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1 A portfolio-based assessment system for introductory linguistics Adopt-a-word is a means to create a coherent theme in an otherwise disjointed introductory.

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Presentation on theme: "1 A portfolio-based assessment system for introductory linguistics Adopt-a-word is a means to create a coherent theme in an otherwise disjointed introductory."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 A portfolio-based assessment system for introductory linguistics Adopt-a-word is a means to create a coherent theme in an otherwise disjointed introductory course involve beginning students in active and original research integrate academic skills learning in a linguistics course

2 2 These goals are achieved by focussing the course at the word level: Most areas of linguistics can be approached from a lexical perspective: grammar (part of speech, basic constituency), morphology, semantics, sociolinguistics, phonology, language change… Students are often attracted to linguistics by an interest in wordsthey provide a concrete and familiar basis for introducing new and more abstract concepts.

3 3 Adopt-a-word Each student (or group of students) chooses/is assigned a word in week 1 Lectures introduce new concepts/new issues for investigation For discussion in small group, students explore aspects of their word wrt the lecture topic; particular students/groups are assigned to present their research relevant to the topic. Students are assessed by portfolio of their research on that word.

4 4 The Assignments The students are supplied with a selection of possible assignments (see below and attached). They choose which ones they will complete, subject to some restrictions. The assignments ask the student to explore some [set of] linguistic concept[s], illustrating it with information about their particular word. They submit a 1000-1500-word report on a set number of these assignments on regular due dates (we required 3, but allowed 4). These are given feedback and informal grades. At the end of/after the term, students submit for formal assessment a portfolio of their work.

5 5 Holistically-marked portfolio can include a <1 page introduction to the portfolio a set number of assignments on the word. The student may include: –ones theyve submitted before, either revised (with the original w/ feedback attached) or unrevised (with feedback attached) –new assignments (if they werent happy with the earlier ones) the feedback sheet from their formal presentation an attendance sheet, extra credit activities, quiz results, or evidence of other activities that indicate participation and success in the course

6 6 The wordsin a small class Range of words provided for students to pick from Students are allowed to propose own word Cannot change words after week 2 Any particular word will not be suited to all assignments, but each should have some interesting aspects (polysemy, etymology, social restrictions, etc.) Only one student per class can adopt any particular word

7 7 …or in a larger class Students assigned to small groups of ~3. Word is assigned to the group by instructor. Set number of the reports and any presentations are prepared as group work; other reports are prepared individually. Lesson weve learned: take care not to give insulting words in this situation, as groups will inevitably be referred to by their word, e.g., The Dumb Group, etc.

8 8 Do-able and Un-do-able words Ideally, should have 3-7 senses in a standard dict Range of words for class should pick up on a range of issuesi.e., not just words that have interesting histories The f word is disallowed on the basis that too much has been written on it Must have some dictionary presence Must be English (unless the instructor knows the other language sufficiently to assess the work) If it is a homonym, the student can make the choice as to which lexeme to concentrate on

9 9 Choosing your words Words we used this year: funky, geek, glamour, gothic, guy, hip, ironic, knock, pop, stuff, tattoo, waif (On our list for next year, more UK-specific words: bloke, naff) Suggestions to students for picking own word: –your name (if its also a word) –name of a group you identify with –something related to an interest of yours –a word limited to your own region/social group –a word that bothers you –Dont forget: nouns are not the only words!

10 10 Writing A-a-W assignments: do… Phrase the assignment in such a way as to require the student to use particular linguistic concepts and/or methodologies, but with enough leeway that the student can adjust the structure of the essay to suit their own word. Provide at least some assignments that are doable for all words (e.g., definition of word, polysemy, dictionary critique). Make sure that the range of assignments provides adequate choice no matter what the students word.

11 11 Give specific reading lists and requirements for number and type of sources for each assignment, ensuring that students use general (e.g., textbooks) as well as word- specific (e.g., dictionary) sources, thus integrating general learning with specific research. Communicate the relation of each assignment to the goals of the course. Keep the scope of the projects narrow enough to suit the word/time-limit.

12 12 Example 1: the question Prescriptivism v. description Do some people think that theres a right way and a wrong way to use this word (wrt meaning, grammar, or pronunciation)? Describe the differences between the actual usage and prescription. Consider, if you can: How did this prescription come to be and why does actual usage diverge from it? Whose prescription is it? What are the social consequences of following it or not? Has the prescription changed over the years? What is its current status?

13 13 Example 1: the requirements 1000-1500 word essayorganised as an essay and covering as many of the issues as you found answers for (can be shorter in unassessed version) At least three printed sources (textbooks, dicts, style guides) & one other source type Title; essay; references list; appendix with copies of any usage rules cited. If you cannot find a prescriptive controversy over this word, you should not submit this essay for assessment.

14 14 Example 1: the resources dictionaries with usage notes (e.g., New Oxford Dict of Eng, American Heritage Dict) style guides (Fowlers Modern English Usage (compare 1 st, 3 rd editions), Trasks Mind the Gap, The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and many others) websites: see Linguistics_and_Human_Languages/Languages/ Specific_Languages/English/Grammar_Usage_and_Style interview people with different perspectives on language asking them to reflect on the words use and their feelings about the prescription. This could be, e.g. teacher, a writer, a student; an expert and an amateur (in some jargon field); ingroup members and outgroup members (for a socio/dia-lect) collected examples of the word in use

15 15 Example 2: dictionary critique Introduced in lecture: types of dictionaries (historical, learner, desktop), parts of Ds, good defining practice Task: Compare/contrast two dictionaries entries for your word. The dictionaries should differ in one relevant way (size, audience, speciality, date of publication). How do the differences among them reflect the different types/goals of the dictionaries involved?

16 16 Qs for consideration: How much do they vary in the amount of info provided? Do they give an appropriate amount of info for the type of D? Do they cover the same range of senses (in the same or different ways)? Do they accurately describe how the word is used (in your experience)? Special instructions: –include appendix with copies of the entries –use at least two non-dictionary sources in addition to the dictionaries

17 17 Example 3: Polysemy Collect 3-5 examples of your word in real sentential contexts, which reflect different senses of the word (can use the web, corpus, or other print sources) Compare the senses that you understand in those examples with the words entry in a standard or learners dictionary, identify which sense definition is closest to the sense in each contextual example For each, discuss to what extent the dictionary definition accurately reflects the way in which the word is used. Could you write a more specific or more accurate definition for that use?

18 18 Some other examples Trace the history of your word; how did it come into English, how/why has its meaning changed over time? Compare/contrast prototype v. featural approach to representation of meaning wrt your word. Prepare a semantic field box diagram for your word and discuss its strengths/weaknesses. Compare your word to a translational equivalent from another language. To what extent are their meanings same/different?

19 19 Has your word been introduced into a slang? Discuss the history of your word in slang, including discussion of who has used it and whether/how its meaning or form have changed because of this. Discuss the notion of part-of-speech with reference to your word. What part(s) of speech is your word, and how can you tell? Compare your word to three synonyms found in a thesaurus. To what extent are the words synonymous? What is a word? Illustrate the the pros and cons of different definitions of word using your word (and, if needed, morphological derivations of it).

20 20 Developing an A-a-W syllabus A-a-W is most suited to courses with a very broad range of shallowly covered material (intro linguistics) or semantics courses that can afford a lexical focus. Requires a commitment to using word-based assignments as the major parts of formal assessment, but can be supplemented by exercises, tests, etc. on non-lexical content matter.

21 21 Our first term course at Sussex: Approaches to Meaning Mix of majors (1/3) and non-majors (2/3); medium-sized course (~50 students). 10 weeks, 3 contact hours/week (1 large group lecture, 2 in small group seminars) Covers most of what a standard intro to linguistics course covers except phrase structure, phonetics/phonology, acquisition. Followed by Approaches to Grammar and Approaches to Phonology courses, which also aim to introduce their topics with reference to theoretical, descriptive, and applied perspectives.

22 22 Our week-by-week syllabus 1. What is language/linguistics? How do we research words? 2. What is a word? (orthog, phon, sem, gram definitions; notion of lexeme; types of word, parts of speech) 3. What is a meaning, and how many can a word have? (sense/reference, polysemy/homonymy) 4. Meaning relations (synonymy, antonymy, etc.; semantic fields & their use in cross-linguistic comparison)

23 23 5. What are meanings made of? (classical v. prototype approach) 6. Dictionaries and definitions (types of Ds, specialised Ds, principles of defining) 7. Etymology and meaning change (morphological origins of words, types of semantic change) 8. Social aspects of meaning (dialect, sociolect, register, jargon, argot; overt/covert prestige, taboo) 9. Whose word is it? (prescriptivism, notion of standard, etc.) 10. Review/portfolio guidance

24 24 Fitting adopt-a-word into a more general introductory course Possible grammar assignments: part-of-speech categories, morphological processes, subcategorisation/argument structures Possible phonetics/phonology assignments: contrasts between spelling/pronunciation; IPA transcription of the word in a variety of accents; history of its pronunciation; morpho-phonological processes

25 25 Some available textbooks Aitchison: Words in the Mind (3rd edn, Blackwell, 2002) Hudson: Word Meaning (Routledge, 1995) Jackson & Zé Amvela: Words, Meaning and Vocabulary (Cassell, 2000) [our choice for Approaches to Meaning] Jackson: Words and their Meaning (1994, Longman) Singleton: Language and the Lexicon (Arnold, 2000) [better for a more general intro course] [Not yet available, but possibly suitable: Heidi Harley, English Words, Blackwell]

26 26 Thank you for your interest. Feedback and idea-sharing welcome! Contact: Lynne Murphy, Anu Koskela, See also:

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