The can-do conundrum


Here is an interesting article about can-do, or ‘mastery’, statements used outside ELT.  The author of the blog gives examples from computing, history and science, and his criticism is directed at ‘the illusion of absolutes’ that can-dos produce.

For example, what exactly do we mean when we say, ‘I can state that sound is produced by vibrations’? Or, applying this to ELT: ‘I can write an email to my friend’? How long is the email? What is it about? How close is the friend and how well does he/she speak English?

Also, two other aspects to consider:

  • Implausible scale of meaningful tracking (to fully assess a major can-do would require a serious testing procedure)
  • Persistent creation of false numerical scales. (‘developing’ knowledge, ‘secure’ or ‘advanced’?)

What an imprecise art, teaching.


4 thoughts on “The can-do conundrum

      • I have to suggest something to the CEO so he will decide for himself but am thinking along the lines of goals set by Ss (and turned into tasks by T), assessed throughout the term, plus some sort of end-of-term test. It’s a multi-faceted issue, do you assess better pronunciation, fluency, etc. Language is such a hard thing to assess, compared with, for example, driving 🙂 If you have any more links or ideas, I’m definitely on a hunt for them these days. Thanks!


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