Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three Critical Points in English Language and Foreign Language Testing and Evaluation

Testing Evaluation and Assessment in EFL

“No teacher, why do we have to take exams?” Do you get this question as I often do? While there are a multitude of possible answers, nevertheless we must, in regular intervals, evaluate or test our groups of English as a foreign language learners, in addition to learners of other foreign languages as well. But before running off half-baked to twist and squeeze the wearied brains of our charges, let’s take just a moment to look at some critical points which need to be considered along with the testing, evaluation and assessment processes. We’ll discuss the first three points here in part one of this two-part article post.

1. Test ONLY Material Which Has Been Actually Taught

It quite common that exams are regularly pre-scheduled into the English or other foreign language curriculum, but hold on there Hoss, `cause there can be a few monkey wrenches thrown into the works that need to be accounted for at times. You know, those pesky little things like holidays, strikes, administrative outages, lost days due to environmental and other factors. For example, we have earthquakes in Colombia. There are also periods of heavy rains and accompanying floods. Then there are those “annoying” power and water outages that wreak havoc on virtually any society no matter how “developed” or “under-developed” they might be. “So what”, you say? Well these and numerous other factors can "skew" your teaching days and schedule so that when test time rolls around, you haven’t actually taught everything covered on a pre-scheduled exam. If that happens, then you shouldn’t test what you haven’t taught.

2. Use Multi-Modal Testing Approaches

Global reference testing (IELTS, TOEFL, etc.) aside, your EFL learners shouldn’t be subjected to a battery of only “answer the question” or “multiple choice” questions for the entire exam. Many highly successful people like Albert Einstein, did poorly in school and on exams for this and similar reasons. You don’t always use the same method in your teaching now (gasp!), do you? Well then don’t do it when you test either.

3. Use Known and Practiced Exercise Types

As a Department Head, Language Programs Coordinator and Teacher Trainer, I’ve constantly “preached” the necessity of using only exercise types on exams with which the learners have been made familiar. This serves several constructive purposes such as eliminating the need for an ongoing string of “Teacher, I don’t understand how to do section C" questions and the resulting repeated, lengthy, exam time-consuming responses. Use an extensive variety of exercise types during your English or foreign language classes and you can use more of these same types of exercises on exams without generating questions or problems.

In Part Two – More Critical Points English and Foreign Language Testing Will Be Discussed

We’ll continue to look at some critical points which need to be considered along with the testing, evaluation and assessment processes in part two of this two-part article post. See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, author and public 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: lynchlarrym@gmail.com 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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