Market Growth: It's all about high stakes English language assessment
A quick look at where investments continue to be made in the English teaching market tells us that high stakes exams such as IELTS are where growth is happening.
Most major universities have masters programmes in Language Assessment. This is a clear indicator that money is to be made in this area. What I want to highlight especially is the increased focus in these masters programmes on AI and machine learning. Part of the master’s programme recently launched by Cambridge University is run in partnership with ALTA. ALTA is Automated Learning Teaching and Assessment. The development of assessment tools and software is where market growth is and forms part of the master’s programme. No doubt the impact of the pandemic is accelerating this, so it’s time to be tech-savvy or have a clear picture of what your teaching will be like, going into the future.
What is left for human teachers?
We will be leaving a lot of assessment to AI, now and in the future. AI can collect data and analyse data without missing steps or getting tired, which is our human weakness. Online tools such as https://writeandimprove.com/
will help our learners develop their skills independently of teachers.
Dr Nick Saville, Director of Thought Leadership at Cambridge Assessment and University Press argues that developments in machine learning applied to assessment will leave us to do what AI can’t do, which is to encourage learners and find better ways to support, inspire or motivate them. No, wait, even AI can do that already. My Duolingo contacts me and puts on a sad face when I haven’t been taking my lessons. I can’t help but smile at its cute characters. So, what is left for teachers to do?
Now and in the near future, we won’t notice the difference between a service given by AI and a service given by humans.
My neighbour and I have conversations about AI. As an AI researcher, he argues that there is little AI won’t be able to do in the future. AI will be so convincing that we won’t be able to tell the difference between something created by humans or something created by AI and, he argues, given that we live in a world of stories, should that even matter?
Ai has had me reflecting on what I do as an instructional designer and trainer for some time, even before the pandemic. My colleague James Heal and I put together a course to help teachers move into teaching exams and specifically IELTS. I argue with my AI researcher neighbour the human element that I put into my courses and my teaching must count for something yet. If I don’t go to my Taekwondo class and if I don’t grade in March next year, I will feel the disappointment of my Sabum. As teachers, we are still very necessary to guide learners with our nuanced observation and lead them in the best learning path for them.
You may have the best AI and learning tools as part of your teaching toolkit, but our human presence is valuable to the learner. We need to look, observe and notice our learners. We need to continuously assess where they are and what they need from you as a person, as a teacher, and what they need from the learning. Human-centred learning and teaching harness tools and machine learning that can enhance the learning experience and improve our ability to focus on where the learning is happening, but the pandemic must teach us that meaningful human contact is still key.
Meanwhile, made by humans: Our IELTS course covers the basics of what you need to know, what you need to think about to get started teaching IELTS, and preparing students for the exams. You will hear us, yes, real people with real lives, talk about key areas for helping your students and finish the course well-orientated to get started as an IELTS teacher. But very importantly, as we navigate the next few years that will continue to revolutionise how learning is presented to us, we need to keep reflecting on the role of the human teacher in our learners’ lives.
Any language schools both online and offline offer work for IELTS teachers. Alternatively, you can set yourself up independently by creating a profile on a tutoring platform such as Tutorful. In our course, we are happy to discuss and compare options and ideas with you.