Alumni Programs

Nancy Gallagher

Photo of Nancy Gallagher

Education

B.A., The Evergreen State College, 1983
M.E.D., Seattle University, 1997











Nancy Gallagher bookPublication Type

Non-Fiction

Latest Publication

Essential Grammar for the iBT: Delta's Key to the Next Generation TOEFL Test, Delta Publishing Company, 2009

Additional Publications

Delta's Key to the Next Generation TOEFL: Advanced Skill Practice for the iBT, Delta Publishing Company, 2005
Delta's Key to the TOEFL Test, Delta Publishing Company, 2001


Publication Excerpt

From Delta's Key to the TOEFL Test:

Introduction: Our Purpose

When we set out to create this book, there were certain things we wanted to do and certain things we did not want to do. We also needed to determine what teachers of TOEFL preparation courses really wanted. We wanted to incorporate the latest research in language acquisition and cognitive science; we wanted to create a "brain-friendly" environment for the students and a "teacher-friendly" format for the instructor. We wanted to continually demonstrate to the teachers and students how far they had come and how far they had to go.

We realized that a state-of-the-art TOEFL book would have to be large. Not a gorilla - a King Kong.

Teacher Survey

We learned from surveys that teachers required many practice tests and exercises with explanations - clear ones. They wanted to be able to track students' progress. They also wanted the book to be a good value.

It was essential to have a course that treated the new computer-based test. Since the paper-based test will still be given abroad, and recognizing that the "institutional" version will still be used for years, they also wanted a course that would include the paper-based test.

Teachers wanted the units to comprise the various categories of questions contained in the TOEFL. We have analyzed these questions, categorized them, clearly described each type, and noted in what proportion each appears on the test. We have suggested strategies for the test in general and for each type of question in particular. We have also included discussion of "trick" questions.

Teachers indicated they wanted to teach the English skills and the test, so we built on the philosophy that skill building and assessment are interrelated. Our course addresses the specific language skills necessary for success in university studies and on the TOEFL.

Course Design

Cognitive research, language acquisition research, and even quality control processes led us to design the course following an effective framework:

  1. Reveal and present the concept/question.
  2. Identify models and examples that connect new information to existing knowledge.
  3. Support the students as they select examples and link information.
  4. Move from directed tasks to independent activities applied to the real world.
  5. Evaluate progress and engage the students as analysts and critics.

The study of language fascinates so many of us because it exposes the secrets of how the mind works. For the last twenty years, computer scientists and educators have been trying to program computers to learn as well as to teach. It is not surprising that artificial intelligence is a field that now relies on linguists and instructional designers. Input, analysis, output, and feedback are common jargon in human learning, computer systems, and even manufacturing standards.

Researchers believe we learn in "chunks." We learn when we can create these chunks easily, and we associate them with other chunks as we build a structure of knowledge or skills. All adult second-language learners are familiar with the "plateau" learning experience: depressingly long plateaus of no apparent progress, interspersed with the occasional inspiration of making an instant jump to a higher level of facility. Here the jargon of cognitive theorists begins to complement that of applied linguists: scaffolding learning, comprehensible input, sequencing, facilitative language teaching.

What works seems like common sense: repetition is essential in language teaching. "Tell them what you're going to teach them, teach them, tell them what you taught them." The feeling of progress is essential to language learning. So, too, is testing.

The objective of an effective learning environment is to minimize anxiety - the enemy of learning - especially since we are preparing students for a test that is usually associated with fear and loathing. While our course can be used in a variety of ways, it is designed to establish a familiar routine. However, predictability does not mean this course must be boring - if the environment is challenging and filled with varied examples.

In a TOEFL prep book, we have the opportunity to maximize students' strong motivation to pass the TOEFL exam as well as their overall goal of learning the language. A lot of practice and a feeling of making progress contribute to this motivation.

If the course accurately simulates the test environment, students will be motivated to study and less anxious during the real test. Teachers agree; they generally want the course focused on the TOEFL, with as many questions and "TOEFL-realistic" exercises as possible.

Delta's Key to the TOEFL Test is designed to be a course-not just a book. It is flexible - adaptable to the particular objectives and time constraints of the instructor, while also accommodating a variety of learning styles. It is a rich, robust course, guaranteed to provide the teacher and student with lots of material and complementary activities that help illustrate and practice the points being covered.