keepitrealELT

Reflections on authenticity in teaching and learning

Tests as tools not weapons

Marta Rosińska’s talk on Tuesday (IATEFL 20th March 2012) entitled ‘Tests with a human face’ argued for peer-testing as part of classroom procedure.  Yes, institutions like tests, exams, review, mid-term and final. We’ve all taken enough of them to know that they can be scary.  They can instil fear, anxiety and sometimes frustration – how can a 3 hour exam encapsulate or demonstrate all of my knowledge?…besides, I’m much better at continuous assessment!

How can we move from students perceiving tests as very stressful and coming down from ‘on high’ (i.e. the teacher, with a capital T) to a more motivating, human experience without losing a sense of importance and learning?

Well, Marta suggests we get them more involved in the process. We’ll keep the big, scary exams if the institutions make us but let’s at least do something about review tests, and even make the marks part of continuous assessment. 

Students could:

  • be given question types and then prepare a test for their partner or another pair, group.
  • write their own tests for T to collect and administer a week or so later.
  • choose what areas they want to be tested on.
  • record test questions on their mobiles at home and then pass it to their partner next lesson.
  • do open-book tests in pairs (joint scoring).

There are many advantages I can see to this approach.  Students becoming part of the process fosters ownership, motivation, empowerment and responsibility.  According to Rosińska, this approach is high-challenge but low-stakes.  Tests are not prepared and administered by the teacher so do not have such a high-stakes risk of losing face.  It is also a less passive accumulation of skills (Hayaman, 1995:1).  Through testing in this way, the students become more aware of a) what testing involves thus preparing them better for the formal exams and, b) gaps in their learning.  They are also practising higher-order skills of creating (for more about Bloom’s taxonomy revised, see Krathwohl, 2002) and of course, whilst preparing the tests, they are revising the items themselves.

Shifting the focus and interaction from teacher>student to student<>student  makes the process more relaxed.  Removing a stress that does not need to be there and allowing students to become a part of the testing<>learning process is surely a step in the right direction.   Tests that are not abstract, something-that-happens-at-the-end-of-each-unit things but are student-produced must be more real to the students and therefore more motivating. 

Some teachers in Marta’s audience protested that some students might cheat or not take it seriously.  This is for the teacher and their group to decide.  If we are to transfer responsibility to students, we must do it in good faith.  I say give it a go, they might surprise us.  I have done peer-testing before with FCE and IELTS groups in particular and have always been impressed by what they have produced and how they have responded to the idea and the tests themselves with such enthusiasm (yes, enthusiasm for tests!). The students often take it very seriously, become quite competitive (extra motivation) and actually seem harder on each other than I would be!

We are just about to start a new pre-intermediate course here and I am going to do my review tests in this way and see what happens.  Watch this space for progress updates and comments from students!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on 27/03/2012 by in Uncategorized.
urbantworural

packing up and moving to the sticks

tjhampson

Blogging about what's going on in my classroom and in my head.

Teaching EAP

Polemical. Questioning, debating and exploring issues in EAP

Mike Neary

How do revolutionary teachers teach?

HE Reflections

Exploring approaches to teaching and learning

The Other Things Matter

because if you tried to count up all the things that affected learning in a classroom, you'd need a million million fingers (and you'd still probably fall way short )

ELT Reflections

Musings of a teacher always in training

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

...and other things I'm not so sure about

elt-resourceful

Full of tips and ideas for creating ELT and ESOL resources

hughdellar

Thoughts, rants and ramblings on the teaching of English as a Foreign Language

elteachertrainer

The blog of ELT trainer and author John Hughes with content related to his publications and now experimenting with video for the flipped elteachertrainer.

Reflective Teaching

Because we're all still learning... I know I am.

Pura Vida Dogme

Dogme Action Research in Costa Rica

Kurdish Studies Network

Connecting knowledge

Learner Centered Teaching

Largest Resource for Learner Centered Teaching on the Web

iLoveTEFL by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

On a journey to become the best English teachers we can be

%d bloggers like this: