What is the purpose of classroom testing, assessment and evaluation?

When we think of testing, we often think of TOEFL or IELTS. These high stakes exams, with their potential to help make or break futures, are what many think of as the typical exam.

In classes across the world, teachers emulate these exams by using the same question types e.g. multiple choice questions (MCQs).

Often, testing, assessment or evaluation is reduced to a quiz of some kind. Students get a mark, and that’s the end of the story.

At the same time, people in the testing industry, who are mainly involved with the big examination bodies, cannot understand why teachers cannot grasp the ideas of validity and reliability.

I think that unless ‘testing people’ are not teaching themselves, they will never be able to understand class dynamics, and thus why there is such a gap or disconnect between those with testing knowledge, and people who want to assess in the classroom. But is it really up to people who are testers? What about teachers? What’s their take on this? Are they worried? Are they also unhappy about testing in their contexts?

In the Middle East, there is a tendency to reduce the role of teachers to just receiving centrally written quizzes and tests. In reality this reflects the lack of confidence in teacher testing ability.

There are a lot of issues.

I think we need to simplify things and create a take-off point, from which teachers can move forward in terms of their testing knowledge. Let’s keep the testing and assessment jargon to one side.

What I’m proposing, is that we start off with a simple question. The question being. “What is the purpose of classroom testing, assessment and evaluation?”

Once we have the answer to this, we can then take the discussion further. I have my own answers, but if you are a teacher, who teaches a language, what in your view is the purpose of a test?

Once you have an idea of this, it’ll open doors, and hopefully result in an innovative movement in testing, although it’ll be a tough job to convince those who see testing as merely a score producing exercise. But the point is, that we need to look at the classroom as a different context, and study it’s dynamics. The classroom is a learning environment. The role of testing has to be seen as something that contributes to this. Unless we start looking at testing in this sense, it is difficult to see how large numbers of teachers will see tests as anything beyond the merely producing a score.

Lastly, we mustn’t forget our most important stakeholder, the student. After all, they are the ones directly affected by all of this.

Until next time..

Zees is the IELTS and Zees is the TOEFL!

‘Created’ sample speech from somewhere in an inner-circle country (e.g. The UK, USA or Australia).

Doctor -“Thank you for coming zees morning; how can I help?”

Patient– “I have a sore throat.”

Doctor – “Okay. I will prescribe to you zees medicine. Please take zeees tablets, three times a day; is zees clear?”

Patient – “Yes thank you.”

Doctor – “Thank you for coming.”

  • By reading the dialogue, did you fully understand what the doctor said without reservation?
  • What if you were the listener, i.e. the patient?
  • Looking at the sample of speech, should this person’s slight difference in pronunciation be ignored in the examination?
  • Would you say that this person’s speech ‘communicates clearly the task at hand’?
  • If so, then is that not the point of communication?
  • Importantly, should some non-native speaker norms be deemed acceptable within international exams?

The underlying question here is whether International English Exams should recognise these slight differences in speaking as acceptable, the premise being that if the receiver understands what is being said, then the communication here is successful. What do you think?