Reflections on authenticity in teaching and learning

Peer Testing – student feedback

I finally have a little time to catch up on those ‘I really need to follow that up’ things on my mental To-Do list.  This is one of them.  Back in March I asked the question:

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?

This was inspired by Marta Rosińska’s talk at IATEFL 2012 entitled ‘Tests with a human face’.  It piqued my interest because many institutions incorporate testing into their assessment procedures and the idea of bringing students into the process seemed one way of authenticating it and making it a more enjoyable and formative experience for both the teachers and the learners.

In week 5, students were asked to write about their experience with peer testing. 

A Selection of Student Responses

  1. “I like making questions, finding the answers, searching for new words.”
  2. “The tests are going very well.  They help me make questions and study at home.”
  3.  “They help me to find a way for studying at the same time preparing for the test.”
  4. “Comparing peer tests to traditional tests, I think it’s a good idea every Monday we have the test we learn from each other and feel more relax.”
  5. “Comparing peer tests to traditional tests, I think, the peer tests are new test form.  We can help together and more easier.”
  6. “Regarding if there was anything I don’t enjoy it, yes for example the student chooses a colleague, I need the teacher chooses a student who will be tested with, because that best way to help the students for study, and I want the teacher to supervise the test.”
  7. “I don’t enjoy making questions, because it’s spend more time. So I can’t study.”
  8. “The traditional tests are going very good and I must study seirously.”
  9. “I enjoy working together.  But I didn’t enjoy when my classmate forget the test.”
  10. “The teacher, she [k]now, what I can need, but the pee[r] test, Im writing or [partner] write but they didn’t [k]now what I can need.”
  11. “I have also practice about listening, grammar and pronunciation because I want to improve the English language.”

All students said they had learnt a lot and on the whole, enjoyed the experience.  It is interesting to note that some students did not perceive the value in preparing the test, in that it is revision in itself (comments 2, 3 and 7).  These students clearly felt that preparing the peer test was a separate activity to studying and interfered with their study time , i.e. test preparation was not deemed as ‘study’.  Interestingly, it tended to be the more independent and capable students who remarked on the fact that not only did preparing tests for their peers actually helped them learn the items themselves but they also practised other skills such as listening and pronunciation that the traditional testing format does not offer. 

Comments 4 and 5 illustrate the cooperative element of peer testing.  Learning from and helping each other was an enjoyable part of the peer testing process. There were, of course, certain unhelpful moments where a partner forgot to bring their test and this generated food for thought on learner responsibility and its effects on others.  Cooperation and responsibility are aspects of the tests that may help students develop personally and foster authentic real-life skills.

The role of the teacher as guide/consultant was apparent to me and my colleague, and one student did note that, “the role of the teacher in peer test is helping the student to prepare the test and support them.”  However, the leap to learner independence was perhaps too great for some.  Comments 6 and 10 suggest that these students felt the teacher should have chosen the partners (in fact this was altered later in the course and we helped to pair students) and decided what each student should be tested on.  This latter point touches upon the very interesting concept of personalised tests. 

Ideas to ponder:

  • how can we make the connection between peer test preparation and studying more transparent?
  • One size never fits all so how could we go about personalising testing to make it a more authentic learning experience for all students?



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