1. Donna Bain Butler

    re: What if we can……have a twenty minute conversation each… instead of a TOEFL score?

    I agree with you, Shyam, and have addressed the issue of TOEFL in my book.

    Having a sense of incoming students’ oral language proficiency would help, but is it enough? What about written language proficiency? As a population, international graduate students are not monolithic.

    Donna Bain Butler
    FORWARD by Suresh Canagarajah

    • Thank you, Donna! I am sorry that I didn’t notice this comment until now, but this also reminds me to order the book (too busy summer). I don’t think it is enough to just know how well a student can speak or write, especially when speaking and writing themselves serve so many different functions and students struggle/succeed in spite of these skills quite often — even when these needs are addressed (or not) as they are today. TOEFL’s validity is crapshoot class A. The diversity of international students is so complicated that I find it shocking that even the savviest writing/language scholars not address that elephant in the room.

  2. Matthew Van Someren

    Great post! Too bad more data doesn’t exist showing success rates of students who have gone through pre-credit English programs vs. those entering degree programs based solely on a TOEFL score. Unfortunately, speaking on their terms, (neoliberal, capitalist) and putting this into perspective monetarily is a necessary evil. Showing the difference in tuition payments between a successful graduate and an unsuccessful student who dropped out after 1 or 2 semesters is what gets their attention- if they haven’t already pressured professors to inflate grades, that is. This post also touches on the foundation of educational assessment: the test or the essay, both of which do less to prove that any learning has occurred than they do to show the regurgitation of facts or the parroting of someone else’s words. Projects that show what students can DO with what they have learned are far and few between, difficult to organize, administer, and validly assess, and don’t fit in with the simple minded bean counters view of the world in that these projects are holistic, subjective, abstract, and qualitative. As this question can be laid at the feet of the corporatized test makers, it is also a reflection of our own practices as we revert to and give weight to the discrete or paraphrased in an attempt to make up for our lack of any sense of what authentic assessment looks like in practice.

    • Wow, Matthew, This is such a thoughtful and inspiring comment. I am sorry that I didn’t notice until I was deleting spam today (need to set alerts better). I wholeheartedly agree with you about the “bean counter view of the world” that undergirds standardized testing, especially when it comes to the very diverse demographics of international students and the very complex abilities and challenges that they bring into higher ed, even if we simply focus on language proficiency. Thanks again.

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