Evaluation and Assessment
We started with the approach; then we went on to the objectives or expectativas de logro; next we got down to methodology and technique, both broader than an approach, and, in so doing, we included choice of materials. Now comes the moment of evaluating results. A dreaded moment.
Why?In a way, talk of evaluation closes a stage and opens up another. This means that evaluation is an integral part of the learning process and it should be planned as part of the process itself.
But, unfortunately, it has not been customary for this to be so.
It's been taken to evaluate teacher's actions in the classroom. Well, it shouldn't be surprising in a teacher-centered approach. It’s not that we teach this and this our learners will produce. Not really. «So much in, so much out» certainly does not describe what goes on in life. And certainly not in the classroom either.
Why not?Because, as we said before, input goes to the brain, and the brain, together with the person’s overall affective apparatus, processes information. It is as if it said, «This I want, this I don’t want. Out it goes.» And there is no possible learning if the person doesn’t want to learn.
So, the preliminary conclusion is that evaluation is a very complex process –to say the least.
Let’s breathe in deeply and push on. This topic certainly is a difficult topic.
Evaluation is ultimately intended to give teachers and learners feedback that will determine adjustments and re-planning of the work to make sure that learning takes place effectively and efficiently.
This said, there should be continuous evaluation all through the school year, and of course, through each project teacher and learners have embarked on. This is process or integrative evaluation. Constant assessment prevents unpleasant surprises.
Progress assessment is moderately easy in a task-based approach, like the one we're proposing. Each step in the development of a project towards a final task entails progress evaluation with the consequent adjustment of objectives for the next step. This in turn redounds in more practice, systematisation, and perhaps, also, new activities of a different nature.
So this means that not all evaluation is destined to measure «final results». By its very nature, learning a language is mainly procedural, so it's process-based. And if we teach it as a process, shouldn't we evaluate it in the same way? Unfortunately, this is not the current view in the classroom. «What’s done is done». So it's considered to be a «one-shot» affair. You miss your target, you miss your turn. And that's it.
All for process, then
Process assessment involves learners' interest, their progress in the development of communicative skills and in the growth of the linguistic system, their knowledge of content, their attitude towards the language, the group and themselves as members of the group.
Conceptual, procedural and attitudinal concepts. All three. The four skills. All four. All of them integrated into learner performance.
Quite a task, isn’t it? So how can we proceed?
In order to develop self-awareness of progress –their own and others’– it's advisable to involve learners in the evaluation task.
Learners can assess their own achievement of objectives, development of abilities, knowledge of concepts, use of English in class, participation, work with classmates, their role at school, what they think about the topics and the text they're using in general.
How must we proceed to enable this?One essential aspect is for learners to know what they're evaluating. This requires teachers to share their objectives with their groups of learners. Yes, do let them have a copy and refer to this list every time your lesson finishes. Questions like, what have we learnt today? What have we revised today? How are you getting on? Do you think you need more practice? Why? In what areas? What do you think you could do to improve your performance?
The what-can-you-do question might be disturbing at the beginning. But it's necessary to teach learners to build up their self-esteem and autonomy. Go gently but firmly, and try not to give up in despair.
So, to recap so far, we have focused on assessment of learner progress. This is called «formative evaluation» by some authors. This you do informally as you go along, but regularly. It allows you to adjust your planning constantly. And think and rethink your teaching on safe ground.
All for proces, but not all the time
What happens when the term finishes and we have to comply with the institutional requirement of term marks? Another dreaded headache. Progress reports will come in handy, yes, but some kind of partial rounding off will be necessary.
It's time for assessment of product.
Assessment of product is generally called ‘summative evaluation’. It concentrates on the assessment of learners' use of English, class interaction, activities, interest, materials and topics at the end of a specified period of time.
And this is where it is necessary to review the types of activities learners were engaged in, the types of texts they were exposed to and had to handle; the skills and subskills that were practised.
Exactly as we taught them
That’s why the Final Task is a good opportunity for product evaluation. And a natural one, where there can be learner participation.
And last but not least there’s ourselves: the hateful moment of evaluating our task and ourselves.
Here’s a checklist that might help you sit down and reflect:
- How clear was I when I gave instructions? Were learners clear what they had to do? Sometimes one is not but still some learners manage to guess. But what about the great majority? Am I ready to make provision for that?...
- What kind of procedures did I use? Were they in keeping with the procedures used during the term/year? Were they adequate?
- What else could I have used that could’ve been clearer? More transparent texts? Fewer unknown words? Another topic? A shorter listening comprehension text? Better illustrations? A better tape? More men on tape? (Female voice quality and speed of delivery seems to be more dificult to understand)
- Where did I go wrong? (We teachers often go wrong, but the good thing is that we’ve always got the next class to remedy errors) And in this case there’s the next term. The important thing is not to wait until the end of the year ‘cause chances are that there won’t be much for us to do. But we often make the right decisions as well! So… cheer up! (But more about success below.)
- Was I successful? Where was I successful? What were my successes? (Be ample and generous with yourself!) What else could I do to be more successful? (It’s ok to sit back and view one’s successes, but it’s good to plan for new ones! «Always on the move!»)
- What do my learners think of the test and of the work we’ve done together? (Do ask them to justify what they say. This is another bit of learning for them as well.)
And now it’s time to rethink objectivesAnd the whole thing starts all over again.
Different text types?
A different linguistic sequence?
BibliographyNUNAN, D. (1982). Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. London: Macmillan-Heinemann.
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Publicado: 13 de enero de 2015
Última modificación: 03 de febrero de 2015
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