Buckingham University PGCE/IPGCE Feb 2017
WHY DO WE ASSESS?
Pachler et al (2014)
To generate information for students about their learning.
To ensure that learning objectives have been reached.
To motivate students.
To gather data for reporting.
To select students for groupings or for opportunities in later life.
To identify strengths and weaknesses in students.
To provide certification.
To fulfil statutory requirements.
To measure standards which may be used to hold teachers accountable.
Formative assessment (assessment FOR
• “Although the terms formative assessment and assessment for learning are
defined slightly differently by different people, there is increasing
agreement that assessment improves learning when it is used to support
five key strategies in learning :
Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success.
Engineering classroom discussions, activities, and tasks that elicit evidence of
Providing feedback that moves learning forward.
Activating students as learning resources for one another.
Activating students as owners of their own learning.” (Dylan Wiliam, 2011)
Formative assessment (2)
• The aim of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to
provide ongoing feedback that can be used by teachers to improve
their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More
specifically, formative assessments:
• help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that
• help teachers recognize where students are struggling and address problems
Formative assessment examples (1)
Sharing learning objectives and success criteria with the students, the aim being to enable
students to develop the capacity to own and monitor their own progress as independent
language users. This task needs to be supported by developing students’ ‘meta-language’, i.e.
how to talk about their subject and their learning;
Using effective questioning to enable all students to take part in the lesson, whatever their
personalities and degrees of confidence; this could include use of the ‘no hands up’ strategy;
Using the ‘question basketball’ technique. You ask a question to a random student, then choose
another for an evaluation of the answer, then another to provide an explanation of why the
answer is correct or incorrect.
Using ‘waiting time’: a strategy to encourage students to reflect on the quality of their answers.
Examples of prompts include: “What can we add to X ‘s answer?” or “Do you agree with X’s
answer?” You would need to plan for increasingly linguistically challenging questions which
cannot be answered with just ‘reproduced’ language and do require language manipulation;
Formative assessment examples (2)
• Using response systems which involve all students at once to assess their
progress in the lesson, e.g. asking if a word is correct and asking students to
respond with thumbs up or down. This can create a ‘teachable moment’, when
the teacher asks a student “You thought this was correct/incorrect - can you tell
me why?” This technique can also be used with multiple choice answers and
cards, mini-whiteboards or an electronic voting system; (Jones and Wiliam, 2008)
• Getting students to act on feedback. It may seem hard to encourage students to
do this. One simple technique is to tell them that there are errors and provide
them with the time in class to put them right. The errors could be classified in
spelling, grammar-for verb endings-, missing words, etc.
• Sharing lesson objectives with students – this is often done at the beginning of a
lesson, but you could just say: “Later in the lesson I’m going to ask you what you
think the aim of the lesson is.”
• Sharing success criteria. “What do I have to do to get the best result?”
Formative assessment: discussion questions
• How useful is sharing objectives? Which language?
• How useful is meta-language of MFL?
• Questioning – hands up/no hands up?
• Waiting time? Pace?
• Random questioning?
• Response systems? Digital?
• Marking – big issue! We need to talk about this!
• Sharing success criteria? Using markschemes?
Summative assessment (assessment OF learning)
• Research shows that the extent to which a student is familiar with a task will significantly
affect their performance. Unfamiliarity with a test type causes anxiety and a higher
cognitive load, especially when the task is quite complex.
• By doing a task over and over again prior to an assessment involving that task, the
student develops strategies which ease cognitive load and make it easier. To take a
simple example, it would be unwise to test a student’s knowledge of grammar through
translation into L2 unless they had had a good deal of practice at that skill.
• A mark scheme should place appropriate emphasis on the skills you wish to test: if you
have been working on a range of areas, e.g. accuracy, fluency, vocabulary range, and
grammar complexity, you would not wish to assess students primarily on accuracy.
Summative assessment (2)
• Example of a mismatch between teaching and assessment:
When you give a test which requires students to infer meaning from context
with unfamiliar words - this would be assessing the students not on the
language learnt during the unit, but on compensation strategies, e.g.
guessing meaning from context. Although compensation strategies are
important, a test needs to assess students only on what they have been
taught and not on their adaptive skills. Such an assessment might be
perceived by students as unfair and could cause them to become
demotivated. A test should therefore have ‘construct validity’, i.e. it must
assess what it sets out to assess.
Validity and reliability
• Validity – when a test successfully tests what it sets out to test
• Reliability – when you can trust the marks and results would be
• Example of a test which is reliable but not valid?
• Example of a test which is valid but not reliable? Discuss!
• Notion of objective testing
“Teaching to the test”
• When you know that the outcome of a test is of importance both to the student
and to you, you will usually want to make sure that you match your teaching to
the test. There may, however, be undesirable side-effects of this approach.
• ‘Backwash effect’. As an example, if the assessment contains an element of
translation into L2 it would be tempting to spend a good deal of time working on
this skill in the classroom. We know students perform better in tasks they have
practised. If you feel that practising translation into L2 severely limits the amount
of L2 exposure students receive, then because of the backwash effect, your
methodology is compromised. Good balance between effective methodology and
effective test preparation. Ideally the test would consist of activities you would
normally wish to undertake in the classroom; the best valid tests do.
Multiple choice testing
• Statisticians say that three options are as effective as four, although four choices are
often given on exam papers. For an even more subtle use of multiple choice to limit the
chance of guessing a correct answer, you can design questions with, say, two correct
answers out of five.
• Important with multi-choice that all options be ‘in play’. That is, they must be plausible to
the student. When the aim is to reveal the range of skill in a class (e.g. for a higher stakes
summative assessment), a good multi-choice question should have the aim of allowing
about 70% or 80% of students to get the answer right. A good balance of outcomes
would be around 70% get the right option, with the other two options getting about 15%
each. A question which attracts equal responses for each option is a poor one. Some
examination awarding bodies pilot questions and reject ones which produce unwanted
outcomes, i.e. ones which do not produce a valid comparison between students.
Discrete versus multi-skill testing
• If you wish to test one particular skill, listening, for example, you may be tempted to do
so by excluding any requirement to read, speak or write in L2. By including these other
skills it may be impossible to know for sure whether you are just testing listening. This
presents a dilemma, since in general in the classroom you would not wish to isolate skills
in this fashion. You may wish, for example, in order to stay in L2 and maximise exposure,
to combine a listening task with spoken or written responses in L2.
• You will in this context need to keep in mind the risk of the backwash effect referred to
before. Just because the assessment concerns a ‘discrete skill’, it does not mean you
necessarily have to use discrete skill classroom activities. Keep in mind: if the instruction
for a task is in L2 it is possible that students will misinterpret what they have to do.
Where instructions are typically given in L2, students need training in recognising the
instructions and format. Important for GCSE!
Summative assessment: discussion questions
• Should we grade?
• Types of grading?
• How do we use data from summative assessments?
• How often should we assess?
• Are pupils over-tested?
• How do we create long-term memory?
• (I)GCSE issues – when do we introduce photo card, role-play,
translation, essay, etc?