Providing effective assessment is a tricky topic but let’s see how I could give you some key principles about it.
- Learning better
First of all the main aim of assessment should be to help our students to learn better. Even if it a system of ranking and accreditation, teachers should keep in mind that summative and formative assessment should be both aiming at the same goal: developing understanding and knowledge. Consequently planning assessment is important. We need to measure when and how to assess our students. A very heavy assessment load will be counter-productive, as students won’t be given the necessary time to understand the material and concepts. Not only will it be counter-productive but students will also lose interest and motivation if the assessment workload is too demanding.
- Assessing what has been taught
Then the required tasks of the formal assessment should always be in line is what has been taught and learnt during the unit or term. The vocabulary and grammar skills learnt and taught have to be assessed accordingly. I also suggest that your formal assessments be differentiated according to your students’ ability. Students need to meet certain criteria and standards but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t adapt the questions in your tests to suit your students’ ability. Let’s not forget that nowadays we have mixed ability groups and while some of them need more support, others on the contrary will need to be pushed in these tests.
- Variety of assessments
A range of learning outcomes have to be assessed and assessments need to reflect the variety of learning outcomes.
- Expectations and criteria
Students need to be clear with what is expected of them; as a consequence instructions in the tests have to be understandable and as short as possible. Providing an example of what is expected of them is always a good idea to avoid confusion. We also must remember when we plan exams that students may be very anxious before tests and it is not uncommon that they misunderstand an instruction and produce unproductive work. To avoid this, students should be offered the opportunity at the beginning of the course to know exactly what is going to be expected of them for their final exam. They should be aware of any topics, dates and weighting of these exams. Along with the types of assessments they also should be given the criteria for assessment. For instance they need to know that an accurate use of vocabulary and grammar will be required for the exams.
Giving a grade to students is not enough to ensure a real progression in their learning. A grade tells students about the effectiveness of their learning, but it doesn’t tell them what they have achieved or failed according to the assessor’s standards. What I tend to do is giving them two types of feedback. One is written underling what went well and what should be improved and how, and the other type of feedback is oral to draw their attention to the written feedback. Feedback, as we mentioned previously, is crucial to the improvement of our learners and it has to be positive as much as possible to make sure that our students will be willing to improve on their next piece of work.