“Oh, no. A test again!” That is what teachers often hear when they ask their students to get ready for assessment. What is assessment? Is it a progress test at the end of a unit or something deeper than that?If we take the TKT glossary, it presents us with a whole page of explanations. Basically, it means judging learners’ performance by collecting information about it. There are a number of ways to do so.
When does the assessment take place?
This type goes before any teaching has occurred. At this stage, a teacher diagnoses what knowledge a student already has. Not only does the level of knowledge play an important role here, but also the personality of a student, their aims and time limits.
Placement tests are usually used to choose the correct course and group for a learner. It shows only knowledge of a language without any personal qualities. This stage could be done in a form of a test or face-to-face communication.
It shows students’ progress. Every teacher seems to know what progress tests are. They are usually based on the course and held after each unit. This is a kind of formative assessment.
Continuous assessment is another way of monitoring students’ progress. It does not involve final assessment but takes into account regular evaluation of skills and knowledge, written works, observation throughout the course.
At the end of the course, we give our students a final test to check how well they have learnt the material. Here a grade for their work is more important than feedback on their progress. This type is summative assessment.
What is assessed?
Language assessment checks different areas of grammar or lexis that have been taught previously.
We can also evaluate the skills of our students. We use skills tests for that. They check comprehension and communication, or receptive and productive skills.
Who gives feedback?
Here are three possible ways.
Feedback from the teacher. It goes without saying that this is the most important type of assessment as it is the teacher whose opinion is considered the most respected for a student.
However, now the other two are considered not far less important. Self-assessment makes students more autonomous. They are usually given some criteria and asked to think of how well they have been doing in the lesson/unit/course.
The third one is peer assessment. In this case, students tell each other what they think of each other’s progress. It is commonly believed that it triggers students to study better. They tend to listen to their groupmates more than to the teacher.
How is assessment done?
Objective assessment is the easiest for teachers to mark as they usually have just one correct answer. They are often in the form of a test with multiple-choice, true/false of gap-fill tasks.
Subjective assessment requires checking “freer” tasks, such as compositions, essays, role-plays, interviews. Here we mark many aspects from spelling to organizing ideas. The grade of such work depends on our judgement. In most cases, assessors have a set of criteria according to which they mark a task. That is formative assessment. It is also based on formal and informal assessment.
Formal assessment always has a formal way of marking, i.e. a grade or a formal report to comment on a student’s success. It can be a part of portfolio assessment. It means collecting every project, test or written task. They are kept to monitor a student’s progress during a course. It is a part of continuous assessment.
Informal assessment is based on a teacher’s ‘silent’ evaluating and analyzing a student’s strengths and weaknesses to adapt or change the course. This is done through making observations, keeping notes about progress, peer assessment and self-assessment sheets. It works well with young learners because of their way of thinking.
Where is assessment done?
It can be a paper-based type of assessment. It is still the most preferred way of assessment. It is usually classroom based which means everyone is usually observed that is why the results are considered more reliable.
Online testing is done via the Internet but is not considered reliable enough.
Computer-based assessment (CAT — Computer Adaptive Testing) checks students progress based on the right or wrong answers. It dynamically generates questions based on the student’s previous answers.
We believe that setting a goal is the first vital thing in learning a language. The second one is monitoring if your student is going in the right way.
What types of assessment do you prefer? Which do you use most often? Share your ideas in the comments below.