The Strengths and Limitations of a Range of Assessment Methods with Reference to the Needs of Individual Learners
The most frequent method of assessment in my ESOL teaching practice has been the written or oral tests. I have been using different types of tests, such as:
- Multiple choice
- True / False
- Open questions
- Error correction
- Audio – Listening Comprehension
- A whole class discussion, brainstorm
- Simulation – Role play
My area of teaching – ESOL – requires me to check 4 different skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
I usually take my teaching materials from Teacher’s Book related to the relevant level of ESOL. My assessments have always been individual knowledge-based assessments of understanding.
During my teaching practice I have met numerous students – with different backgrounds, religions, personalities (shy, timid, hesitated, determined, average, self-centred, role model or reserved, introverted and extroverted). Some of them were visual learners, some – auditory or reading/writing and others – kinaesthetic (learning through a physical activity) so the tests should be tailored to each one of them.
I could give some examples based on my experience.
Case 1 – Audio test – Listening Comprehension.
I had a class with the majority of auditory learners. Most of them were very good at listening and completing the answer sheets with True/False questions and gap filling. So for the Exit test I chose to give them audio test – Listening Comprehension. The duration of the test was 2 hours – 22 students at the high school where I used to teach. This was their final exam as they were about to complete their 12th year at school. As our school was one of the elite schools of the region, our principal had invited teachers from other schools in our region as guests and to gain experience on how to run classes like this. Everything was ready. My students, MP3 player recording on pause, work sheets, guests at the back of the classroom. The school bell rang to announce the beginning of the lesson. I handed the work sheets out to my students, gave them some instructions on how to proceed and played the recording for them to listen to the text for the first time without writing anything down. Then during the listening for the second time the students had to start answering the questions. But it was challenging because the electricity was cut off at the 2nd minute of the recording and at that time there were no batteries in the player. You can imagine how I felt at that particular moment. I was lucky as I had prepared the listening text on paper and it was with me. So I took the paper out of my bag and acted as a player. I read the text twice for my students to do their tasks and the exam was taken.
Case 2 – Simulation – Role play
In most of my classes I have had a lot of artistic and talented students. So simulation assessment or role play assessment is perfectly suitable for them. I have given them different situations to recreate – like for e.g. at the airport (one of them being an officer, the other – passenger); at the shop – one sails assistant and a few customers; a journalist interviewing people about their jobs and my favourite is the situation where one of the students (the assessed one) is in the role of a teacher who needs to explain a grammar unit to their students like the meaning and use of the Present Perfect Tense compared to the Past Simple Tense. Thus I could easily assess my student’s knowledge related to the above mentioned module.
Case 3 – Peer assessment
The students love it. They love to be in the role of a teacher and to be able to take the responsibility to assess their classmates. I like it too as it cuts my assessment papers piles.
In this case it is better for the teacher to give anonymous tests to avoid embarrassment and frustration. The students can also be divided into groups and can be given one and the same anonymous test to mark and discuss the strengths and weaknesses. It is also recommendable to give time to our students to give a proper feedback.
As a conclusion, I could say that all types of assessments are useful in class but we need to be able to decide which one is the most suitable for the particular situation and type of students. In addition, the most important is how it benefits the individual students – for e.g. if the student is with fractured hand we cannot ask them to write. We can ask them to do the tasks orally but not while the rest of the students are taking their exam. We need to set another date.
I could mention one more case. I had a very good student – studious and diligent. He unfortunately broke his leg while skiing in a mountain resort and he was not able to attend classes for more than 4 months, which is actually a whole semester. So the school authorities assigned me and my colleagues to visit the student at home where we were teaching and assessing him.
In conclusion, being a teacher is both challenging and rewarding at the same time.