This week's topic was "Tests", how they were first created, the reason why we need tests with lots of wonderful examples.
Tests have two main functions:
- to keep people from danger and
- to maintain a fair decision in selection
What does language have to do with safety though? It has to do with communication and understanding. If we don't understand what we are being told, or we cannot get our message across, sometimes this causes danger, for example if you are a pilot or working as an air controller or as a doctor.
Tests also give us access in education, mobility and employment.
Concerning mobility, through tests, people can start a new life in another country, one of the requirements is to pass a language test.
IELTS exams give this opportunity in English speaking countries, but sometimes this exam is not relevant, especially with immigrants. It is said that academic English (which is being tested in this particular exam) is not always relevant to someone who needs the language in order to survive every day life.
Concerning teaching, tests influence:
- what teachers teach
- what learners learn
- how teachers teach
- how learners learn
So how should correct assessment be?
- Learning environments should challenge students.
- Teachers should provide feedback that enhances students' performance.
- Learners should be encouraged to self / peer evalualuation
- Teachers should stimulate learning
Another point that has impressed me was test resuts that can be positive, false positive or false negative and I'd like to comment on that.
If you pass an exam you are suposed to have positive results. Sometimes those results can be false negative, this means that although you have the knowledge, you do not pass the particular exam/test or false positive which means that you do not have the knowledge to pass, but you do (maybe out of luck)
The latter has made me think of the numerous English exams that exist in Greece. People strive to get this "valuable" piece of paper aka certification and sometimes the results are not accurate.
In my time as a teacher, I have come across various students, who already have the certificate, but cannot communicate in the foreign language.
Is the testing format the problem? Maybe that time has passed and they have not used the language?
Or should we teachers consider a change in our teaching method?
This is something I (as a teacher) should think about.
Until next time