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Arzu - a detailed analysis
of a language learner
by Kendall Peet
- 5

Rationale for the method of assessment

The following assessment of Arzu’s learning needs is more extensive than would normally be practical in the classroom teaching environment. The extensive nature of assessment carried out was the result of a sincere interest in furthering my understanding of learner assessment.

It is also important to note that I have a long history with this student and so for this reason informal assessment weighs more heavily than would be possible in other circumstances where the teacher has less or potentially no contact with the learner in question.

Analysis of Arzu’s learning needs was derived from the following sources:

  • Learner self-evaluation: Diagnostic questionnaire

  • Informal interview

  • Learning style tests

  • Pre-intermediate Cutting Edge Progress Tests: discrete item testing

  • IH End-of-level Summative Pre-intermediate Test: an integrative test administered under test conditions

  • Diagnostic/placement tests : discrete item testing administered formally

  • Paul Nation’s GSL List

  • Written work

  • Tapescripts

  • Informal assessment: classroom observation and homework

Grammatical needs

Arzu’s grammatical needs were assessed both formally and informally and are derived from the Cutting Edge (take home) Progress Tests , the IH Summative Pre-intermediate Test, from two diagnostic/ placement (discrete) tests, and from the writing and speaking samples provided. For the diagnostic tests, I had Arzu circle any unknown words in the test to enable greater accuracy in isolating potential areas of weakness in regard to grammar and lexis.(21) Interestingly, the IH Placement Test, based on the Cutting Edge syllabus, placed Arzu in early intermediate, whilst the Reward Placement Test identified her as early upper-intermediate, which shows that the levels associated with different text are not consistent.

Lexical needs

To assess Arzu’s lexical needs, I used an approach recommended by Beglar and Hunt(22), who advise using the GSL (General Service List) as a check list.(23) This approach was attractive to me because a sound knowledge of the word families in the GSL provides an excellent platform from which to achieve oral fluency; it also enables a learner to understand nine out of ten words in most written texts,(24) which is important when viewed in light of comments made by Liu and Nation, who indicate that a 95% coverage of any given text is required if students are to guess new words from context.(25) A productive knowledge of what Thornbury refers as the core vocabulary(25) is therefore a very important step along the road to learner autonomy.

Arzu’s grammatical/lexical needs will be discussed within each skill area in the following section.

21. An overview of the results will be included within the Strengths and weaknesses section.
22. Beglar, D. & Hunt, A. January, 1998. For more information of checklist tests see Read (1988); Meara, (1992), (1996).
23. The GSL was first formulated by West in 1953 and has since been revised by Nation. It lists the 2000 most frequently used words in the English language; the same number of words native speakers use in daily conversation.
24. Thornbury, S. 2002. p. 21
25. Liu and Nation. 1985.
26. Thornbury, S. 2002. It is of interest to note that the most frequent 100 words in English make up almost 50 percent of most texts.

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