Ogopogo is the name of the moster that lives in Lake Okanagan beside Kelowna. But don't worry . . . I didn't see him (or her) while I was in Kelowna. I guess I spent too much time at the college. I got to visit Okanagan College on Friday to talk about ESL programs, and how our EAP program at the University of Calgary compares to their ESL program at Okanagan College. It was really interesting to visit another institution and talk about what is going well for us, as well as some of the pitfalls. Right now, Okanagan College is evaluating their ESL program, and they asked my PhD supervisor to go to their college and chat about what they are doing. I was lucky enough to get invited along by my supervisor so that I could sit in on the meetings.
The part that was the most interesting for me was the discussion about the validity of ESL programs, and how to establish that validity. By validity, I mean, are we really doing what we are saying we are doing. In my case, that means, is the EAP program at the University of Calgary really preparing students for undergraduate studies and raising students English to a level high enough so that their relative problems with English won't be the cause of failure in University. Does success in the EAP program mean that students are likely to be successful at University?
I guess if we want to know that, first of all we need to know that what we are teaching and what we are testing are the same things, and that they are all relevant to the academic English language proficiency needed for undergraduate studies. Are the appropriate language, concepts and strategies being covered in the EAP program? The curriculum would need to be checked against the final exams.
Next, it would be good to check what we are doing with another accepted method of assessing language ability. That would mean carrying out a study in which students who graduate from the EAP program take another accepted test and we compare those marks to our marks. That could mean seeing if students who pass the EAP program also pass a TOEFL test, or the like.
After that, it would be nice to know what is happening to our students once they get to university. We could do that by checking on their GPA's one year, three years, and upon graduation and comparing those scores to their exit scores from the EAP program.
If we did all that, I think we could be fairly confident is saying that yes, the EAP program is preparing students well for university (that is if all the results are positive).
Anyway, those are the kind of things we were talking about in Kelowna. Fun stuff!