Ras Al Khaimah: Joint RAK Chapter/LM SIG Event

Our closing event for this year took place at RAK American Academy for Girls on April 22nd. It was held jointly with the Leadership and Management SIG. The presenters were Dr. Christine Coombe from HCT Dubai Men’s College, Faiza Helal, Robin Kim and Neil Armstrong, from the Ministry of Education Dubai. The focus was on the promotion of innovative assessment practice.

Our morning of workshops commenced with one concurrent session in which Faiza Helal and Robin Kim delivered two presentations.

Faiza Helal explaining authentic assessment with PBL

Faiza Helal gave an excellent presentation about how best to utilise learning-oriented assessment. Purpose, Analysis and Design allowed the listeners and participants scope for contribution. After introducing her audience to the pedagogy of Project-Based Learning (PBL), Faiza talked about rubrics, as effective formative assessment tools to support the learning process and ensure deeper learning.

As has been the custom in Faiza’s workshops, the participants had an opportunity to engage in hands-on activities that showed them how to create a unit of work from scratch. Teachers were given several PBL ideas and techniques to take back to their schools and apply with their learners.

Robin Kim clarifying the components of listening construct

Robin Kim’s presentation focused on how to help students improve their listening skills for the exam. He explained the three essential components that affect the learner’s ability to listen, i.e., linguistic, cognitive and affective. Robin illustrated what each of these components meant, and went on to discuss their practical implications for listening exam preparation.

In order to be successful in this regard, students need to be more specific and strategic in the way they prepare for their listening exams.

Robin offered one really important strategy for differentiated assessment that allows teachers to authentically assess where their students are.  It’s called levels of questioning.  Instead of offering different assessments, the one assessment has questions of varying levels.  This allows the students to demonstrate their own personal level, and for the teacher to know where they need further instruction.  To put simply, all students take the same assessment, but the sample questions vary in complexity.

Robin stressed the notions of metacognition and self-regulated learning. The more the students are able to monitor their learning (i.e. rubrics, anecdotal notes), the more they will feel confident in taking high stakes assessments.

Dr. Christine Coombe going through the latest trends in assessment

In her presentation, Dr Christine Coombe raised participants’ awareness about the importance of assessment. She talked about the change in assessment focus in the UAE over time. In the past, it was solely summative, based on pen and paper tests. Now, teachers are using multiple formative assessments to measure students’ growth.

She pointed out the difference between Assessment for Learning(AfL), Assessment of Learning(AoL) and Assessment as Learning(AaL), elicited examples from attendees, and clarified misconceptions related to assessment and grading students’ work. She highlighted the importance of assessment for learning as requiring a great deal of reflection and flexibility on the side of the teacher.

Participants learnt new ways of assessing their students formatively through the use of projects, journal writing, portfolios etc. This informative and engaging session was a good demonstration of the paradigm shift in assessment practice.

Neil Armstrong talks about authentic conversations in Speaking tests

In the final presentation, Neil Armstrong explained that we can make a speaking test more authentic by focusing more on interaction as being a two-way process of give and take. He stressed that the responsibility of sustaining the conversation is shared between the examiner and the examinee.

Neil went on to share some authentic examples to illustrate how turn-taking should occur in authentic conversations as opposed to artificial ones. He also highlighted the distinction between spoken production and spoken interaction, stressing the necessity to focus on the latter moving away from the former. He invited teachers to work on building their learners’ confidence to start conversations, ask questions and change topics autonomously and with more ease. This, Neil concluded, is the best way for learners to become more autonomous and more competent at initiating and maintaining authentic conversations without being considerably reliant on the teacher.

The morning of workshops was concluded by raffle and distribution of certificates. Thanks to all of the presenters and participants, it was a superb event with a great turnout and lots of food for thought, as well as practical ideas for the teachers to take away. We look forward to next year’s events.


We would like to express our most sincere thanks to our generous host organizations, Sheikh Saud Foundation for Policy Research and the RAK American Academy for Girls.

RAK Chapter would also like to thank all those who presented in our events, the people who attended, supported and helped us make our events so successful.

Finally, special thanks go to our secretary Helmi Al Sayed and our treasurer Ouafa Zouari for their continuous enthusiasm, dedication and hard work.

We hope to see you all next year.

Report submitted by

Bachar Lakhal, RAK Chapter Rep