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Theoretical framework april 7th 2013


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Theoretical framework april 7th 2013

  1. 1. UNIVERSIDAD CATÓLICA DE LA SANTÍSIMA CONCEPCIÓN FACULTAD DE EDUCACIÓN Departamento de Lenguas Theoretical Framework Evaluación de la Competencia Comunicativa en Inglés Profesora Gabriela Sanhueza Melissa Arévalo María Francisca Rojas Concepción, Abril 2013
  2. 2. Theoretical Framework In today’s classrooms, the word assessment can be considered an ambiguous term since it usually evokes situations related to anxiety or stress, such as: quizzes, oral presentations, midterms or any evaluative task. It is of primary importance for student-teachers, or any subject involved in the teaching-learning process, to understand the differences between concepts such as: assessment, test and evaluation. For us, future educators, it is important to understand the principles that each author provides regarding language assessment in classroom practices, because these principles facilitate us with guidelines, which are helpful and indispensable when doing evaluations, worksheets, rubrics, checking assignments, and, above all, to contribute to the improvement of our teaching process. It is highly important to take into consideration the perspective of the students in relation to good assessment, because it will enhance their motivation when participating in the teaching-learning process by contextualizing the learning in authentic tasks, so that meaningful knowledge is developed. Students should be measured on what they have been taught at their respective schools, they need to be provided with comments and feedback in order to learn about their own mistakes and improve their competences in the English language; also, the objective of a proper assessment is to trigger language performance, so that the students are able to communicate in L2. In the following paragraphs, a revision of the principles of language assessment according to Brown (2004), Coombe et. al (2010), and Bachman & Palmer (1996), will be presented. According to Brown (2004), in “Language assessment principles and classroom practices”,provides definitions for three very similar concepts that usually are confusing for training teachers: assessment, testing and teaching; the first concept refers to a broader field (not only tests are considered here, but also comments from teacher to student and viceversa), testing is a type of assessment, and teaching (which encompasses assessment and testing). The author establishes that five principles are to be considered when effective testing: practicability, reliability, validity, authenticity and washback. The concept of practicability deals with test administration, expensiveness and time constraints. If a test is easy to administrate, cheap, and it is done within the appropriate time constraints, then a test can be considered practical. The second concept of reliability refers to the consistency
  3. 3. of a test, which means that if a teacher gives the students the same test, on different times of the day, there will be no variation in the student’s scores.Within the concept of reliability, there are four factors that alter it: student-related reliability (a student is not feeling very well, anxiety, etc), rater reliability (it refers to teacher’s criteria, student bias), test administration reliability (conditions in which a test is administered), test reliability (poorly written tests, ambiguous answers). The following concept is validity which according to Brown (2004), it is the most relevant of the five principles, because it is referred to evaluating the contents that have been covered in class; there are five types of validity: content validity (to measure student’s performance), criterion-related validity (consistent criteria for evaluating something), construct validity (measuring all aspects of a construct), consequential validity (the effect of using an assessment), and face validity (student’s consideration of a test). The fourth principle is Authenticity, which refers to real-world tasks and relevantly interesting topics for the learner. Finally, it is important to provide students with meaningful feedback, whether it is a positive comment or the clarification of incorrect answers in a test, washback is the fifth principle that refers to this idea, which is also considered an instance for students to be part of their own learning process. Coombe, Folse and Humbley (2010) make a distinction between evaluation, assessment and testing, in which the broader one is evaluation (that involves the whole course or program), assessment is only related to the learner’s achievements, and testing, as Brown remarked, is part of assessment and it evaluates the student’s accomplishments. These authors present eight principles of a good test, in which five have already been mentioned by Brown (validity, reliability, practicality, washback and authenticity), and the other three principles are: usefulness “is the most important quality of the cornerstone of testing”(Bachman and Palmer, 1996), which is related to the purpose that will be developed within a test. The following principle is transparency, which refers to the teacher’s fairness when testing students (clear information). The last concept mentioned by Coombe et al. is security; this concept is associated to recycling test items (not the whole test) in order to avoid students from copying previously applied tests. Finally, Bachman and Palmer (1996) consider seven qualities of language tests: reliability, construct validity, authenticity, interactiveness, impact, practicality, and the most important, test usefulness, which encompasses the first six concepts mentioned above.
  4. 4. Firstly, reliability, already mentioned by Brown (2004), also refers to test consistency when measuring a student’s performance. The authors recognize the concept of construct validity as “the meaningfulness and appropriateness of the interpretations that we make on the basis of test scores”, which means that teachers must provide consistent evidence when scoring their students, so that they can be evaluated on their true capacity and knowledge, not randomly. Thirdly, authenticity, previously considered by Brown (2004) and Coombe et al. (2010), in order to facilitate test performance, must include real world tasks that students will face in their near future. Bachman and Palmer (1996) introduce the principle of interactiveness, which refers to the implications of test takers, taking into consideration their own features to achieve a test task; these features include the student’s language ability, topical knowledge (what students know about a certain topic), and affective schemata ( teachers must not include topics that will affect a student’s emotions). When it comes to the concept of impact, it relates, as the word implies, to the impact that an evaluation has, not only on the student (micro level), but also to his/her parents, his/her school, the educational system and society (macro level); impact is also associated to the concept of washback, as Hughes (1989) defines it as “the effect of testing on teaching and learning”, this means that depending on the feedback that the teacher gives to a student, this comments will affect the student both emotionally and academically; furthermore, it will not only affect the students but also the washback will have repercussions to the entire educative community. All principles mentioned above are included within test usefulness, the most important test quality, which considers that tests must have a purpose, a context and take into account the language use. Finally, the last principle is practicality, which refers to the implementation of a test (human and monetary resources, time constraints, etc). From our own point of view, we believe that Brown (2004) is the one author that presents all the essential principles for language assessment in a clear way.He advises us not only to design proper tests, but also to have in mind that students need to be motivated and considered in terms of their feelings, their abilities, their backgrounds, and the students’ learning styles. We also need to have in mind, as Brown suggested, that the feedback we provide to our students is necessary, for it is this part of the assessing process the one that will make a difference in the students’ reaction to the teaching-learning process.All principles mentioned above are of great importance to us training teachers, because it
  5. 5. provides us with guidelines and directions that are a mean of instructive manual to a good practice, so that we can apply them to the improvement of our teaching methodologies within the classroom. Moreover, we can highlight the principles of authenticity, for it is an excellent way of contextualizing the learning process to create meaningful knowledge and provide the opportunity for students to actually produce the target language effectively. Another principle we believe is remarkable to be mentioned and applicable is the concept of validity; because students must be measured on the contents they have reviewed in class and not be asked to do tests or present something they have never covered or they are not familiar with. The last concept we consider to be indispensable is washback, because, as we have previously stated, it is fundamental that learners know about their mistakes and their strengths to reinforce motivation and increase the students’ active participation on their own learning process. In order to conclude, language assessment principles are essential to be known and applied, not only for us training teachers, but also to those educators who have more experience, since they may need to adjust their methodologies and take into consideration the learners’ needs, feelings, background and abilities, when testing and teaching. It is important to mention that it is compulsory for people who are involved in the educational system to know about the difference between the concepts of assessment, testing and evaluation, since misconceptions of these three elements will definitely affect teaching practices on the students’ learning.It is our task to have these principles in mind when becoming teachers, for they are transcendent elements that will affect and will have a huge and long-life impact on both the individual learner and society.
  6. 6. References: -Bachman, L. F. & Palmer, A. (1996). Language testing in practice: designing and developing useful language tests. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press -Brown, H. D. (2004). Language assessment principles and classroom practices.New York: Pearson Education -Coombe, C., Folse, K. Hubley, N. (2007). A practical guide to assessing English language learners. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.