Progress, March '23

How do we define progress when we are learning something?


The education system focuses on accuracy: the less mistakes you make, the better your progress.
In language learning, the focus is often on improving grammatical accuracy.


The attraction of this system is that results can be easily measured: you take a test, get a certificate and compare your results with others. But the system is flawed. It places a stigma on mistakes. And it produces people who learn how to the pass the test, rather than who learn how to usefully apply the subject matter.


Shortly after university, I worked as a coach tour guide for one summer. The other guides were all language graduates – I studied History. But when it came to calling a hotel in advance and confirming the number and type of rooms required, the language graduates were stuck. They’d never done anything like that before.


For me, progress in language learning is the development of one or (hopefully) more of the following points over time:


·         Improved confidence levels

·         Less fear of using English in certain situations

·         Greater fluidity in conversations (less repetitions, fewer stoppages)

·         Increased effectiveness in getting your message across

·         Understanding more when listening, noticing more aspects of the language

·         Increased enjoyment using English

·         A wider range of expression

·         Greater willingness to try things out

·         Higher acceptance of mistakes

·         Improved ability to vary your language level to fit your audience

·         Higher energy levels using English

·         Feeling good after using English


These things are not easy to measure. They are often individual and subjective, but that doesn’t make them less valuable than a test result.


What does progress in learning mean for you?

How do you measure progress?


How has your attitude to learning been influenced by the education system?