Formative Assessment of Speaking Skills

With language laboratory software, any legitimate person can see grades and play back daily conversations with teachers or foreigners proving students' level of competence. This begs the question: Why do we need summative speaking tests? A source of dread for generations of language teachers and students, speaking tests are an anachronistic, unnecessary form of institutionalised torture. To overcome the ever growing global crises, we need peaople who can work together on a global platform. This will not happen if they do not understand each others' languages and cultures. The world needs foreign language learners in their droves. In what way will the prospect of torture encourage them in their studies?

Setting up a Virtual Language School or Faculty

The latest version of the Schoolshape Language Laboratory is ideal for anyone wanting to set up their own language school or virtual languages classroom for their school. Teacher and student administration is a breeze, and you can now create a multimedia resource and assign it as a task for your students within a couple of minutes. You can also differentiate between groups or individuals, thus giving your students and their parents a strong feeling that you are attending to their individual needs. Free trials are available until September at

Speaking: a simple solution to online ‘cheating’:

When an average student regularly gets 100% on tests and quizzes or you have Spanish 1 students using the subjunctive, it becomes obvious that there is ‘cheating’ going on. The two most obvious examples of ‘cheating’ are using google translate or getting help from a parent or friend. The solution to this is to insist on a speaking element in every assignment, and base your assessment primarily on that. Scores for quizzes, comprehensions, and freeform writing are automatically calculated by your language laboratory, so you can focus your attention on the most important thing …. your students’ ability to speak in the target language. If they have someone to help them at home or abroad, take the opportunity to assign them dialogues and conversations on subjects that interest them.

Time for Reassessment?

Language students in their thousands will no doubt be delighted to hear that their test has been cancelled this year, courtesy of Covid-19. The level of a student's foreign language acumen has long been assessed by means of a daunting summative speaking test. The reason for their glee is obvious: the tests are a mild form of torture, carefully designed to weaken the resolve of any student foolhardy enough to contemplate enrolling on a foreign language course. The ordeal tends to be a series of rather wooden exercises, such as a monologue learnt verbatim by the student and a phony role-play exercise. Typically, after a sleepless night of worry, the quivering candidate is required to attend an alienating examination room strewn with the serpentine paraphernalia of a recording studio. The torture is not confined to the student. The presiding teacher, examiner or proctor is under considerable pressure. He must satisfy the requirements of the awarding body. If he fails, there will be dire consequences, not excluding deep shame.

Seamless Switch between Class and Homeworking

There has been much talk on the social networks about the educational problems caused by the Coronavirus. A major one has been the sudden switch from school to home working. Schoolshape teachers, students and parents have been able to continue performing, monitoring, and assessing their language learning tasks seamlessly and with very little fuss. This has put very little strain on the Support department!