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Reasons for testing students

At various stages during their learning, students may need or want to be tested on their ability in the English language. If they arrive at a school and need to be put in a class at an appropriate level, they may do a placement test. This often takes the form of a number of discrete (indirect) items (see below), coupled with an oral interview and perhaps a longer piece of writing. The purpose of the test is to find out not only what students know, but also what they don't know. As a result, they can be placedin an appropriate class.

At various stages during a term or semester, we may give students progress tests. These have the function of seeing how students are getting on with the lessons, and how well they have assimilated what they have been taughtover the last week, two weeks or a month.

At the end of a term, semester or year, we may want to do a final achievement test (sometimes called an exit test) to see how well students have learnt everything. Their results on this test may determine what class they are placed in next year (in some schools, failing students have to repeat a year), or may be entered into some kind of school-leaving certificate. Typically, achievement tests include a variety of test types and measure the students' abilities in all four skills, as well as their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary.

Many students enter for public examinations such as those offered by the University of Cambridge ESOL, Pitman or Trinity College in the UK, and in the US, the University of Michigan and TOEFL and TOEIe. These proficiency tests are designed to show what level a student has reached at anyone time, and are used by employers and universities, for example, who want a reliable measure of a student's language abilities.

So far in this chapter we have been talking about testing in terms of 'one-off' events, usually taking place at the end of a period of time (except for placement tests). These 'sudden death' events (where ability is measuredat a particular point in time) are very different from continuous assessment, where the students' progress is measured as it is happening, and where the measure of a student's achievement is the work done all through the learning period and not just at the end. One form of continuous assessment is the language portfolio, where students collect examples of their work over time, so that these pieces of work can all be taken into account when an evaluation is made of their language progress and achievement. Such portfolios (called dossiers in this case) are part of the CEF (Common European Framework), which also asks language learners to complete language

passports(showing their language abilities in all the languages they speak) and language biographies (describing their experiences and progress).

There are other forms of continuous assessment, too, which allow us to keep an eye on how well our students are doing. Such continuous recording may involve, among other things, keeping a record of who speaks in lessons and how often they do it, how compliant students are with homework tasks and how well they do them, and also how well they interact with their classmates.

Some students seem to be well suited to taking progress and achievement tests as the main way of having their language abilities measured. Others do less well in such circumstances and are better able to show their abilities in continuous assessment environments. The best solution is probably a judicious blend of both.

Good tests

Marking tests

Designing tests


41. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of pre-reading tasks. What will happen if they are not carried out? Illustrate your answer with practical examples.



42. Bad writing is the result of bad preparation'. Discuss, paying particular attention to how this can be remedied. - 21 ANSWER


43. What is the rationale behind lesson planning? What needs to be considered for a lesson plan to be effective, and what will happen if planning does not take place?


After the lesson (and before the next)

In the lesson plan blank on page 161 there was a column labelled Success indicators,

so that teachers could work out how to judge if a lesson (or part of a lesson) had been a success. Evaluation of how well things have gone (for both teacher and students) is vital if our lessons are to develop in response to our students' progress. In other words, we need to plan future lessons on the basis of what happened in previous classes. Not only that, but our decision about whether to use an activity more than once (or whether we need to change the way we use that activity) will depend on how successful it was the first time we tried it.

When we evaluate lessons or activities, we need to ask ourselves questions such as, Was the activity successful? Did the students enjoy it? Did they learn anything from it? What exactly did they get from the activity? How could the activity be changed to make it more effective next time? Unless we ask ourselves such questions, we are in danger of continuing with activities and techniques that either do not work, or, at the very least, are not as successful as they might be with appropriate modification.

One kind of data which will help us evaluate lessons and activities is feedback from students. We might, for example, ask them simple questions such as, 'Did you like that exercise? Did you find it useful?' and see what they say. But not all students will discuss topics like this openly in class. It may be better to ask them to write their answers down and hand them in. A simple way of doing this is to ask students once every fortnight, for example, to write down two things they want more of and two things they want less of. The answers we get may prove a fruitful place to start a discussion, and we will then be able to modify what happens in class, if we think it appropriate, in the light of our students'


feelings. Such modifications will greatly enhance our ability to manage the class.

We can also give students special evaluation forms where they have to rate different activities with a score, or put them in some kind of order and then add comments about what they thought. We might ask students to submit comments by email.

Another way of getting reactions to new techniques is to invite a colleague into the classroom and ask them to observe what happens and make suggestions afterwards. This kind of peer observation is most successful when both teachers discuss the content and practice of the lesson both before and after the observation. It is important that the colleague who comes into our classroom does so in order to offer constructive advice rather than to concentrate on our apparent failings. The lesson could also be videoed. This will allow us to watch the effect of what happened in the lesson with more objectivity than when we try to observe what is happening as it takes place.

Some teachers keep journals in which they record their thoughts about what happened as soon as possible after the lesson has finished. In that way they can read through their comments later and reflect on how they now feel about what happened.

Good teachers also need to assess how well their students are progressing. This can be done through a variety of measures including homework assignments, speaking activities where the teacher scores the participation of each student and frequent small progress tests

45.Speak on using Internet in FLTL as a resource and a teaching tool. What sites can be used for teaching and learning English?

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 1436

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