CELTA & CertTESOL assessment criteria – How can I make the most of them?

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Assessed tasks such as course assignments, teaching practice observations and moderated interviews are part and parcel of all initial training courses such as the CELTA and CertTESOL. However, the ways in which assessment is carried out may differ depending on the course and even the center where the course is held.

Trinity College London in particular encourages course providers to grade assessed work according to the type of course which runs at specific centres, via clear and objective grading criteria; lists of the key elements of an assessed piece of work which can be evaluated to show trainee performance during the course.

What are assessment criteria?

Assessment criteria (otherwise known as grading criteria) are lists of outcomes which you will demonstrate during your time working on the different assignments you are given, broken down into key areas which define the effectiveness of your work. Criteria are often presented as lists of these key features, along with qualitative descriptors of how well you have performed in that area.

Here is an example of some criteria and descriptors from a teaching practice lesson, for example, might look like the following:

Descriptors

Criterion Strong Pass – A Pass – B Weak pass – C

Fail

Managing tasks and activities Instructions clear, relevant and graded Instructions mostly clear and well-graded Some instructions clear but not well graded few clear instructions given
all instructions presented and checked before handing out materials most instructions checked before handing out materials some teaching material distributed before instructed no consideration of instruction routine
All time limits set clearly Most time limits realistic and clear Some time limits set clearly Timing of tasks not considered

Every assignment given to you on the course should be accompanied by grading criteria of some sort, and these are useful to get to know inside out, as they tell you the most important features for success (or otherwise!) of your work.

Why are they important to trainee teachers?

Before you start working on an assessed piece of work, look through the grading criteria you are given and check that you understand what you are being asked to do.

If something is unclear, or hasn’t been directly covered by your tutor when they introduced the assignment to you, go back to them and check – valuable grade points can be lost by overlooking key aspects of your work.

In general, written assignment criteria will stretch to a maximum of a page, and show you what you need to achieve for each section of the assignment. Aim for the highest level of descriptor in each criterion, and you will achieve highly in your assessed tasks.

For the important and heavily-weighted teaching practice component of initial training courses, it is likely that the grading criteria will be longer and more detailed, as there are many different aspects of planning, teaching and learning which must be assessed by tutors as you teach and your students (hopefully) learn in your classes.

Be aware that your performance in teaching practice is likely to go up and down in terms of specific criteria, as things happen in every lesson which affect the outcomes of different aspects of your teaching. As you focus on different parts of your delivery, different specific skills and actions will be more or less effective as a result.

How can I use grading criteria to help me succeed?

Grading criteria can be used as a developmental tool for you to track your progress in different areas of the course. Some centres use them to give you feedback on draft submissions of assignments.

If so, you are lucky, as you can get focused information about what to improve on your final submission, helping you to succeed in every area of your assessed work. If you don’t get specific, criteria-based feedback on your draft assignments, there is no reason why you cannot ask your tutor to go through the criteria and tell you which specific areas to improve to bring your final work up to scratch.

Make a copy and take it to the tutor for them to show you where to focus on your revisions. 

For teaching practice, post-lesson feedback on any initial training course should include a specific, criteria-baed assessment of every lesson. Think about what you did in each class in terms of routines and language that you used, and the way that you led tasks and activities.

If the criteria show that this was successful, don’t change a thing! However, if specific areas of your teaching show a dip in grades, think about how you can plan to improve these areas.

In your next lesson plan, make a specific note of how you will improve each of the ‘could do better’ criteria, and work your way up to higher levels of performance.

Grading criteria are designed as a tool for both trainers and trainees, so everything that you do on the course should relate to the skills shown on this important resource. Keep the criteria with you when you are working on assignments, and your performance will be more focused and of a higher quality across the board.

This article was originally published in Nov-2020 and was last updated in Nov-2020.

Author: Tom Garside

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