In the past, students have said to me, “I think my English is better than the other students in the class. Can I go up to the next level?”
The answer, in my experience, is not simple. It’s possible that you are ready for the next level, in which case your teacher can recommend you for promotion. However, it’s possible that you think you are better than the other students because you’re a confident speaker but really the other students may be much better at grammar or vocabulary or writing than you. When assessing students’ level teachers and Directors of Studies look at many different things; the list below might help you understand why you and your classmates have been placed together.
1. Fluency V Accuracy
Some students sound brilliant to their classmates because they always speak in class, they love participating in discussions and answering questions in front of the class. However, while they are fluent communicators, these students often are not speaking correct English but instead speaking in their own language using English words. They can still be understood but compare them to the other student who thinks carefully before he or she speaks. This second student rarely makes mistakes, they are focused on accuracy as much as communication. It takes them a long time to say what they want to say, but when they do it’s perfect. Who is the better speaker?
2. Strengths and Weaknesses Likewise, you can’t just judge your classmates ability by their speaking alone. Some students are excellent at the receptive skills of listening and reading, but find the productive skills of speaking and writing more difficult. Some students find grammar really difficult but have a really wide range of vocabulary. And finally some students are easier to understand than others simply because of their pronunciation. Each student is unique and has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
3. Confidence and Commitment In my experience, it’s also important to consider a student’s personality. Some students are shy and don’t like to speak in front of others. In this case, it is usually better for the student to be placed in a class they are near the top of rather than near the bottom. Other students are very curious. They always try to see the bigger picture and ask intelligent questions about things they don’t understand. These students usually work much better in a class that is just a little difficult for them. And of course, commitment is important too. If a student is prepared to study outside of class, to look up things that they don’t understand or to go to GIL and ask the teacher there for extra help, then they can probably cope with a class a bit high for their level. On the other hand, if the student has to rush off to a job straight after class or only hangs out with friends who speak the same language their progress cannot be fast-tracked in the same way.
As teachers we all want our students to develop and progress as quickly as possible, but we also recognise the problems of students trying to run before they can walk. If you genuinely feel like you are not learning in the class you are in you should speak to your teacher or Director of Studies as soon as possible, but, generally speaking, when your teacher thinks that you are ready for the next level they will discuss it with you.
So to summarise this week’s Tip – Don’t automatically think that because you are the best speaker in the class you should be in a higher level. If you are still learning or getting better you are probably in the right class. However, you can (and should) always speak to you teacher or you Director of Studies if you don’t think your English is improving.