This summary was graciously shared by Alex Walsh (@AlexSWalsh) and was based on the #KELTchat from September 9th, 2012.
After an extended absence KELTChat returned with record numbers of participants to discuss the topic of ‘NEAT’.
More information needed
With enthusiasm for the topic overflowing the chat kicked off with a discussion as to what we can expect from the NEAT in comparison to TOEIC/TOEFL exams. @Michaelgriffin questioned whether the NEAT speaking section really is that similar to the current industry main players as some reviews have suggested 1. To truly compare what was being tested @ELTExperiences suggested we first gather some more information on the format of the NEAT speaking exam, despite @ChopEDU (who has recently completed an M.A assignment on this topic) rightly pointing out the dearth of information in English on this topic (a controversial yet insightful fact in itself) @BarryJamesonELT came up trumps with 2, @ChopEdu provided the following extremely useful links on assessment in general 3 and @michaelgriffin reinforced the relative wealth of information with 4.
After a quick skim of the provided links all agreed that the NEAT was introducing the assessment of the ‘4 skills’ into the Korean education system for students in middle school 3rd grade and below (2015 university applications).
How can we adapt our teaching to NEAT?
Our host for the evening (@josettelb) gently moved the discussion on to whether we are having to make any changes to our teaching approaches to help transition our students into the change. @bryanteacher pointed out that public school NETs have been largely uninvolved in the transition, a sentiment all agreed with, questionably a cause or effect of the dearth of English information.
The natural flow of the chat moved towards whether the test would involve critical thinking, @keisenhow summing up the evidence by stating it looked doubtful based on the information available, however @michaelgriffin suggested there is, at least, some real life application to the assessment, in agreement with @keisenhow that, for example, letter writing is a transferable real life skill. @AlexSWalsh meanwhile suggested that in the speaking assessment he had recently done on his students (which copied the speaking part of the NEAT exam, see 5 for more details) the students were required to incorporate both creative and divergent thinking skills, especially in the categories of ‘advice giving’ and ‘story telling’.
Time to prepare…
@MichaelGriffin, in his usual forward thinking manner, began questioning how we can help to overcome the ‘chaos’ of preparing students for the NEAT exam. @Bryanteacher pointed out the need to try and avoid what seems to be the knee jerk reaction in Korea of having students focus on regurgitation of memorized expressions, and @Seouldaddy sharing that perhaps huge changes don’t have to be made and a slow transition may be the best way. @AlexSWalsh suggested one way NETs can help is by building similar speaking activities into our lesson plans (for more information/examples see 6)
There was concern amongst the participants about the effect this test will have on students, @Chopedu providing evidence that students will be ‘doubling down’ (having to do two sets of tests, the current KSAT plus the new NEAT exam 7), and it was pessimistically, but realistically agreed, that the NEAT could end up being exploited as just another way to make money by certain parts of the Korean EFL industry, which could also lead to a widening of the gap between urban and rural students.
On a positive note
On a more positive note it was pointed out that positive washback of NEAT may help push CLT and TBLT forward in Korea as well as the teaching of lexical ‘chunks’ of language, leaving a general scent of cautious optimism amongst the teachers.
http://ltj.sagepub.com/content/25/1/39 – An article on EFL testing in Korea by Inn-Chul Choi