Assessment as a Communicative Activity in the Translation Classroom

By Konrad Klimkowski (John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland)

Abstract & Keywords

Assessment has become a focal issue in recent debate in translator education. It is argued in this article that the main role of assessment is to facilitate learning. Assessment must enable learners to (a) reflect upon their performance, and (b) to use this reflection to plan further learning. If this function is missing or invalidated, other objectives of assessment are hardly attainable. This article explores how managing classroom communication can help in ensuring an empowering relation between learning and ‘teaching’, assessment and self-assessment (self-regulation). The article discusses the following problems: constructing a safe but demanding space for communication; assessing performance without learner disempowerment; using regular classroom communication as part of assessment strategy; optimizing information collected from mistakes and errors; and assessment as subject to negotiation of senses. Some assessment-related communication strategies are discussed along with a short selection of activities that can be a practical follow-up for the readers.

Keywords: assessment, self-assessment, translator training, classroom communication, co-emergent learning

©inTRAlinea & Konrad Klimkowski (2019).
"Assessment as a Communicative Activity in the Translation Classroom"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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1. Introduction

The main objective of this article is to advocate for two theses about the role of assessment in translator education:[1]

  1. A view under which assessment is part of the learning experience[2] offers greater advantages than a view under which assessment follows teaching.
  2. When designed and moderated, classroom communication can hugely enhance learning assessment practices, since regular communicative interaction offers a huge potential for building students’ resources for learning and growth

These objectives need to be situated in the context of the theoretical (epistemological) background adopted by the author. Therefore, the first part of the article expounds its main founding ideas. The latter part of the article deals with assessment perceived as a communicative practice. It ends with a handful of practical suggestions of how to optimize classroom communication to empower assessment, self-assessment and – consequently – learning.

2. Theoretical tenets of the article

The centrality of learning in the translation classroom is an assumption that stems from the epistemological perspective I adopt as an educator and researcher. This perspective represents a social constructivist stance on education – which was originally proposed for translator education in Kiraly (2000). Hence, the classroom I try to construct together with my students has an extensive collaborative context, emphasises situated learning, and seeks empowerment and transformative[3] outcomes. Kiraly’s recent works, which define classroom interaction in terms of emergent phenomena[4] (see e.g. Kiraly 2013, 2015 or 2016) are also hugely inspirational for my reflection and practice. They also show Kiraly’s extensive reliance on translation projects as a paramount classroom methodology – a view to which I subscribe completely (see e.g. Klimkowski 2015). My teaching and research is also informed by such educational conceptions as experiential learning (e.g. Kolb 1984); Moser-Mercer’s (2008) notion of self-regulation as a holistic developmental strategy for (interpreter) education; and the relation-based approach to education, as advocated by Rogers (1967/2002) or Gergen (2009). All these conceptions are instrumental in my constructing the argument of this article.

3. Assessment conceived of as part of learning rather than a follow-up of teaching

Kolb’s (1984) model of experiential learning depicts the learning process as composed of four reiterative stages: experiencing the reality, reflecting upon the experience, conceptualizing the reflected experience and, finally, acting, which starts a new learning cycle. In her discussion of learning styles and approaches, Kelly (2005: 47-49) uses simplified verbal labels for each stage: do, reflect, form principles, plan – and then reiterate doing as based on planning. The reflexive stage clearly reveals an evaluative function ingrained in the learning process. This kind of self-reflection corresponds to the educational notion of self-assessment.[5] The latter can be defined as a skill of determining one’s learning status quo by reflecting upon one’s performance with the view to determining the positive and the problematic aspects.

Taking these assumptions into account, I postulate that the pivotal role of assessment as part of teaching is to enhance self-assessment as part of learning. Even though in numerous contexts instructional assessment needs to be structurally planned in stages that follow the stages of instruction, assessment practices need to make up for the potential dysfunctional impact of the classroom narrative based on the divide between learning and assessment: ‘now you are expected to learn, and later your skills are assessed’.

Vital as it is, self-assessment is not enough to guarantee growth. As is clearly visible from Kolb (1984) and Kelly (2005), the reflexive stage can only enhance learning when followed by a performative stage. The latter takes place when learners employ their resources to transform self-reflection into planned actions, and – consequently – to complete the tasks that result from self-reflection. This close link between self-reflection and self-reaction is convincingly explored by Moser-Mercer (2008), with its main focus on the notion of self-regulation in the learning process. This latter concept is anchored in performance psychology and is defined by (Moser-Mercer 2008: 14) in terms of a behaviour feedback that a learners give him/herself in order to activate and sustain those thoughts and behaviours that help him/her achieve goals. Repetitive internal feedback allows a learner to make adjustments in his/her learning processes. Consequently, a self-regulated learner is expected to perform (reiteratively) the following five stages in the learning process:

they begin by analysing the task and interpreting task requirements in terms of their current knowledge and beliefs […]; (2) they set task-specific goals, which they use as a basis for selecting, adapting, and possibly inventing strategies that will help them accomplish their objectives […]; (3) after implementing strategies, they monitor their progress towards goals, thereby generating internal feedback about the success of their efforts; (4) they adjust their strategies and efforts based on their perception of on-going progress […]; and (5) they use motivational strategies to keep themselves on task when they become discouraged or encounter difficulties. (Moser-Mercer 2008: 15)

In my view, it is justifiable to generalize over Moser-Mercer’s (2008) self-regulated learning cycle and state that it constitutes a (never-ending) repetition of the two major stages governing learning:

  1. diagnostic self-reflection;
  2. acting upon self-reflection – activating resources to attain a new objective or task.

Even though this interpretation is an oversimplification of an originally complex model, it is not – in my view – in an open contradiction to its main assumptions.

Moser-Mercer’s (2008) perspective is a good example of how to integrate the role of the teacher (feedback, facilitating self-regulation etc.) with that of the learner (self-observation, self-judgement, internal feedback etc.) in classroom assessment practices. As in Kolb’s (1984) repetitive cycles of experiencing, reflecting and action, Moser-Mercer’s (2008) proposal unveils the reiterative nature and the reciprocal conditioning between learning, assessment and self-assessment.

In self-regulated learning, assessment pertains to a concrete learning individual. It avoids pretences of being objectivist or idealized (equally valid for all the learners). Instead of homogeneity of assessment – ensuring that all the learners meet the same standards – self-regulation offers assessment that can be authentically used to facilitate (adjustment, adaptation, inventing strategies etc.) the learning processes of an individual (Jarvis 2012), yet without detriment to its relational (Gergen 2009) and collaborative (Kiraly 2000, 2016) contexts. In fact, the concept of self-regulated learning unveils a clear need for a teacher whose relational engagement is likely to encourage learners to develop self-regulation.

4. Assessment in a relational classroom context

As noted above, a successful implementation of self-regulation in the translation classroom needs to address the relational nature of the learning process. The main instrument that comes to mind in this context is quality feedback, which needs to:

  1. allow the learner and the teacher decide on the diagnosis of the learning situation;
  2. allow the learner to develop mechanisms to amplify successful performance and eliminate or modify questionable actions;
  3. allow the teacher to develop better diagnostic and mentoring resources for his or her work.

Hence, the relational teacher does not instruct or transmit (cf. Kiraly 2015) ready-made educational solutions, but he or she creates an environment in which the instructor and the instructed become learners, seeking to construct senses and solve significant problems (cf. Rogers 1951 and his notion of significant learning). If learning and assessment are relational – as propounded here – their effectiveness depends critically on classroom communication – as evidenced by the notion of quality feedback mentioned above.

5. The communicative aspect of assessment

The main idea behind this section of the article is that a huge portion of classroom communication contains assessment, even though neither students or teachers plan it to be so. Take for example a simple classroom interaction in which a teacher asks a question, to which a student responds, and which is then followed by the teacher’s response: whatever that teacher’s response is, in a communicative (institutional, political, cultural…) sense it is very likely to be an act of assessment. Let me illustrate the point with a sample classroom communicative exchange:

Teacher: Which solution should we take to issue A?
Student 1: We can do B!
Teacher: Yes, we can, as long as we are able to handle C? Can we handle it?
Student 2: No, we can’t since there are not enough of us to do it.
Teacher: Okay, so we can either look for new participants or we need other solutions…

This imaginary scenario is intended to show that even though the exemplified classroom debate does not focus explicitly and formally on assessment, it contains a few evaluative messages that provide feedback to the participants of the interaction concerning the diagnostic and the performative aspects of the imaginary learning status quo. Student 1 gets a positive feedback on his or her proposal (yes, we can…), while the Teacher gets a negative one in the line that follows (no, we can’t…), which he or she accepts (okay) and reconceptualises into a new communicative frame (…so we can either….). In other words, in a communicative and educational sense, these three evaluative interactions are cases of assessment that are likely to induce self-assessment and self-reaction in the respective interlocutors. The main argument here is that these – apparently insignificant – communicative exchanges are as important for self-assessment and self-regulation as formally structured assessment practices like tests or exams.[6] This is why I find it more than recommended that translation teachers embrace the idea of designing and moderating their classroom communication. Examples listed below are to give further substantiation to my recommendation:

1. Advantages of effective classroom communication for the diagnostic stage of self-regulation:

  • helps learners and teachers to better understand (define) the nature of positive/negative performance;
  • helps seek convergent views on what happened (performance) – without limiting the right to disparate voices;
  • helps face (discuss) emotional barriers related to performance;

2. Advantages of effective classroom communication for the performative stage of self-regulation:

  • helps learners and teachers determine what to do next (transforming problems into strategies, solutions…);
  • helps teachers offer a better-informed grading/formal evaluation system;
  • helps use emotional signals in planning future performance;

The two lists presented above call for a short discussion. Thus, making students and teachers understand better what is going on in their minds when they perform is a basic task of classroom communication. To make that exchange effective, the teacher can choose to substitute a transmissionist mono-directional flow of information (teacher tells the student what is good or bad) for a circular (co-emergent) approach, where the learning status quo is negotiated through communicative exchange (teacher asks questions to understand what happened and why). The latter approach grants the students a different status in terms of their classroom roles and power since in this case students and teachers share the classroom space through communicative interaction (contract).

It thus makes sense if the teacher and the student(s) keep disparate views on the student’s performance, despite the efforts to collaboratively define the learning status quo. The teacher is exempt from endless explanations for the grade or expecting the student to accept his or her views.

Significant learning is demanding. It involves huge emotional loads. Classroom communication can help students and teachers make better use of so-called positive emotions – to foster preferred performance, to (self-)praise and to (self-)reward. It can also help handle so-called negative emotions, helping students and teachers understand the information that is encoded in emotional responses related to performance (anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, passiveness or sadness).

The second list presented above shows how all these diagnostic advantages can be used to plan further learning cycles: to improve performance and self-monitoring, to develop enhanced feedback on grades, or to learn how to build emotional sustainability for learning and work.

6. Factors to consider in designing and moderating classroom communication

In what follows, I would like to discuss a handful of factors that are pinpointed in numerous publications in the field of interpersonal communication, social psychology or theory of learning. The space limits of this article prevent me from discussing them in considerable detail. Yet, I hope to give the reader a general idea of them.

6.1. Creating a safe environment for communication

Communication becomes an instrument of growth when the communication moderators work to create a safe space for negotiating ideas. The kind of safety I have in mind can be illustrated by a quotation from C. Rogers (1951):

Experience which, if assimilated would involve a change in the organization of self, tends to be resisted through denial or distortion of symbolization. The structure and organization of self appears to become more rigid under threat and to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat. […] The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which (a) threat to the self of the learner is reduced to a minimum, and (b) differentiated perception of the field is facilitated. (C. Rogers 1951: 274–5 – the original text formatting modified)

Classroom assessment is a situation when the learner’s self can be threatened: being assessed can be stressful, particularly when the learner is aware of a learning problem or when he/she is unable to predict the results of the assessment. One step mentioned in the literature of the subject to reduce the threat mentioned by C. Rogers (1951) is to focus communication on tasks, facts of performance and (tangible) results, yet avoid evaluative judgments about learners themselves.

6.2. Hard on the Problem, Soft on the Person

The title of this section refers to the concept of principled negotiation, developed by Fisher and Ury (1981/1991). According to these authors, if negotiations are to be mutually beneficial and, therefore, authentically effective, the negotiators need to consider their four dimensions:

People: Separate the people from the problem
Interests: Focus on interests, not positions
Options: Generate a variety of positions before deciding what to do
Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard
(Fisher and Ury 1981/1991: 10-11)

All the dimensions quoted above are worthy of a discussion of its own, yet for the purposes of this article I only pick the first on the list. Even though Fisher and Ury had business and political negotiating in mind, the point they make is perfectly applicable to the translation classroom context. This is how the quoted authors comment upon their claim:

We are creatures of strong emotions who often have radically different perceptions and have difficulty communicating clearly. Emotions typically become entangled with the objective merits of the problem. Taking positions just makes this worse because people's egos become identified with their positions. Hence, before working on the substantive problem, the “people problem” should be disentangled from it and dealt with separately. Figuratively if not literally, the participants should come to see themselves as working side by side, attacking the problem, not each other. (Fisher and Ury 1981/1991: 11)

In other words, the idea behind separating a person from a problem in the translation classroom communication is a necessary solution to minimise the emotional cost of negotiation of senses born by both learners and teachers. If not minimised, the emotional cost can lead to:

  1. learner’s unwillingness (emotional and cognitive resistance) to accept the teacher’s or peers’ assessment of a situation and refusal to take responsibility (‘I would not normally do it, if….’, ‘I know this is a bad solution, but….’, ‘Oh, it is just half a point missing here, is it really that bad?’)
  2. learner’s unwillingness can be accompanied with aggressiveness and accusations – whether expressed overtly or hidden.
  3. teacher’s abuse of power (‘Just stop arguing all the time, listen to what your colleagues are saying’, ‘your argument does not make sense’ etc.)

Unless refocused on problem solving, these emotional encounters disempower classroom communication, thwart learning and ruin the developmental potential of assessment.

6.3. Descriptive versus evaluative communication

In her discussion of classroom communication, Woods (2007) distinguishes between descriptive and evaluative styles:

Communication researchers report that evaluative communication evokes defensiveness […]. We are also less likely to self-disclose to someone we think is judgmental […] even positive evaluations can sometimes make us defensive because they carry the relationship-level meaning that another person feels entitled to judge us […]. Here are several examples of evaluative statements: “It’s dumb to feel that way,” “You shouldn’t have done that,” “I approve of what you did,” “That’s a stupid idea.” Descriptive communication doesn’t evaluate others or what they think and feel. Instead, it describes behaviors without passing judgment. I language […] describes what the person speaking feels or thinks, but it doesn’t evaluate another. (you language does evaluate). Descriptive language may refer to another, but it does so by describing, not evaluating, the other’s behavior: “You seem to be sleeping more lately” versus “You’re sleeping too much”; “You seem to have more stuff on your desk than usual” versus “Your desk is a mess.” (Woods 2007: 207–208, original text formatting retained, original references removed for brevity.)

The examples presented in the quotation above illustrate well the distinction between communication that tries to determine the learning status quo and the one in which a person issues an authoritative verdict about the (learning) status quo of another person. The distinction reported by Woods (2007) can help translator teachers remain determined in naming the learning status quo without hurting the learner.

7. Communication as a strategy to activate learners’ personal resources

As observed by C. Rogers (1951: 274-276, as quoted above), creating a safe communicational environment is one of the two steps to facilitate learning. The latter step is to activate learners’ personal resources for task attainment and problem solving. Thus, the role of the teacher as a classroom communication moderator is to help the learners discover and activate their personal resources in skill development – as is perhaps evident from Moser-Mercer’s (2008) model of self-regulation. This role rests on the above-mentioned basic constructivist principle that education is about activating people’s learning, not about ‘teaching’. As such, this role of a teacher can be – even though indirectly – related to the role of a mentor or a coach. One of the underlying principles of the theory and practice of coaching is that when learning is significant to a learner, he or she can activate his or her resources for learning. This is how this basic principle is presented by J. Rogers (2004):

The client has the resources to resolve his or her problems. The client has not come to be fixed […]. Only the client can really know what to do because only the client knows the full story and only the client can actually implement the action and live with the results. This does not preclude the coach from offering useful information, but it is the client’s choice whether or not to use it. […] The coach’s role is to ask the penetrating questions which take clients into territory they have never previously considered. In doing this, clients will build on their own resourcefulness. (J. Rogers 2004: 7 – the original formatting altered)

It is not my intention to put equation marks between teaching and coaching. The differences in the relationship obtaining between teachers and learners, coaches and clients are more than obvious. However, the coaching strategy outlined above can help teachers build an effective  communication strategy for the translation classroom. Of particular significance is the role of the coach as someone who purposefully asks questions, instead of trying to apply ready-made remedies to help the client. The purpose of these questions is to work out together where the learner is and help them plan what to do next in their learning adventure.

8. Assessment in a regular classroom interaction

This section is intended to show that assessment is a cognitive activity that is deeply ingrained in daily communicative interaction, including in-class communication. It constitutes a more practice-oriented elaboration of this issue discussed from a more theoretical angle earlier in this article (page 5 above). As I argued there, a simple act of asking a question, getting an answer and reacting (verbally or non-verbally) to that answer can represent an act of assessment. As exemplified in a short communicative exchange on page 5, the teacher’s ‘okay’ can be a communicative marker of informal and perhaps tacit assessment (cf. the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge in Eraut 2000). It is a minute element of the classroom interaction, but it is crucial, since it can be used to empower learner’s transition towards self-regulated performance. The hypothetical teacher in the conversation above accepted the two answers by his ‘okay’, even if the solution to the learning problem is not found yet. That is why the teacher responds with setting another task to the students. Noteworthy is that the teacher’s narrative maximizes the learners’ accountability for the classroom decision-making. Cases of negative assessment can be handled in a similar way:

Teacher: What are the solutions to the problem?
Learner: We can ask to postpone the deadline.
Teacher: This is not an option since the client made it clear the product enters the market on Monday, so they need our work by Friday. We need another solution.

The phrase ‘out of the question’ is a marker of strong negative assessment. It is followed by an explanation. The teacher repeats the task of finding an alternative way out. Even though the teacher’s diagnosis reveals the students’ failure to solve a problem, it does not thwart efforts to seek other ways out.

By contrast, let me suggest a handful of narrative strategies that are likely – in my view – to have a disempowering effect on the translation classroom communication. The first on my list is asking questions in a way that lets the learners know (feel, presuppose) that only one, correct answer is expected of them. Other answers are refuted as incorrect:

Teacher: So the solution to this problem is…. well, who knows the answer?
Learner 1: To ask to postpone the deadline?
Teacher: No, that’s not a good solution. We cannot do that, but we could…. well, who knows what we can do?
Learner 2: Share the job with others.
Teacher: That’s it. That’s what we need to do.

The way in which the teacher in this conversation asks questions and reacts to the students’ responses shows his or her effort to take full responsibility for finding a solution to the learning problem. The learners are asked for assistance, but they hardly participate in the decision-making. Please observe that neither the teacher’s negative diagnosis, nor the positive one is accompanied by an explanation. In this sense, the space for shared negotiating of solutions is minimized. There is only enough space for the ‘solution provider’, who instructs the ‘solution end-users’ what to do and how to do it right.

A similar disempowering effect can be brought about by teachers’ responses with fall closer to opinions rather than analytical diagnostic statements. This point is illustrated in the last conversation where the teacher uses the expression ‘good solution’ and when he issues an authoritative statement ‘that’s what we need to do.’ In the communicative context like the one sketched in my conversations, such opinions are close-ended messages. What can a learner possibly do when faced with an authoritative opinion of his or her teacher about something being good or necessary? They are likely to take up the role foreseen for them in this disempowering narrative, which drives them away from self-regulation.

9. The why questions?

A final remark in this section is devoted to questions why?, which can be a useful component in the diagnostic repertoire. Yet, as pointed out by J. Rogers (2004: 72), questions why? can also be uttered as close-ended evaluative opinions, usually with an intended or unintended punitive effect. The examples below illustrate the case in point:

  • Why did you finish so late?
  • Why did you fail to meet the deadline?
  • Why did it happen?

One must keep in mind that considering such individual statements out of their conversational context must be done with caution and with openness to a variety of interpretations. However, my objective is not to impose on the readers the correct interpretations, but to encourage them to make the things they say in the classroom a matter of a well-informed, strategic choice. In the translation classroom context, the first sentence above is very likely to sound like an evaluative judgement. It can be a matter of individual interpretation whether a question like this is a matter of intended or unintended punishment, or it can express concern – without the punitive intentions. Nevertheless, it remains clear that the person uttering this question wishes to be an arbiter and a source of truth about the situation (‘so late’ means ‘later than I think you should’), irrespective of the interrogative form of his or her narrative. The second question also makes a personal reference to the addressee (‘you’), but its latter part addresses the problem as well. In this sense, it represents a compromise position between purely person-oriented evaluation and the problem-oriented diagnosis. The third option avoids addressing people and asks directly about the reasons for the perceived status quo. One could also think of other ways of addressing problems in the classroom, which can invite the learners to participate in the diagnosis and in planning future problem-solving:

  • What is the story behind your failing to meet the deadline?
  • How did it (all) happen?

Narratives like these set a wider scene for the diagnosis (‘okay, let’s talk’) and, in this sense, are worth considering for the translation classroom practice.

10. Communicating mistakes: from threat to potential

The regular, formal practices of assessment often use a very uncomplicated narrative concerning mistakes: students are taught to avoid them at all cost, and they are punished with poor grades for making them. Under this narrative, mistakes are marks of a weak performance. Even though mistakes and errors constitute an undeniable educational problem, they also unveil a tremendous learning potential: they are moments when the learners and the teachers can realize that there is something they do not know – a realization that can open new learning trajectories. Therefore, making a mistake is a critical moment for learning and for classroom communication. It is a moment in which a learner and a teacher can make a strategic choice whether to handle a mistake and reconceptualise it as a task, or to play the game of issuing and accepting the objective judgments about knowledge and skills, which usually leads nowhere in terms of further learning.

As must be clear from the previous parts of this article, the mistake-related classroom communication cannot ignore or understate the learning problems (‘don’t worry, it is not that bad, next time is going to be better…’) – as if defending the learner from the potential negative impact of communicating mistakes. Such narratives invalidate the communicative strategy in which (self-)assessment is constructed in sequences of diagnosis followed by resource activation in order to solve learning problems. These narratives can also have a demotivating effect, as they deprive the learners of an opportunity to set themselves demanding tasks. The aim of the mistake-related communication strategy I propose is to help create a translation classroom where mistakes made by learners and teachers can be managed in an empowering way.

11. Assessment as negotiation of senses

If assessment is part of the learning experience, and if learning is a social negotiation of senses – as social constructivism has it – assessment must also be thinkable as negotiated. The notion of negotiating has been introduced earlier in this article as a concept underlying my approach to the translation classroom communication. In brief, I have assumed that negotiating is a strategy for attaining one’s goals based on the belief that attaining them together in a space defined as shared (common) pays off more than doing it individually or against others. This kind of negotiation needs to be based on clear principles (cf. Fisher and Ury’s 1981/1991 principled negotiation, quoted above). Considering its relation to learning, I suggest conceptualising assessment as a case of communicative negotiation – at least in some of its aspects.

The subject of the negotiation should be obvious by now: the learning status quo as perceived by the learner, the teacher and other possible stakeholders of the learning process. The planned solutions that emerge as a result of the diagnostic analysis can also be subject to negotiation (cf. Fisher and Ury’s 1981/1991 dimension called options, quoted above). Let me emphasize the fact that if negotiating is to be principle-based, the roles played by the negotiators must be mutually respected. For example, negotiating can take place as element of learning and construction of senses, but it cannot undermine the position of the teacher as someone who has the final voice in terms of formal assessment. Thus, negotiating grades (‘Oh, is this really such a grave mistake? Could that be half a point more, please, since this gives me a better overall result…’) definitely falls beyond the scope of principled negotiation in the translation classroom. In negotiated assessment, the teachers and the students do not have to agree in how they perceive an assessed situation. As long they can continue their contract, they can accept the diversity of views. There is no obligation on the part of the teacher to convince the learner that the teacher’s solution is more effective or correct. The teacher and the learner are obliged to present his or her principled negotiating position, hoping for an empowering consensus, but they need to accept the fact that it will not always be possible.[7]

12. Suggested activities

The last section of this text provides a handful of activities intended to inspire the readers’ active follow-up to the article. The activities are presented below in a concise form, which may require that the readers reach back to the content of the article and seek further study in sources quoted herein and related.

1. In the first activity, I would like to encourage you to manage your response patterns in the classroom. Classroom conversations invented for the purposes of this article can serve as reference.

  • Develop a routine for your classroom responses to be (a) diagnostic; and (b) solution-oriented.
  • Remember to focus on your communication strategy and intentions, not on the form of the sentences you use. If you are consistent with your strategy, your language will help other people see it, but not the other way round.
  • It may be helpful to monitor your use of those classroom narratives which seem a problem to remodel. Approach them one at a time.
  • Make one note per day with a case you remember the most.

2. The second activity concerns self-monitoring as regards the questions which you use in your classroom.

  • Apply a strategic approach to the questions in your classroom (decide what you want them to do);
  • Be consistent in following your objectives, avoiding unnecessary censorship, evaluation or control.

3. The third activity relates to courses and projects. When designing a course or a project, consider planning how to distribute the power of and the accountability for decision-making.

  • Think about communication strategies and narratives to make the power distribution and accountability transparent;
  • Design the project in such a way as to enable tracing the decision-making processes of the project members and the related communication behaviours
  • Plan feedback on the decision-making and the related communication behaviours
  • Consider communication training for the project members
  • Focus your training on objectives and strategies
  • Choose the communication tools to match the objectives
  • Monitor their use

4. This activity is about defining your preferred style of classroom communication. Do you have the sense that communication ‘makes things happen’ in the classroom, even though it makes the class go in directions you did not plan? Do you like things to go that way? Is there any cost/risk related?

  • Where do you put yourself on a scale between: ‘I need an absolute order in my classroom’ and ‘let’s offer the students some initial incentives and see where the things go’?
  • Are you aware of being anywhere on the scale? If yes, do you find this awareness useful?
  • How to use classroom communication in case you would like to change your position on the scale?

5. In this activity, I would like you to imagine a scenario in which you change your mind about the terminological choice that you previously opted for as a quality officer in your translation project. What will you do?

  • Will you communicate your mistake, explain and suggest (or ask the project members for) a new solution?
  • Do you think that doing so infringes on your authority as a quality officer/teacher?
  • Do you think a teacher can say ‘I don’t know’ to his or her students? Or is he or she ‘a bad teacher’ when doing so?

6. This activity is about analysing the communication related to your formal assessment practices. As outlined in the article, the point is to seek integration between formal assessment and self-assessment by managing assessment-related flow of information.

  • Make sure the summative and the formative aspect of your assessment strategy go hand in hand;
  • Encourage students to give you feedback on your assessment and feedback;
  • Patiently allow the repeated students’ requests for feedback – as long as you are able to determine they really are seeking feedback;
  • To make sure they do, give them tasks or ask for their solutions;
  • Make sure each assessment-related communication exchange equips a student with knowledge and tools to plan further learning.

13. Concluding remarks

This article is an attempt to convince the reader that managing the translation classroom communication is a potent and an indispensable educational aid for those teachers who believe that education is not primarily about methods, procedures or systems, but about learning together. Teachers, as communication moderators, can facilitate learners’ transition from dependent to autonomous learning, including a shift from teacher-dependent assessment towards an autonomous self-assessment. They can help students activate their personal resources by proving that assessment can be helpful in transforming problems into solutions. However, to be able to moderate classroom communication, teachers need communication training. This article is an invitation for teachers and to take up this kind of training. It can help them comprehend better that communication skills are a key asset of their reflective practice.


Eraut, Michael (2000) “Non-Formal Learning and Tacit Knowledge in Professional

Work”, British Journal of Educational Psychology 70: 113–36.

Fisher, Roger and William Ury. (1981/1991) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving in, New York, Penguin [originally published by Houghton Mifflin].

Gergen, Kenneth J. (2009) Relational Being. Beyond Self and Community, Oxford, Oxford University Press. 

Jarvis, Peter (2012) “It Is the Person Who Learns” in Second International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Vol. 1., David N. Aspin, Judith Chapman, Karen Evans and Richard Bagnall (eds.), Dordrecht, Springer: 103-11.

Kelly, Dorothy (2005) A Handbook for Translator Trainers. A Guide to Reflective Practice, Manchester, St. Jerome.

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[1] Even though reference in this article is made directly only to translator education, many – if not all – observations made here are also applicable to interpreter education, irrespective of the obvious differences between their objectives and their curricula.

[2] See e.g. the notion of Assessment as Learning in Li (2018).

[3] The notion of transformative learning is usually credited to Mezirow (see e.g. Mezirow 2000). In fact, the list of researchers advocating and developing the concept further is extensive (see e.g. Klimkowski 2015 for references and discussion). The underlying idea is that when an individual is faced with a problem, his or her attempt to solve it can lead to a transformation of his or her self-concept, his or her outlook on the surrounding environment, which finally leads to changes in his or her behaviour.

[4] The notion of emergence of learning refers to Kiraly’s conception of learning as a ‘non-linear, embodied, enactive and autopoietic (self-generating and self-sustaining) system’ (Kiraly 2016, 64).

[5] For more on assessment, self-assessment and their relationship, see e.g. Race et al. (1996/2005). For recent insights into how these notions are handled in translator education see particularly Pietrzak (2016, 2017) and the literature therein.

[6] This simulated classroom interaction is further discussed from a more practical angle later in this article.

[7] The notion of classroom as a space for various types of negotiating of senses is too complex to be presented in detail in this article. For more detailed proposals in this context, see Klimkowski (2015, particularly 248-252).

About the author(s)

Konrad Klimkowski is a translator, interpreter, academic teacher and researcher in the field of translator/interpreter education. He is an associate professor at the Institute of English Studies, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. His main research areas include social constructivist translator/interpreter curriculum, communicative aspects of educational practices, learning as co-emergence of knowledge and entrepreneurial skills in translator/interpreter education.

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©inTRAlinea & Konrad Klimkowski (2019).
"Assessment as a Communicative Activity in the Translation Classroom"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Translator Training
Edited by: Paulina Pietrzak
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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