This is an area of my IPA rethink that has been on my mind a lot lately. Here are some of the things I’ve tried, problems I’ve had, and questions I’ve pondered this year with the interpersonal aspect of an end-of-unit IPA:
Should the kids talk with me or with each other?
This has been a big one for me for several reasons. At the beginning of the year, I was running into students turning interpersonal into presentational if I allowed them to work together. They were assigned to record a conversation and share with me via Google Drive. However, their conversations were anything but spontaneous. Even if I told them “No planning before you talk!” they somehow managed to have everything rehearsed without me noticing. I think this is partly to do with the time issue I talked about before – if they start the IPA Tuesday knowing that they have to film a conversation, then after school Tuesday they can plan it out with a partner of their choice.
I like the idea of having them speak with each other – they’re more comfortable with each other than with me, and if they’re not talking with me, then I don’t end up dominating the conversation. I know part of that is because I need more practice assessing interpersonal without just asking yes/no questions. On the other hand, if I’m not guiding the conversation, then they’re probably not going to push themselves in proficiency, so am I really getting the best possible gauge of their abilities?
In the last few IPAs, I’ve tried assigning random groups on the fly. That way, the kids don’t know who they’re going to be talking to, and they can’t plan very well. It helps, however, in small classes, if a kid ends up with their best friend, chances are good that they still found a way to practice, especially if their group isn’t first.
Should they record their conversations or speak with me listening?
I’ve done this differently throughout the year as well. On the one hand, me listening while they talk is easy and quick. I just write down the kids’ names, take a few notes, and assign a proficiency level while the conversation is still fresh in my mind. It means no grading later. On the other hand, I can’t go back and listen to their conversation again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Additionally, it takes more class time this way. Only one group can go at a time, whereas if they are recording, everyone can record at once (or as they get to that part of the IPA) and we can move on. However, I then have to find time to listen to their recordings at a later date. Not to mention, if I allow them to record, it would not be difficult for a particular group or pair to rehearse a few times under the guise of recording and I might not notice until I listen to their robot voices later on.
At this point, I’m leaning toward listening live. Or perhaps a combination – I listen and write down my initial thoughts, but also record so that if I’m not certain later, I can double check.
Pairs or groups?
Should students converse in pairs (or one-on-one with me) or in bigger groups? In larger groups, the conversation tends to flow more, because if Student A doesn’t understand what Student B (or I) said, someone else can pick up the slack until Student A catches up. Not to mention, the whole process goes quicker with groups if I’m listening live or involved in the conversation. Having a four-person conversation doesn’t take as long as having 3 individual conversations. However, there are always those quiet students who may understand what’s going on, but are so nervous or shy that they only say one or two things.
I have done it both ways, and so far I tend to like larger groups. It tends to work best if a) I’m standing there listening (or perhaps guiding the conversation) and b) I remind them what interpersonal means beforehand (ie. I don’t want each person to say a sentence that has nothing to do with what the person before you said. This is a conversation, you must listen and react to each other!).
So, those are my thoughts. How do you assess interpersonal?
Also, if you haven’t yet, check out Amy Lenord’s excellent interpersonal rubric! I haven’t used it yet, but you can bet I will soon!