Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Assessment that has worked in my teaching

The question of assessment has been raised in many educational forums and platforms, webinars recently, basically my PLN, so I thought I would share my ideas on assessment with you as well.

to me is useful if it is part of the learning process, but from a completely different perspective from how it is regarded at the moment in general.
I think assessment is useful if it raises sts' awareness of what they know and what they need to improve on. After sts identify their OWN areas (not the ones I tell them), I guide them towards resources they can use to find their answers from.
I truly believe that putting more emphasis on self-assessment brings more benefits to the learner and the learning process than a traditional progress- or end-of the course test. I truly believe that students will only continue to stay motivated to learn if they are the one who realise what they need to and want to learn with gentle guidance of the teacher educator.

So during and even at the end of a course I use the following process with any age-group - test formats depending on the age-group.

Step1: Tell the sts about the steps and the reasons behind this way of testing

Step2.: They write the test with no help. This is the traditional part of the assessment.

Step3: I mark it as they finish by ticking the right answers and put a ? next to he wrong answers

Step4: They start looking for places in their book/WB/notes/computer, etc where the answers might be. Here, if you do this for the first time, you might need to offer more guidance in terms of where they could find the answers to their questions.

Step5: They correct/rewrite as many questions marked with ? as possible on their own using the resources they have found OR I guided them to.

Step6: I mark them again as in Step 3.

Step7: THEY write their questions they would like to know more about the language points or ideas from the reading, etc they had problems with.

Step8: Discuss their questions in groups to find out as many answers as possible, i.e.peer teaching combined with micro-teaching.

I have found this process frutiful both with adults, young adults and young learners. Used it in very mixed ability classes as well (learners were from beginner to low intermediate level) with very good results. No one felt bad, frustrated, as this type of assessment has become part of their OWN learning and it was not regarded as assessment for the sake of it. The feedback I got from sts was overwhelmingly positive.

Implementing such a completely different type of assessment in an institution is quite a challenging task, however. When I did it at International House Budapest, some teachers received it with, I thought, mixed feelings. Not all teachers were ready to accept it and try it out.

The teachers who did try it out came back, again with different feeback. There were teachers who said that students didn't quite understand the purpose of it, whereas others reported how much sts had loved it and seen the value of it.

As with the introduction of any new activitity or technique, be that drama or community language learning, etc, it is key for the teacher to believe in its usefulness and be fully aware of the steps described above.

A tip for implementation to both learners and teachers would be asking them to compare the two types of assessment: traditional progress/end-of-course assessment with the one presented above, going through their effect on learning. Ask for their opinion, letting all points of view and feelings heard before it is done for the first time.

Another thing that I do whenever I introduce something new - new technique, method, etc - to either teachers or learners is asking them to reflect on the experience right after the first 'trial'. They talk about how they felt during the process, why, how was it different from - in this case - the traditional assessment, what they think it lead to, etc.

So, here are the implementation steps in brief:

1. Description of the process to the learners/staff
2. Eliciting opinions/feelings about it (very often at this stage it is not received well and this is quite natural)
3. Trying it out with the aim of being able to reflect on the experience
4. Reflecting individually and in groups/whole class (even if there are 300 learners) on the experience.

You will see how attitudes differ at stage 2 and 4 :-). It always happens. Although not with every learner/teacher, but there're always a few who oppose the new idea. It is essential, therefore, not to give up and watch how perception of the learners or teachers changes over time.

If you'd like to try it out, good luck and let us know about your experiences. Also, if you have any questions, please ask.

Hope to hear your opinion on this type of assessment.


  1. It was love at first sight, I have tried a shortened version of it with 2, 8-year old students of mine. There was a twist in the task, they could help and check each other. I just need some practice to be more confident, if the teacher believes in a method, the Ss will accept that./authenticity/
    I have also visited the drama activity site, I like it very much. I really have to read a lot from that material.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Krisztina.

    I'm glad that you have tried it out and it worked for you too. I'm sure every teacher can shape this self-assessment process to their own visions about what works best for the learners.

    Let me know if you try it other groups as well:-)

  3. Great post again :O) thank you.
    I teach mostly one-to-one and have a similar approach to correction. (Correct items->tick, incorrect left there for self correction.) Oftentimes I face negative attitude to that, mainly from young teens. They are so much used to be judged rather than assessed in their school environment :( When negotiating over the method of correction students usually agree that my red-pen-correction would not make them learn anything new apart form the feeling that they are not good enough.

  4. Good point, Barbi!

    It is true that it takes some time for anyone to get used to self-evaluation rather than outside judgement. I am a great believer of the importance of "knowing thyself".

    Here's a quote: "A measure of honest introspection is worth more than an immeasurable pile of pontification." -- Bill Purdin



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