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Unit 15 Covers Evaluation and Testing of Students
Even though many students will be taking English classes for the sake of using English for local reasons - such as working in a business that interacts with foreigners (hotel, travel agency, etc.), many students will ultimately have their sights set on passing an external exam. Various reasons might include study or living abroad, working in a foreign company at home or abroad, working with foreigners in a local setting, and so forth. For this reason, many students will accept and benefit from a variety of evaluations and testing along their language learning journey, even if they do not enjoy it.
There are a number of ways to assess a student's language level and progress:
> Group or individual tutorials - reviewing the work done, discussing aims of the lesson, performance of the students, and problems that should be addressed
> Evaluation by the students - This can assess if the students themselves feel that they are getting what they need from the course. The teacher can then use the results to plan for future lessons. It can also make the students more aware of their own goals as well as the goals of the course.
> Testing - There are different types of tests that can be used at different times. Not every teacher agrees that tests are necessary or helpful. But whether done via a written test or by informal interaction, a teacher needs to have an awareness of the students' current level of understanding.
There are a number of different kinds of tests that a teacher might use. Some might be dictated by the language center, and thus can affect the things that the teacher teaches, as the teacher must by and large "teach to the test".
> Placement tests are used to place new students into the correct class for their language level
> Diagnostic tests are similar to placement tests but are for the students already enrolled in the class. The diagnostic test is usually done at the beginning of the course and tests to see what a student already knows. The teacher can use this knowledge for formulating lesson plans and considering areas that will need remedial help and extra time.
> Progress tests can be used periodically to gauge what is being remembered and can be accurately applied as opposed to what has been forgotten or misunderstood. They should include a balance of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and over cover the language learned within the tested period.
> Practice tests are specifically for preparation of a final or later examination, either for the course itself, or more likely, or a general external examination
> General external examinations are those that are written and tested by certain entities for certain reasons. Usually they are required either by a university or a company.
General external examinations include:
> TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language - an American exam required by most US universities
> IELTS - International English Language Testing System
> TOEIC - Test of English for International Communication - for work-place English especially in Japan or Korea
Cambridge Assessment provides a wide range of assessments used in many countries for work and study purposes:
> General English tests:
1. KET (Key English Test) - Elementary level
2. PET (Preliminary English Test) - Intermediate level
3. FCE (First Certificate in English) - Upper Intermediate level
4. CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) - Advanced
5. CPE - (Certificate of Proficiency in English) - Very Advanced
> Business English
1. BEC (Business English Certificates) - Three exams for business use
2. BULATS (Business Language Testing Service) - Multilingual assessment for companies
Trinity College London provides ESOL Skills for Life (UK) for learners aged 16+ who have chosen to live in the UK.
I was really glad to have this small but helpful unit. It explained all of the types of testing all together which was really helpful for comparative purposes. Also, I was able to get a better grasp as to why a student might be taking a certain exam, for example, a TOEIC exam, rather than, say, an IELTS exam.
I can see that as objective as tests are, they can actually be quite subjective in their assessment abilities. For instance, a student may or may not memorize well, may or may not get nervous taking a test, may be shy or outgoing. Many things impact a student's ability to get a good score on a test outside of his or her actual fluency. However, tests are simply a fact of life and cannot be avoided. I do notice that much of what I teach are "life skills" and "communication" that actually have nothing to do with the language at hand. The students are simply unused to communicating in their own schoolwork in a way that makes testing easier. Before I teach students how to have a small conversation with each other, I first must teach them how to communicate, how to describe things. These are things they should know in their own language. But because of cultural differences, they are not used to even being allowed to speak up in such a way. And now they have a cold hard test with speaking, listening and writing portions included with the reading and grammar. Tests are no fun, but getting a decent score, especially on a standardized exam, can be an exhilarating reward for a lot of hard work.