Assessment: Follies, Strategies and Teaching to the Test
It was another active chat with lots of sharing, questions, ideas, and challenges shared. Expertly moderated by Alex Grevett (aka @breathyvowel), the chat was held on Sunday, June 17th at 8:00 pm Korea time.
Some key issues and questions that emerged were:
- What is the purpose of assessment?
- What are we assessing? And why?
- How can we balance our beliefs about assessment with other factors like admin?
- How we can assess the quality of the assessments; how objective?
- How and what should we measure?
(These last two questions came courtesy of @chopEDU)
How are we currently assessing students?
After some hellos and comedy we started the chat out with a quick rundown of our current assessment practices/situations. The responses were varied, as one might expect considering the variety of contexts that #KELTchatters work in, as well as the amount of students and “face-time” we have. Here is a sampling of the answers:
@breathyvowel wrote, “My university expects either a written or spoken quiz each week, plus a 70/30 written/spoken mid-term and final.”
@BarryJamesonELT shared, “I’m in a hagwon so assessment is.. erm.. basic. Tri monthly test. Basic scores daily for each class for word test, memorize.” Barry later mentioned that, from his view, the tests are not extremely beneficial and that there is sometimes some score changing to please parents. When asked for a suggestion on improving things he wrote, “First step, change the actual tests we give. They are basic generic tests which really only check writing then we just attach a few questions which counts as a speaking test. Not really testing anything.”
@michaelegriffin: (focusing on one specific class for “clarity and sanity purposes”) said, “Scoring system is midterm & Final 25% each,project 10,weekly quizzes 10, participation 30 (chosen by me) for my discussion course.” Mike (who apparently loves to use the third person about himself) continued, writing, “students know that if they come to the exams they will get a high score and a bunch of comments bout what i heard” in exams where students talk for 10 minutes to rotating partners about previously discussed topics. Mike also mentioned that he tries to listen for what students ask him to listen for.
@languagebubble employs a similar system, writing, “I do group conversation – 3 Ss, 10mins… i prompt when the conversation is stalling.”
@AnneHendler tweeted, “I am required to evaluate Ss RWSL + vocab, grammar on the fourth day of class. :) I use ongoing assessment.” Anne elaborated saying that she mostly does mostly observations in which students “don’t know they’re being assessed” and that she is “looking for improvement over the course of the week.” She later mentioned that she writes “comments on what they did well and how to further improve on the written eval.”
Chiming in from England (with many Korean students) @sx200i wrote, “Assessments every 6 weeks, not on what Ss have been taught via book or other face time but using Cambridge exam papers” and later adding, “no speaking test – only an assessment relating to CEF.”
In regard to his current context Mr. @AlexSWalsh shared the following tweets (after which he apologized for moaning):
“Sometimes I wonder if im testing my ability to listen more than their ability to speak English, especially by the 450th test. “
“Yep 450 speaking tests, each one is 2 mins. I can’t figure out how it’s anything but a waste of time
they get 4 questions a week before, are randomly asked one, give them a mark in a rubric”
“Last year I had 5mins and I thought it was quite interesting for the Ss and me, but not sure it was worth 4 weeks teaching time!”
“I guess I’m just a bit confused about them the more I do them. I also question why the Ss r actually taking speaking tests?”
“What am I looking for? Who’s lived abroad the longest!”
Memorization of answers as well as help from hogwan teachers on such tests were also mentioned as potential problems.
@GemL1 had a more positive view of speaking tests, writing, “I think it’s good for younger Ss to have spking tests, shows spking is as important as other skills” and added, “it helps them focus in my classes more and good practice for future, only bout 10% of their overall grade.“
What about scoring participation?
On this issue, Breathy wrote, “As part of my encouragement of personal responsibility, my Ss award themselves participation… I give them a rubric, and they tell me at the end of each class what they think they merit” with the caveat that “I do reserve a right of veto though.” Mike admitted that his participation score was something along the lines of coming to class and not sleeping. Breathy said that this system actually saves him time because he just needs to determine if the students are being reasonable or not (though his words choice was a bit different). Barry shared a guest post by @phil3wade on his blog about grading participation http://t.co/ZvygVtyk while noting that participation is hard to mark.
What are common beliefs about assessment in Korea? And why?
Anne shared her thought that a preference for “objective” assessment seems to be quite important in Korea and @michaelegriffin added, “Yesterday a Korean HS teacher told us that Korean schools prefer paper tests because they seem objective (reliable? valid?).” @breathyvowel mentioned, “I think also paper tests tend to be quicker to mark, which is a big thing for a lot of people everywhere.”
Also, someone wondered if there might be a lot of assessment for assessment’s sake done in Korea.
What are some other ideas/tips?
One idea that was floated was to (secretly) listen to a few students per class and then try to get a clear picture of their abilities this way, rather than a big test at the end. (There were some questions about how to make this work numbers-wise but it was an idea.)
@quietpotato asked, “How about focusing on communicative tests? E.g. Trinity GESE exam syllabus – multi level speaking tests YL & Adult” and then provided the following link: http://t.co/p601cvBF. He added, “though it again takes the form of a conversation, so the student doesn’t have to worry about ‘learning lines.’”
@breathyvowel shared a quiz idea he tried recently, offering, “We were doing verb patterns (hope to, enjoy -ing). I had Ss write 6 sentences, but they couldn’t write their name on the paper. Graded out of 15, 6 grammar, 6 intelligibility, 3 if I guessed who you were.”
@languagebubble has speaking homework assignments which allow him to listen more carefully to specific students and provide feedback to them.
Thanks all for the great chat and see you when the summer hiating is over.