There have been some exchanges lately in the blogosphere about the evaluation criteria applied to conference interpreting students at their final exams. This is natural – it being exam season and all, people (and by people, I mean both students AND their trainers) are thinking hard about what is to be expected of students at their final exams and if they are going to be able to deliver.
I’d like to make my own modest contribution to this debate, which was started by Jerome (@jamizuno) at the 2interpreters blog in his post on Graduation exams evaluation, was picked up in a post by Elisabet (@tulkur) on Research on Quality in Interpreting and led to an interesting exchange on Twitter. (The post What Every Client Wants? that came out on Lifeinlincs last week is not directly related to our discussion, but touches upon a similar topic.)
I won’t tell you what I had to say in response to Elisabet’s and Jerome’s posts – for that, you can read their comment sections. I’d just like to keep a promise I made to Jerome to share with readers the guidelines* that external examiners are asked to apply at the exams here in La Laguna. Here they are:
ASSESSMENT GUIDELINES FOR THE EMCI – LA LAGUNA
The following is a set of standardised assessment criteria which we supply to all members of the assessment panel so that they are aware of how they should be evaluating students.
List of agreed criteria:
- Mother tongue: The student must be capable of expressing themselves appropriately in their mother tongue, demonstrating a rich vocabulary and appropriate use of register; this includes an absence of any interference from other languages in the mother tongue, i.e. no structural calques from the source language to the target language (capacity to reformulate).
- Comprehension: The student must demonstrate in their speech that they have an excellent understanding of each one of their working languages which extends to specialist and technical subjects.
- Terminology: The student must be capable of understanding terminology & expressions that are unique to the source language and find suitable equivalents in the target language.
- Fluency: The student must demonstrate good articulation in their mother tongue which will allow them to deliver fluid speeches, without unnecessary pauses, so that the listening public is easily able to understand the message.
- Precision: The student must express ideas clearly and precisely and without any unnecessary rambling.
- Problem solving: The student must be able to show that they are capable of reacting to and solving problems that arise during the course of a speech, problems such as – not understanding a key word, losing track of several ideas in a row, etc.
- Presentation: The student must demonstrate the ability to deliver his/her version with confidence, fluency, well-paced timing, suitable body language for the type of speech being given, and good eye contact.
- Stress management: The student must be able to correctly deliver his/her speech despite being under more pressure than is normal in the classroom environment given that the assessment panel is made up of unfamiliar individuals.
- Technique: The student must demonstrate in both the simultaneous and consecutive exams that they have the necessary technical skills to be able to deliver a good speech in each of the modules that demonstrate the correct use of the specific techniques that are applied in each of them.
- Preparation for professional practice: The student must be able to demonstrate that they are fully prepared to enter the labour market despite their lack of experience.
All these criteria are laid out uniformly in an assessment form that is given to the assessors so that they are able to take notes which will allow them to award the final mark.
So there you have it. I’m happy to engage with fellow trainers and students in a discussion on the suitability (and objective measurability) of these criteria. They are not gospel, and it should be emphasized that they are by no means the only set of criteria out there. That said, they do seem to work quite well in practice.
I have seen other approaches outlined in internal documents shared by other schools and trainers. Each system will have its plus and minus points and will weigh the various factors differently, but most assess roughly the same aspects of the student’s performance. (Note: Jerome’s blog post refers to the “process-oriented” approach as proposed by Sylvia Kalina, which is worthwhile checking out, if you’re interested in that sort of thing).
Anyway, to my mind, what is important is that students on a given training course should have a clear idea of the particular approach taken by their school. They should be told what exactly they will be assessed on, as well as the level at which they will be expected to perform at the different stages of the course (i.e. mid-terms and finals).
I went through this assessment form with my students prior to the consecutive mid-terms in February, and I’m pleased to say that they were basically able to brainstorm the full list of criteria without any help from me. So they clearly know what is expected of them. And fortunately, most of them have been able to deliver it as well, at both the consecutive and the simultaneous midterms. Now there’s just that small matter of those upcoming finals to deal with…
*Thanks to the MIC administration at the ULL for granting permission to share this document on my blog