Friday, 14 October 2011

Cyprus Speaking

Testing or assessing learners can be very useful, it can provide teachers with useful feedback on the abilities of their class, inform their choices on how to develop the syllabus and allow teachers to reflect on their own teaching. This formative assessment can be a beneficial part of the teaching process. However students often see tests as negative and cause stress, this is because they receive a grade and everyone from their peers to parents can see how good or bad they are at a subject. If we are assessing just to award a grade it is known as summative assessment, to see what the students have achieved.

 (18 out of 210 teachers said they liked doing tests when they were in school, and about 7 said only in the subjects they liked.)

Another problem with testing is the affect the test has on our approach to teaching.

Testing for young learners should reflect the teaching methods developed for young learners or the washback of the test.

·         In class we tend to use a range of different activities to reflect the different learning styles in the classroom.  Yet test still seem to be based around pen and paper task such as gap-fills, dictations and translation. Therefore testing we should think of how we can change our assessment process not our teaching techniques.

Testing should not negatively affect the methodology used in the class.

·         The danger of testing is that it can dominate our classroom teaching. If the end of course test is a multiple choice test then the classroom could become dominated by multiple choice activities, taking away the creativity of the teaching and learning process.

What to do with the results?

In my opinion, students should not be compared to other students in the class. Their results should reflect what they can do and what they need to work on rather than how well they did compared to Jiri or Eva etc.

Test should be fair and should be measured against a set of criteria (criteria referencing), so the students can understand the results in terms of their own strengths and weaknesses.

If we compare students with other students in the class (norm referencing), we are giving the message that they are not as clever as someone or cleverer than another which fails to celebrate an individual’s achievement. Even a student with a low mark has achieved something and can be told what they can do.

How do you assess?

If we test we need to make sure we have clear criteria we are testing against. I find that the CEFR provides good ideas to help us.

We need to make sure that our tests are not too broad, if we pick up on every mistake then the students will end up on minus marks. A more global approach is needed, based on task achievement and communication.

In the session we assessed Martina and decided on the criteria ourselves. In almost all the groups we decide on the following things.

Did the student complete the task effectively?

Did the student use appropriate language?

Was it easy to listen to or did it put a strain on the listener?

Did the student have effective coping strategies?

Was the pronunciation clear and effective?

For practical activities just think about what makes a good speaking exercise. If it generates language and allows students to speak then it is an effective testing task. What we want are tasks that involve the students so they are thinking about that and not about the test.

So sorting things into categories, saying if you agree or disagree with something, comparing pictures, etc. are all good ways of generating language.

To conclude  a quote.

‘Assessment should serve teaching and learning by providing feedback to you and the students, encouraging a positive classroom atmosphere, and promoting and maintaining a strong motivation for learning English.’

 Assessing Young Learners, Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou and Pavlos Pavlou, Oxford Resource Books for Teachers.


Assessing Young Learners, Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou and Pavlos Pavlou, Oxford Resource Books for Teachers.

Teaching Young Learners , Ana Maria Pinter Oxford University Press.

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