Assessment: Lesson 1
For many teachers and students, the word assessment brings forward negative feelings, particularly when thinking about tests. These feelings tend to have their roots in a couple of problems in language assessment.
First of all, sometimes we find that the tests we give don’t connect to what is happening in the language classroom. There might be a lack of cohesion with course and the test. And, equally important, there might be a lack of connection between the test and what is considered real language use. This first issue can be a problem for teachers as they might feel that the test is not an accurate picture of the students’ ability, which they often have a sense of from daily work. And this can lower their confidence with assessments. For students, this can render a test un-motivating, it could lower their engagement with the task, and, as a result the test will not elicit their best performance.
Another problem with assessment is that tests hold a good deal of power over teachers and students. The tests can have a great impact as well as a negative impact on the classrooms and lives of those involved. Important decisions are often made based on test scores, such as final grades, exit from a program, even employment or citizenship.
Tests hold power in how they impact the classroom and the perception of learning goals. So if an assessment and course don’t connect, as I mentioned with the first problem, then it is often the test that takes over in the classroom. Students, and teachers as well, may see the test as the learning goal. For teachers, this is generally not a happy situation. However, if the assessment well is aligned well with the course and language use, then the impact can be positive.
The goal in this module is to increase confidence and competence in developing and evaluating language assessment. Hopefully, with this will help teachers assure that the tests they use connect to their classes as well as their thoughts about what language is. It should also help them voice concern when it does not. Lastly, approaching assessment as part of learning, not just a measure of learning, may help lessen the impact and perhaps create a more positive relationship between teaching and testing.
1 Introduction to Language Assessment
An overview of language assessment from the perspective of teachers and students.
2 Indirect Assessment
The strengths and weaknesses of two common test questions: multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank.
3 Direct Assessment
Ideas about performance assessment along with solutions to the major challenges of these tasks.
4 Key Ideas in Assessment
Explanation and examples to illustrate validity, reliability, and classroom assessment.
In teaching languages, teachers often have to measure students’ language abilities, which they achieve by developing tests or quizzes or through more informal methods. In addition, they often select commercially-developed tests for use in their classrooms or language programs. In order to feel confident and comfortable with assessment, this module will present different methods of assessing language as well as strategies for practice in the classroom.
Introducing the basics of language assessment.
This sample test was given at the end of a semester to a class of beginning/low intermediate English language learners. We can assume that some vocabulary and grammar are things that students learned in the course. It is not a “perfect” test (none are) and we will critique things in it.
To develop better assessment tools, teachers should consider three questions in the process: Why, What, and How.
Please take the sample test, reflecting on the questions as you complete them.
• Which questions were easier? Why?
• Which questions were more difficult? Why?
• Which questions have you used in tests in your class?
• Which questions are most difficult to develop?
A discussion of the sample test.
Language teachers compare experiences using similar tests.
There are many ways to talk about methods of assessing language. In this module, the distinction between indirect and direct methods will be used. These methods are both common in language testing, often used for different skills or in different kinds of classes. Indirect methods may be more common in assessing reading, listening, vocabulary or grammar and in classes that are large. Direct assessment works well for productive skills such as writing or speaking and provides a better picture of what students can do with the language.
Two methods of assessing language: direct and indirect.
[Module Instructor Dr. Lia Plakans]. 2010. [Assessment]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.