizing them we can help speed the process along.


It should be noted that all second-language learners go through a silent period when they are intitially exposed to the new language. Perhaps Tony is exhibiting a longer more significant time in this phase. This would help explain why he is not participating very much in class.

An In-Depth Look



There are many differences in how Korean and English categorize or refer to things. For example, Korean handles colors by saying "red color", "blue color" as one [ 3,4,5 See Sources ]


word where as in English we just say "red". More importantly, the Korean language orders their sentences differently, placing the verb at the end of the sentence. Tony doesn't seem to understand many of these differences or perhaps he is still coming to grips with the major ones. He seems to still be struggling to relate English to his own language. Perhaps this is because he was introduced to concepts at a faster pace than he was ready for, a result of being moved into a higher class too quickly.

Vocabulary, Comprehension, & Other VOCABULARY

Tony's vocabulary is very limited and the material of his current class has some very tough words. From tests, it appears he struggles to pick up most of these new words. Why?


There are several reasons this might be happening. As stated before Tony is most likely in a class that is too difficult for him but what other things could contribute to this?


Where as other kids are able to at least give one word responses to the teacher's questions, Tony seems to freeze up. Even when speech is very slow he seems to have difficulties.


For one or perhaps all the reasons already mentioned, Tony's comprehension of stories and other reading material seems very low.


Tony's interest in the material seems to come and go. Sometimes he looks like he is really listening and other times he seems to be zoned out. Getting his full attention would certainly help him learn faster. These are kind of broad categories . There are many contributing factors for why Tony is performing the way he is in these areas. However, I can list a few specific reasons Tony may have problems in the areas above. Below are contributing factors to Tony's poor performance.

Other Contributing Factors The complexities of human life make assessment an involved research puzzle.


In addition to other comments previously made about family, socio-economic status needs to be considered. On so many levels this can affect a student's behavior, yet it should be stated that there is no reason why a student could not break these somewhat stereotypical views. According to the model proposed by Swell and Shah (1967), parents’ background will affect grades positively because higher-educated parents will place more emphasis on academic achievement and create home situations that are conducive to study and concentration.6 This makes sense on multiple levels. In a study conducted by Wu (2013), proficient learners generally had family members tutoring them and made better use of vocabulary learning strategies.6 Perhaps Tony does not have anyone helping him which would explain his lower vocabulary. In addition, those with a higher socio-economic standing would also be surrounded [ 6 See Sources ]


Other Contributing Factors (cont'd) The complexities of human life make assessment an involved research puzzle.

by other community members of equal status. They would most likely live in the same areas so students from higher socio-economic groups would benefit from interactions with neighbors and friends of their community. It could be the case that Tony's socioeconomic standing is lower than the other kids in his class and therefore he does not benefit from the same mentoring they get. Finally, I have found that many parents in South Korea really want their children to learn English but they themselves do not speak English. This somewhat hypocritical behavior helps to explain why Tony's interest level is low. Perhaps he would be highly motivated if learning English was more of a shared activity in his family. Again, he may just lack a proper role model from family or community members.

Academy Some of the details of Tony's English learning environment have been described already but let's recap. All children take English at their primary school in South Korea. In addition, Tony takes extra courses at his private academy. He goes to his academy two times a week and studies for about 2.5 hours. This and his homework are his only opportunities to be exposed to English unless he takes initiative to do some kind of extra activity. I say "only" but really this is a lot of opportunity so why is he struggling when some others are doing much better? I find some students discover ways to "game" their homework so that they are not really learning but merely finishing the task. At this point it becomes a vicious cycle that feeds itself. Too much work forces Tony to struggle just to complete things. Later, he falls behind because he is not really learning just going through the motions of completing tasks. He gets bad marks. This causes his interest level and confidence to fall. Things continue to get worse and the circle repeats. This could explain a ton of problems he has. In Tony's case, perhaps he is forced to "game" his homework because the workload is too much and he just doesn't know of another way to get it done. Compound this with a family that is not really sure how to help him but insists he study. A disasterous picture begins to develop and it is no wonder Tony is having trouble. This would affect everything from his interest level to the most minute problems he is having with English. However, there's more. Tony's low interest level could also be in part, because of the setup of his academy. Since Tony's academy gives retest(a 20-40 minute extra exercise when tests are failed), he may only see his options as getting a punishment or not getting a punishment. This really is not a very positive motivational structure.

An In-Depth Look


Oddly enough, there is a shining example of a situation similar to Tony's. In the movie, Office Space, Peter Gibbons is having trouble at his company, Initech. He is not motivated and is interviewed about it by the two Bobs who are consultants deciding which empoloyees they will fire. Here is what is said: Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care. Bob Porter: Don't... don't care? Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my butt off


and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now. Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon? Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses. Bob Slydell: Eight? Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

It would seem Tony, like Peter, could be just working hard enough to not get into trouble. Perhaps his only motivation is to not get hassled by his family, classmates, and teachers. This is hardly what learning should be. No one should be in fear to study but all the circumstances could have Tony feeling this way.

CALP & Special Needs Tony's cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) in his native language, Korean, could be a final consideration for contributing to Tony's struggles. According to many ESL researchers, students must have a solid base in their own language to be successful in understanding ideas in L2.5 What has Tony learned in Korean academically? If he has not covered how the Earth's seasons change and its relationship to the sun, for example, then he will probably struggle to grasp the same concept in English for the first time. His current class presents some pretty advanced ideas at times. Knowing more about CALP could also help determine if there is possibly a learning disability that might be in play. Therefore, using an assessment tool to capture some information about CALP would be very beneficial.

A lot to consider

What's next?

With all of this in mind, let's now try to connect some solutions to Tony's obstacles.


Step 2 - Solutions Thoughtful ways to tackle Tony's obstacles

[ 7,5 See Sources ]






Solutions to Tony's obstacles require a three-pronged attack because he is strongly affected by his academy, family, and the English language. In the backdrop, we have Korean culture playing its role. Juggling everything is not easy. Academy


Cult ure


Although we know a lot about Tony's situation, our intial assessment also uncovered many more questions we should try to answer. Thus, we will include further assessment ideas. As stated before, there are some things we can control and some things we cannot. Our solutions will be proposed but given the nature of culture and business, perhaps these things cannot be changed in reality. For this reason, some of our solutions are perfect world suggestions. The issue of whether or not the solutions would actually be feasible will be discussed when appropriate. Given normal behavior, some solutions may be more feasible than others.




Overall, Tony needs more assessment. To truly help him, we need to uncover if his problems are cultural as suggested before, pressures from his family, pressures from society, or just the English language itself.

In reality it is most likely a mix of all of these things. Trying to address all the problems fairly will be a huge undertaking. We will need more information to make the best decisions we can. Rhodes, Ochoa, and Ortiz note:


The use of both formal and informal [assessment] methods allows for different aspects of language skills to be assessed... Many formal measures examine students' language abilities by focusing on surface components that include one or more of the following linguistic components: phonology, morphology, syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. Informal measures examine how language is used in real-life situations...5 We would focus on the following to get more information:

Data to be Collected

Method of Collecting It

Family Background Information Tony's Thoughts / Feelings Previous Teachers' Thoughts Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) Overall Language Proficiency Overall Language Proficiency

Informal Interview Informal Interview Informal Interview Woodcock-Mu単oz Language SurveyRevised (WMLS-R) Short Questionaire Academy's Test Again

Justification Informal Interviews It is obvious that there is potential for some strong family issues in this case. Therefore, interviewing Tony, his family, and his previous teachers would help understand things a bit more. Considering what we know about Korean culture, this is probably the most important information we could collect and possibly the most worthwhile task that could help Tony. Plus we have to keep in mind that Tony may have a learning disability so these interviews may help in determining that. Interviewing these people would be an extremely delicate process but would be the best practice in this scenerio. The key would be to have a structured interview format, to be prepared for sensitive questions, and have an interpreter with suitable experience as noted by Rhodes, Ochoa, and Ortiz.5 Getting all of this organized would be a task but well worth it in the end. Rhodes, Ochoa, and Ortiz note: A structured format, in addition to serving as a tool for addressing difficult topics..., allows practitioners to follow a logical sequence during the interview, enables individuals providing interpretation services to preview the interview format and anticipate upcoming questions, and ensures that important topics and areas of inquiry are not overlooked.5

Let's find out


[ 5 See Sources ]





Formal Testing We can not yet rule out a learning disability in this case. For this reason, I would propose further testing. More testing will also help justify Tony switching classes if that is decided to be necessary. First, retaking the academy's level test would be in order to see if a lower level course can be proposed. Since Tony is so quiet, I would also administer a second short third-party questionaire to gain further knowledge about his abilities. Finally, administering the Woodcock-Mu単oz Language Survey-Revised (WMLS-R), could allow us to rule out a learning disability and give us a chance to examine Tony's CALP independent of grammar. As Esquinca, Yaden, and Rueda note: ...most language proficiency tests limit the construction of language proficiency to grammatical competence.8 The WMLS-R avoids grammatical structures to try and give a pure score of intelligence. These tests together, should allow us to better decide if this is a learning disablity or other issues.



It is obvious that Tony is drowning in class. He barely gets answers out. The other students buzz by him answering 2-3 questions in the time it takes him to answer one. He is also visibly uncomfortable reading in a group setting.

As much as Tony is struggling in class he could really benefit from some one-on-one time. In the class he is currently in, this is not possible. Hopefully switching classes would be possible but perhaps it is not an option. In a perfect world I would suggest working with him in a lower level at his academy, in a smaller group of students, and with the following things in mind:


Issues to Address Pronunciation Grammar Interest Confidence Comprehension

Considering that Tony is already overwhelmed, overloading him with extra activities to address these issues would not help. We need to help him deal with his daily life. We need to make him a more efficient student so he can relax a bit. Therefore, most of the strain would fall upon the teacher to include exercises that not only relate to his current coursework and the issues to the left but do so in a way that teaches Tony to be a more effective learner. Helping him to strengthen the areas outlined to the left, might allow him to enjoy the learning process more and have more confidence.

What activities can [14]

help? [ 8 See Sources ]

Activities to promote Improvement Practice Practice Practice Since Tony is so timid, perhaps he just needs to get more confidence through practice. However, I believe he really needs some one-on-one time. We could practice reading aloud together doing shorter segments of our stories to boost his self-esteem and pronunciation. While reading I would introduce mini breakout sessions for pronunciation to help with some of the letter combinations he struggles on.

Other Ideas There are many ideas we could try but I would like to mention one idea which encompasses all of what we are looking for. From here a sense of the direction other activities would take can be assumed. Dialogue journals are one concept that seem to lend to this student's needs. Holmes and Moulton explain: Unlike personal journals, which involve private written communication‌ dialogue journals involve participants, typically the teacher and a student, exchanging information in writing. These unedited, uncorrected dialogues usually extend over an entire semester or year of instruction‌9 Dialogue journals present a chance to introduce a way for Tony to ask questions about his current material. This shouldn't add too much extra strain on him. Tony would benefit in other ways too. According to Holmes and Moulton: researchers concluded that dialogue journals provide the following conditions for learning: interaction rather than form, enhancement of reading skills, modeling of correct grammatical structures, and interaction in a private, nonthreatening way.9 Again the idea here is to help Tony accomplish his daily tasks but also slowly gain his interest and in the background build up the grammar, vocabulary, etc.




Most likely we can not change Tony's academy. Even if certain curriculum seems inappropriate for him, we need to try to suggest ways to work around these shortcomings. Certainly a big part of dealing with the academy besides the class Tony is in, is the tests. We need to help Tony deal with these tests so he will not get retest and can gain self-esteem.

The first step would be to see how Tony is studying. The academy uses many different styles of tests but many are primarily vocabulary based. Perhaps we could suggest study strategies to help Tony be more efficient at learning new vocabulary. There is a lot of research in this area. For example, Stevick mentions: Research suggests that words are stored and remembered in a network association. These associations can be of many types. One memory device called paired associate, links two words of similar sounds and meanings. This has proved effective.10 Making him a better learner by introducing techniques like this would be on the forefront of my approach.


[ 9,10 See Sources ]




[+] amily

It can not be stressed again how important this factor is in a Korean person's life. Through the various interviews we would hope to get everyone on the same positive note. Explaining this situation might be viewed as shameful so it would be of utmost importance to council the family in a very precautious manner.

Depending on the situation, perhaps a plea could be made to get someone in the family more involved in Tony's learning by helping him study. Another approach could be to bring in an outside mentor from the community. Perhaps they could show how English or learning in general has helped in their life. This might get him more interested. Creating further support for Tony and conveying the idea that there is nothing to be ashamed of would be the top priorities.

closing thoughts There is no doubt Tony and his teacher have a lot of work ahead of them. Also, the assessment is not over. It is a continuous activity that needs to be revisited to adjust goals and activities. Still, things are headed in the direction. Many of Tony's issues have come to light, there is a plan to look a bit further, and already solutions are being presented to make Tony a better more interested learner. Hopefully you have learned from this case study and can help students like Tony reach their goals.


S ources 1. 2. 3.

“199 7 A s i a n F i n a n c i a l C r i s i s . ” w i k i p e d i a . n d . n p. We b . 2 2 A p r. 2 0 1 4 .


Rose b e r r y - M c K i b bi n , C . ( 2 0 0 2 ) . M u l t i c u l t u r a l stu d e n t s w i t h s p e c i a l l a n g u a g e n e e d s ( 2 n d e d .). O c e a n s i d e , C A : A c a d e m i c C o m m u n i c a t i o n Asso ciates. (p.193)

“Kee p i n g u p w i t h t h e J o n e s e s . ” w i k i p e d i a . n d . np. We b . 2 2 A p r. 2 0 1 4 .

Abba s P o u r h o s e i n G i l a k j a n i . “ A S t u d y o f F a c t o rs Af f e c t i n g E F L L e a r n e r s ' E n g l i s h P r o n u n c i a t i on L e a r n i n g a n d t h e S t r a t e g i e s f o r I n s t r u c t i o n.” In t e r n a t i o n a l J o u r n a l o f H u m a n i t i e s a n d S o c ial S c i e n c e . Vo l . 2 N o . 3 ( 2 0 1 2 ) : 11 9 - 1 2 8 . Web


Rhod e s , R o b e r t L . , S a l v a d o r H e c t o r O c h o a , a n d Sa m u e l O . O r t i z . A s s e s s i n g C u l t u r a l l y a n d L ingu i s t i c a l l y D i v e r s e S t u d e n t s. N e w Yo r k : T h e Guil ford Press, 2005. (p.73-75,140,138,106)


Lin-F a n g Wu . “ A S t u d y o f F a c t o r s A ff e c t i n g C ollege S t u d e n t s ’ U s e o f E S L Vo c a b u l a r y L e a r n i n g S t r a t e g i e s ” I nt e r n a t i o n a l J o u r n a l o f H u m a nities a n d S o c i a l S c i e n c e . Vo l . 3 N o . 1 9 ( 2 0 1 3 ) : 2031 2 8 . We b .


Offic e S p a c e . D i r. M i k e J u d g e . P e r f . R o n L i v i ngs t o n , J e n n i f e r A n i s t o n , D a v i d H e r m a n . 2 0 t h Century Fox, 1999. Film.


“Cur r e n t L a n g u a g e P r o f i c i e n c y Te s t s a n d T h e i r Im p l i c a t i o n s f o r P r e s c h o o l E n g l i s h L a n g u a g e Learn e r s . ” l i n g r e f . E s q u i n c a , A l b e r t o , D a v i d Yaden, a n d R o b e r t R u e d a , 2 0 0 5 . We b . 2 2 A p r. 2 0 14.


Holm e s , Vi c k i L . , M a rg a r e t R . M o u l t o n . “ D i a l o gue j o u r n a l s a s a n E S L l e a r n i n g s t r a t e g y ” J o u r nal o f A d o l e s c e n t & A d u l t L i t e r a c y. Vo l . 4 0 N o. 8 ( 1 9 9 7 ) : 6 1 6 . We b .


Stevi c k , E . ( 1 9 7 6 ) . M e m o r y, m e a n i n g a n d m e t h od. Newbury House


ESoL Student Mock Assessment / case study

This case stu d y w a s prep ared for ESOL 8 8 3 : As s e s s m e n t a n d Ap p r a i sal

Travis Lande r s i s p u r s u i n g a graduate deg r e e i n e d u c a t i o n with a focus o n E S O L l e a r n e rs . This report w a s p a r t o f t h a t process. Presented by Travis Landers April 2014 JANUARY | FLEXIBLE MAGAZIN | WWW.FLEXIBLEMAGAZIN.COM

Mock ESL Student Assessment  

Used as practice to demonstrate graduate level assessment tools with ESL learners.