Thursday, June 05, 2008

Unique Ways of Evaluating Foreign Language Learners

Testing, Evaluation and Assessment in EFL

You know the looks you’re going to get whenever you “announce” an upcoming quiz, test or evaluation. Whether these are administration-mandated, curriculum-included, make-up or “recuperation-type” exams, English and foreign language learners alike, loathe them. Why not try some different, unique evaluation methods to help beat the “test-taking blues” which afflict virtually all EFL / ESL learners?

Here are Seven Different Testing, Assessment and Evaluation Types You Might Want to Consider:

Traditional Exams
One all-too-often-used method of evaluating learner knowledge and language skills is by using standard examination forms. These can be prepared individually by each teacher or educational institution, be locally, regionally or globally produced. These types of evaluations, however, favor those learners who are “good” at taking tests.

Learner-Produced Portfolios
Another popular, but less-frequently-used form of EFL learner evaluation consists of examination of a learner-produced portfolio of work at intervals during the school year or learning period. This allows for considerably more latitude for the learners to demonstrate their knowledge and language skills in ways which are more appealing to them individually.

Expository Essays
A favored form in use in the UK and Europe, learners write detailed, annotated and foot-noted personal essays or compositions on focused topics. Their formal writing is based on what they have read up on, studied, experienced, been lectured to about or otherwise involved themselves with.

Learning Projects
Time, resources, teacher skills and other factors permitting, individual or small group projects can be assigned which allow learners to demonstrate in-depth investigation and learning on a focused theme or topic. A variety of learning project types and methods of presenting their project can be applied, allowing for considerable latitude among a class group.

Computer-Aided Language Evaluation
If an extensive web quest is assigned to the EFL / ESL learners, despite similar topics, websites visited, readings done and tasks involved, learners will internalize materials in completely different ways. Evaluations can also be computer-based with the examination program itself actually checking and grading each learner’s work. This is often most attractive to English language teachers who are time-strapped or teach large, multi-level groups of learners.

Peer Evaluation
The learners themselves are often shocked at being given this option. They will prepare their own evaluations on the materials and skills they are working with. They can also suggest or recommend exam questions, evaluation activity types, length, frequency and duration of exams and evaluations. “Oh yes”, you say, “they’ll make up “easy” exams that everyone can surely pass”. No, they won’t. It’s surprising to many teachers just how thorough learner-produced exams can be.

• Learner-Prepared Presentations
You’ve planned a topic, resources and materials to be used, timing of class sessions, homework and assignments. Why not allow the learners to present what they’ve “internalized” in a presentation that they’ve selected for themselves? Most foreign language learners are often delighted to do so. They’ll usually do a much better job of preparing, studying and organizing their learning than many teachers imagine.

Eliminate the “Test-Taking Blues”

At least now you have an expanded arsenal of methods to use for evaluation of your English or other foreign language learners during the course of a school term, semester or scholastic year. It won’t completely eliminate the “test-taking blues”, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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