February seems to be all about tests. All my classes have just done their mid-year grammar and vocabulary tests, my exam class students have just done a mock exam and are getting ready for the real thing in March, and already I’m preparing the next set of skills assessments for the continuous assessment programme. Testing, it seems, is as inevitable as death or taxes.
Over on the Teaching English website, testing is one of the blogging themes this month and there is quite a range of posts on the topic:
My own post is called “To test or not to test – that is the question.” In it, I look at the influence that tests have on education systems and the learning that students have to do in order to pass the tests, arguing that in many respects, the question of testing comes down to a battle between the system and the individual.
Ceri Jones offers an excellent example of negotiated assessment. In “Assessment – negotiating exam formats“, she describes the experience of leading her learners to design their own assessment instruments, what would be tested and how, and reflects upon the success of the process.
Larry Ferlazzo looks at how to test your students and argues that test data should be used meaningfully, and that it shouldn’t just be a question of test and forget: “Assessing English Language Learners.”
NinaMK asks us to think about “Testing and Assessment” from the perspective of the pros and cons of asking students to assess themselves and each other – and gives a stark example of what can happen when it all goes wrong! Meanwhile, JVL Narasimha Rao offers a personal insight into “Assessment of and for learning“, drawing on his own experiences within the Indian state sector.
Finally, Rachel Boyce argues for informal assessent. In “Testing and assessment – give your students a security blanket“, she suggests that a blend of informal and formal assessment is the best way to keep learners on track and engaged in measuring their progress.
What strikes me about the six posts, is the sheer range and purpose of testing that is discussed. To go back to my own post for a moment, and to think about the whys and wherefores of testing, it occurs to me that those on both sides of the testing debate seem to mostly represent very black and white positions. In testing, it seems, you are either for or against.
However, and as with many things, it seems the reality is infinitely more nuanced than that. These posts demonstrate that not only are there many different ways to test – there are also very clear philosophies of testing emerging. But that, perhaps, is another post!