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    • #29470
      Nicholas Northall
      Moderator
          @nick-northall

          In this forum, add your thoughts about testing and assessment. You could consider, but don’t feel restricted to:

          • What do you understand about testing and assessment?
          • How and why should we test learners?
          • What difficulties could tests cause our learners?
          • What makes a good test?

          Remember to comment on other course participants’ posts.

        • #56303
          Amira Madkour
          Participant
              @amy-madkr

              What do you understand about testing and assessment?

              Assessment is a more generic term, it encompasses testing which is a formal way of assessing students’ performances; but it also includes other informal ways like homework.

              How and why should we test learners?

              There are many ways to test students. In my opinion the integrated tests are effective as they help teachers assess different skills and spot the areas of development. In order to help elicit the right responses, using complex or simple prompts would be useful. Of course, the difficulity of the prompt will be according to learner’s proficiency.  I find discrete-item tests the easiest type of assessment; though they would be useful if conducted post a newly taught target language.  Test students to assess their lingustic knowledge and to evaluate their competence and use of  the language.

              What difficulties could tests cause our learners?
              I think test could influence students’ motivation. Also tests could impact their learning and make them focus only on test-based question. Only focusing on questions expected in the test will negatively influence their learning and language development.

              What makes a good test?

              Reliability: the degree the test serves its purpose.  Face reliability (format), content reliability (coursework and syllabus), predictive reliability (student’s proficiency level)

              Validity: consistincy of results; will all teachers be able to give the same grades for similar answers and students get the same results if they sit for the test at a different time.

              • #56806
                Nicholas Northall
                Moderator
                    @nick-northall

                    Hi Amira,

                    Thanks for posting here. You make some good points about the differences between testing and assessment. Often the two terms appear to be used interchangeably. There certainly are many different ways to test learners which essentially down to the purpose of the test – i.e. what do we want to the test to do. This is explored in paper 2, task 1 in which the main thing to consider is the purpose of the example test and whether it is fit to meet that purpose.

                    I agree about motivation. How many times have we taught IELTS (or other similar exam-focused course), where all the learners want to do is endless exam-practice tasks not realising that do get the score they need involves actually improving their use of English rather than their understanding of the exam?

                    Just check your understanding of reliability and validity. But I agree that both should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a test.

                    Cheers,

                    Nick

                • #56320
                  Robert Dailey
                  Participant
                      @robertd

                      What do you understand about testing and assessment?

                      I understand that it it is a serious and complex part of ELT: one that probably needs a lot of thought and care and attention to do well. I have the impression that it is easy to write a bad test and difficult to write a good one. It´s interesting what Amira says above about assessment – I tend to forget, I think, that we constantly make assessments about our learners albeit in informal ways in my case I think I can think a lot more about the tasks I set for homework.

                      How and why should we test learners?

                      Regarding the why, we might of course want to test learners for many reasons. For instance, we might want to decide in which group to place a learner or to assess her/his progress during or at the end of a course. In terms of the how, it seems to me that continuous assessment gives a more complete picture of the learner´s abilities and about how he/she can be helped to improve than does summative assessment (even though this has its uses). I think that another interesting question is when we should test our learners. We are coming to the end of January and I´m starting to think about doing some sort of end of month test for my learners. This will almost certainly prompt them to revise which is a good thing.

                      What difficulties could tests cause our learners?

                      As Harmer mentions, we need to be very conscious of the consequences of testing and the last thing we want to do is demotivate our learners if they don´t get the mark they think they deserve or were hoping for. Furthermore, I think that most people feel anxious when they do any type of test and I guess that one good thing about assessment via means of a portfolio is that the anxiety associated with things like end of term tests (or DELTA exams :-) ) is removed. Perhaps, as with Suggestopedia, soft music should be played when the exams begin :) ?? Finally, knowing the language but not knowing the test can also cause problems for learners so, as Harmer says, when we are going to test our learners they need to know what is expected of them.

                      What makes a good test?
                      Amira has highlighted reliability and validity and these are very important. Harmer also mentions transparency, and a test also needs to be practical in terms of the time it takes to write and mark.

                      • #56808
                        Nicholas Northall
                        Moderator
                            @nick-northall

                            Hi Robert,

                            Thanks for sharing here. I agree about the ease of writing a bad test versus writing a good one – I think that’s why tests such as IELTS undergo a rigorous process before being unleashed on unsuspecting test takers! Certainly, assessing (or should that be testing?) our learners can involve informal ways (which I think we all do most of the time at least subconsciously).

                            You make a good point about ‘when’ being something to consider with our tests. Perhaps assessment should be continuous but it doesn’t need to be formal (e.g.  informal assessment as we observe learners completing a discussion task). This kind of assessment (i.e. when the learners perhaps don’t know they’re being assessed) can help to reduce anxiety!

                            Unfortunately, DM1 is assessed with a formal exam. Perhaps some kind of portfolio would work here? Or perhaps we could ask Cambridge if we can listen to music during the exam – we’d all have to agree on the music though!

                            And yes to transparency.

                            Cheers,

                            Nick

                        • #56321
                          Robert Dailey
                          Participant
                              @robertd

                              In case anyone is interested, I came across the following news item about some air crashes and English proficiency that has implications for testing:

                              https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/the-fatal-consequences-of-miscommunication-between-pilots-and-air-traffic-controllers-20160928-grq1d9.html

                              • #56807
                                Nicholas Northall
                                Moderator
                                    @nick-northall

                                    Thanks for sharing this Robert. A slightly morose but relevant read. I thought the term ‘Mayday‘ was internationally recognised and came from French, so I was surprised that not using it (rather than ‘running out of fuel) caused an accident.

                                    Cheers,

                                    Nick

                                • #56809
                                  Nicholas Northall
                                  Moderator
                                      @nick-northall

                                      Dear All,

                                      Thank you to Amira and Robert for contributing to this week’s forum task. You both make some valid (!) points about testing and assessment, which I have responded to. Here are some further points to consider:

                                      What do you understand about testing and assessment?

                                      • There are, of course, many different forms and purposes of testing and assessment.
                                      • As Amira reminds us, although the terms ‘testing’ and ‘assessment’ are often used interchangeably, ‘assessment’ is actually the broader, umbrella term and ‘testing’ is one type of assessment.
                                      • Assessment involves gathering information about learners’ language knowledge and abilities and can be both formal (e.g. a test) and informal (e.g. through monitoring or homework), objectively marked (e.g. indirect or discrete-item tests) or subjectively marked (e.g. direct or integrative tests) and can be formative (i.e. developmental) or summative (i.e. evaluative) in its purpose.
                                      • As we know from the live session last week (P2, P1), it is important that tests are fit for purpose.

                                      How and why should we test learners?

                                      • Some different types of tests that are used for different purposes include placement, diagnostic, progress, achievement and proficiency tests.
                                      • Formative assessment, when done right, can increase motivation and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning.
                                      • Testing can help both teachers and students to see progress and can help teachers to decide on future teaching in order to address any gaps and meet learners’ needs.
                                      • Robert also mentions the need to include the question ‘when’.

                                      What difficulties could tests cause our learners?

                                      •  You both mention that testing can reduce motivation. I guess too many summative tests, or tests that are pitched at the wrong level or lack validity, can be demotivating for learners.
                                      • Robert mentions that test takers need to know what the exam will involve (i.e. have exam practice support).
                                      • Often tests may not provide an accurate picture of students’ knowledge or abilities (e.g. due to affective factors). Therefore, it can be a good idea to supplement formal testing with other types of continuous assessment (e.g. coursework or as Robert mentions portfolios).
                                      • The test itself and its design can also lead to difficulties. For example tests with low validity, unclear instructions or unfamiliar formats or task types can be extremely demotivating for students.

                                      What makes a good test?

                                      • As Amira suggests, a good test should have content and face validity.
                                      • Tests should feedback on students’ strengths and weaknesses, which can then be addressed by the teacher.
                                      • Robert mentions transparency (that is the learners know what it will involve).
                                      • The key features of a successful include: transparency, reliability, practicality, positive washback and clear objectives/purpose.
                                      • Test designers need to be clear about what the test aims to achieve and ensure that it does so.

                                      Thanks again for your contributions here. I think this provides a useful summary of factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to testing, both in a practical sense with our learners and also in terms of the requirements of Paper 2, Task 1.

                                      As you know, there is a lot of terminology surrounding this topic and you might find this Quizlet helpful revision (this will also be useful if/when you come to do Delta Module Three).

                                      As always, if you haven’t yet contributed to this forum, please feel free to do so.

                                      Cheers,

                                      Nick

                                    • #56880
                                      Erica
                                      Participant
                                          @erica

                                          What do you understand about testing and assessment?

                                          Assessment is important for both learners and teachers. Assessment can be seen as a measuring tool that could help learners become aware of their language skills and support teachers in planning lessons/ courses. Assessment can take many different forms.

                                          How and why should we test learners?

                                          Testing can be either formal or informal. There are many types of tests (proficiency, summative, formative, etc.) and sometimes the choice of a test depends on the kind of course (accredited or non-accredited) students attend. However, regardless of the possible final / official examination at the end of a course, the teacher has the power to decide what, how and when assess their students.

                                          The results of a can be useful to evaluate a course as well as the learners’ achievements. A good test with clear feedback can also support learners’ learning (self-awareness) and motivation (they have a target to achieve/ to improve). For some students, a test may represent a “tangible proof” that they are learning / they have spent their time and money well.

                                          What difficulties could tests cause our learners?

                                          The results of a test can have a negative effect on students. this may as well be due to different factors. For instance, the format of the test was too different from what the students had done in class and / or the rubric wasn’t clear. As a result, the learners couldn’t perform at their best.

                                          Another factor that may contribute to demotivate students is the fact that the feedback on the test is not clear or not perceived as useful. For example, when marking a writing task, the criteria should be made clear and accessible to the students (even before the test, that’s why it’s important to practise and talk about expectation/ criteria in the classroom – kind of “what makes a good answer to the task?). However, sometimes it is necessary to go beyond pass/fail and explain to the students that why and how to improve is more constructive feedback.

                                          Difficulties for teachers = create good tests = valid, reliable and appropriate to the students. What to test is also very important and challenging. For example, as a mid-course review (formative assessment) what is more appropriate to teach and how? Integrative test? What about some discrete-item tests as well? I think a variety of tests would work well but then practicality kicks in and …. More planning and adjustments.

                                           

                                          • #56909
                                            Nicholas Northall
                                            Moderator
                                                @nick-northall

                                                Hi Erica,

                                                Thanks for sharing. I agree with you point about a testing being for some learners ‘proof’ of their progress. Let’s face it, all learners are learning because they want to improve, so a test could be a very objective way of measuring this progress. Obviously, a range of different tests could be used here.

                                                Certainly giving learners feedback on their test results (providing it is a classroom-based one and not a formal criterion-referenced one such as IELTS!) is certainly beneficial. I feel some form of summative assessment should be present in most TEFL courses.

                                                And yes to your point about practicality! Too much testing could certainly demotivate many learners, but actually finding time to carry them all it, is another problem we need to consider.

                                                Cheers,

                                                Nick

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