I Estimation as one of the type of control in learning of foreign language
1.1 The importance of control………………………………...........................4
1.2 The requirements and forms of the control……………………….............5
1.3 Forms of control will be different………………………………………...6
1.4 Several kinds of control in the lesson of Foreign Language……...............8
1.5 Different types of control and their characteristics……………………...25
This paper deals with the different kinds of controls and the usage in the class (lesson) of foreign languages. The actuality of the properly organized control of pupils’ achievements gives the teacher an opportunity to get a clear idea of his pupils’ progress in foreign language learning. Analyzing the results of controls or testing, the teacher will see his shortcomings both in methods and techniques applied and in the progress of each pupil. It allows him to improve his own work. In this connection P. Olive writes, “A control measures not only the student’s performance but also the effectiveness of the teacher’s instruction. Control serves a diagnostic function. They show where students have difficulties. They provide information which should lead the teacher to modify his instruction”. Furthermore, control, it is the determination of the level of language proficiency that achieved by the students for a certain period of learning and training. So in addition, control is the part of the lesson that during learning teacher assesses how students have learned the material. The main purposes of control allows:
1) To teachers get information about:
- the result of pupil’s knowledge separately and as a whole;
- the result of their own methods, techniques and the effectiveness on the process of teaching;
2) To pupils:
- To enhance the motivation on the process of learning, so as controls help to determine their success and failure;
- To study more diligently, make correction in the learning process.
The object of the control might be: a) a knowledge that formulated on the basis of language skills (language competence); b) the ability to use acquired knowledge and skills in different communicative situation (communicative competence); c) to learn the country of that language and their cultures, traditions and nations (socio-cultural competence). Not only to learn the abilities to speak on the way of language learning, but also the acquisition of language system is considered as a main object of the control.
The problem of the control: Deficiency of usage different kinds of controls on the process of foreign language teaching.
The features of control: Control in the classroom should reflect the specific nature of a foreign language as a school subject. In the study of academic disciplines that introduce the fundamentals of science, the purpose of determining the level of control is the knowledge acquired in the field of a science in a low degree - formed skills. Assimilation of a foreign language, is referred to the group of practical disciplines provide primarily seizing the means using language in a variety of activities and areas of communication. Therefore, control of knowledge of the language system does not provide information on the practical language possession as the level of communicative competence.
1.1The importance of control
Control is an important part of every teaching and learning experience. How control helps students learning English can help students in at least two ways. First of all, such controls help create positive attitudes toward your class. In the interest of motivation and efficient instruction, teachers almost universally aim at providing positive classroom experiences for their students. There are some important ways that testing (as a one types of controls) can contribute to this aim. One that applies in nearly every class is a sense of accomplishment. In the early 1970s students in an intensive ESL program were being taught from an unstructured conversation-based text. These students complained that while they had ample opportunity to converse in English, they were “not learning anything”. Soon afterwards, however, periodic evaluation provided them with a sense of accomplishment that ended their dissatisfaction. Controls of appropriate difficulty announced well in advance and covering skills scheduled to be evaluated, can also contribute to a positive tone by demonstrating your spirit of fair play and consistency with course objectives. [1, 25]
A second way that English controls can benefit students is by helping them master the language. They are helped, of course, when they study for exams and again when exams are returned and discussed. Where several control tasks are given, learning can also be enhanced by student’s growing awareness of your objectives and the areas of emphasis in the course. Control tasks con foster learning, too, by their diagnostic characteristics: They confirm what each person has mastered, and they point up those language items needing further attention. Naturally, a better awareness of course objectives and personal language needs can help your students adjust their personal goals. For example, one person might note your strong control emphasis on oral comprehension, and he might also find that he had missed several vocabulary items on a recent test. One logical step would be for him to concentrate on the meaning of troublesome words, especially in a spoken context. Learning to spell them or recognize them in a printed context would become a second priority. So good English control tasks help students learn the language by requiring them to study hard, emphasizing course objectives, and showing them where they need to improve.[2, 95]
1.2The requirements and forms of the control
It goes without saying that control will be effective when it appropriates with requirements of didactic and methods of learning foreign languages. The main requirements in control, it might be objectivity, regularity, differentiated character and clarity and precision in the formulation of control tasks. So, objectivity in control, it means compliance monitoring of the results of training a certain standard contained in the list of requirements to the level of proficiency for different stages of learning profiles. Knowledge assumes of the criteria for assessing students for various activities, compliance with these criteria, minimize subjectivity in the evaluation of students. Objectivity in control provided by:
- Quantitative evaluation of performance. Here, the greatest objectivity achieved by taking into account the number of errors in the speech, estimate the rate of speech and a number of other performance indicators;
- Qualitative assessment of performance (completeness of disclosure topics compliance statements job skill adequately express their thoughts in a given speech situation and etc.). It is possible in the assessment activities of subjectivity of students and the teacher must be prepared to assess formulated choice in terms of the existing criteria.[3.121]
Regularity in control indicates that it has a systematic character. It is known that the intensity and duration of the students to memorize the acquired material depend on many frequency and regularity of control.
Differentiated character in control suggests requirements that followed below:
- Forms of control should be appropriate with those aspects of language or type of that performance which is getting to be checked. Thus, the assessments of language knowledge, especially in speaking part will be checked by differentiated features, but source of controls are its own oral part. For dialogic objects of control might be to understand partner’s speech and definite his/her communicative intention, furthermore adequately influence on partner’s replication, ability to initiate a dialog (to ask questions, make offers, desires, wish and so on). So, for monologue speech the objects of control will be ability to create constrained text from various communicative directions (affirmative, e-mail, essay, composition, discussion). Mainly, it consists of that control from speech will be correctly checked in the process of oral communication.
- Forms of control should be chosen depending on stage of teaching and student’s individual-psychological peculiarities. This kind requirement reflects presence different levels of development. [4.23]
Clarity and precision formulation in control tasks usually define success in the process of control. Sometimes control tasks might be formulated in learners’ native language and installation for carrying out given tasks will assist to have well understanding about tasks. [4.24]
1.3 Forms of control will be different
They are individual, frontage, group and pair. Each of these forms of control accomplished in oral and written forms. In order to determine the level of knowledge’s monologue speech suits individual control: it means learners introduced with text and carry out tasks for test during certain time. Successfulness in carrying out tasks assess with such criteria:
1) Accordance transmitting the information of text content and tasks;
2) Connection and logicality in transmission;
3) Fullness and clarity of transmitted text;
4) Movement information with norms (lexicon -grammatically and phonetic-intonation). [5.98]
Individual forms of control means an effective way of objective control, thus through this kind control determines each learner’s success. That’s why mostly it suits to check learner’s knowledge at the end of the course as a final control. But this kind of control is not so suitable for kid learners, because they are not able to have attention separately. Secondly it is no so effective because while teacher explains one by one for kids, others get noisy. In the auditory individual control will be in oral form, but written form will be at the end of the each new theme. [5.126]
Front control means that teacher fully has conversation and explanation with all learners at the same time they should give answer one by one just sitting on their chair. So effectiveness of this control are ability fully scope while checked; high activities of learners; high rate of execution of tasks. The limitation of front control is that teacher cannot give explanation about task one by one, here if student is not fully pay attention on teacher, they are not able to answer. That’s why front control mostly suits to current control. [6.85]
Group control will be got at the same time for all learners as a group work such as discussion for problem question, make role play for read texts, so teacher should prepare all tasks and their attendance in advance. [6.89]
1.4. Several kinds of control in the lesson of Foreign Language
These kinds of controls are outlined in the books of Shuckin A.N, that he gave preliminary, current, mid-term and total controls.
Aim of the preliminary control contains that while checking learners’ knowledge from language and their individual abilities (mind, attention, interests to learning language, inclination, and common development). So this kind of control helps to determine not only learner’s knowledge, also their individually- psychological qualities, which assists success in the process of Foreign Language Learning.
Current control affords to check learner’s language successes in the process of development and installation speech skills and abilities. This control should be regularly and directed to checking captured certain kinds of educational materials.
Mid-term control is conducted to a finished unit. It affords to check about effectiveness of divided program materials.
The final control directed to installation level of language knowledge that achieved certain kinds of volume of materials as a result in certain period of time (at the end of curriculum). The peculiarities of this kind of control concluded in the direction of determine level of language as communicative competence. That’s why for the final control is used special kinds of tests, which allowed learners to be checked fully.[7,93]
Dictation and its importance as a control
Dictation is one of the guided- writing controls. Most teachers about this technique, but few handle it properly. Actually, this is one of the easiest controls to use, and it gives very good information on the student’s language ability. But this is true only if you prepare it right, present it right, and score it right. You can get good results from a dictation if you follow the steps listed below.(10.136)
Dictation is the transcription of spoken text: one person who is "dictating" speaks and another who is "taking dictation" writes down the words as they are spoken. Among speakers of several languages, dictation is used as a test of language skill, similar to spelling bees in the English-speaking world. Secondary to teaching language skills, the exercise of dictation has also been used to introduce students to literary works, and to instill morals.[11,192]
Despite claims such as these from respected methodologists, dictation is not widely used in ESL programs. Likewise, it has long been ignored in most teacher-training programs. The purpose of this paper is to re-introduce dictation as a valuable language learning device and to suggest ways for using it in an effective and interesting manner.[12,171]
Types of Dictation
Sawyer and Silver define four types of dictation that can be used in language learning.
The first, the phonemic item dictation, consists of the teacher presenting the individual sounds of a language (i.e., their IPA coordinates) to students for transcription. The phonemic item dictation is useful in that it increases the students' ability to recognize the sounds of a language and their contrasts, thereby facilitating their accurate production. This dictation is an excellent way to teach beginners to stop imposing the sound system of their native language upon the sound system of English.
The second, the phonemic text dictation, is an extension of the phonemic item dictation. It consists of the teacher reciting a passage which students phonetically transcribe. The phonemic item dictation is valuable as a way to understand how English sounds change in connected speech. Though it goes beyond the objectives set for students in most ESL programs in the U.S., it is commonly used in English departments in many foreign universities.[12,201]
The orthographic item dictation is the dictating of individual words in isolation for transcription, similar to the traditional spelling test. It is useful for reinforcing the correlation between the spelling system and sound system of a language. In English this correlation is more complex than it is in other languages.[13,86]
The dictation with the broadest learning possibilities is the orthographic text dictation, in which students transcribe a unified passage. This is the classic dictation exercise all foreign language teachers are familiar with. Besides reinforcing the spelling/sound correlations of English, the orthographic text dictation uncovers comprehension and grammatical weaknesses in learners which the teacher can analyze and address in future lessons.[13.94]
Dictation is a valuable language learning device that has been used for centuries. Although linguists have not completely understood how it facilitates language acquisition--it would be extremely difficult to isolate the language competencies that are employed--many have attested to its pedagogical value. One of the 20th century's most influential linguists, Leonard Bloomfield (1942), strongly endorsed the use of dictation as a learning device. Today, many methodologists are at least inclined to agree with Finocchiaro's (1969) summary of its value: "[Dictation] ensures attentive listening; it trains pupils to distinguish sounds; it helps fix concepts of punctuation; it enables pupils to learn to transfer oral sounds to written symbols; it helps to develop aural comprehension; and it assists in self-evaluation."[14,59]
1.5. Test is one of the types of control and their characteristics
Test (from English it means “trial” and “investigation”) – this is the system of tasks, which carried out and afford characterize the level of knowledge of English language with the help of special scale results. Furthermore, tests are used for determination of learners’ ability, mental development and other kinds of personal characteristics. There are four main reasons for testing which give to rise to four categories of test. Placement test: placing new students in the right class in a school facilitated with the use of placement tests. Usually based on syllabuses and materials the students will follow and use their level has been decided on, these test grammar and vocabulary knowlrdge and assess students’s productive and receptive skills. Some schools ask students to assess themselves as part of placement process adding this self analysis into the finalplacing decision. [15,77]
Diagnostic test: while placement tests are designed to show how good a student’s English is in relation to a previouslyagreed system of levels, diagnostic tests can be used to expose learner difficulties, gaps in their knowledge, and skills deficiencies during a course. Thus, when we know what the problems are, we can do something about them. [15,96]
Progress and achievement tests: these tests are designed to measure learners’ language and skill progress in relation to the syllabus they have been following. Achievement tests only work if they contain item types which the studentsare familiar with. This doesn’t mean that in a reading test, for example, we give them texts they have seen before, but it does mean providing them with similar texts and familiar text types. If students faced with completely new material, the test will not measure the learning that has been taking place, even though it can still measure general language proficiency. Achievement tests at the end of a term (like progress testsat the end of a unit, a fortnight, etc.) should progress, not failure. They should reinforce the learning that has taken place, not go out of their way to expose weaknesses. They can also help us to decide on change to future teaching programmes where students do significantly worse in (parts of) the test than we might have expected. [15,123]
Proficiency tests: proficiency tests give a general picture of a students’ knowledge and ability (rather than measure progress). They re frequently used as stages people have to reach if they want to be admitted to a foreign university, get a job, or obtain some kind of certificate. Proficiency tests have a profound backwash effect since, where they are external exams, students obviously want to pass them, and teacher’s reputations sometimes depend (probably unfairly) upon how many of them succeed. [15,141]
In order to judge the effectiveness of any test it is sensible to law down criteria against which the test can be measured, as follows: Validity: a testis valid if it tests what it is supposed to test. Thus it is not valid, for example, to test writing ability with an essay question that requires specialist knowledge of history or biology – unless it is known that all students share this knowledge before they do the test. A particular kind of validity that concerns most test designers is face validity. This means that the test should look, on the face of it, as if it is valid. A test which consisted of only three multiple choice items would not convince students of its face validity however reliable or practical teachers thought it to be. Reliability: a good test should give consistent results. For example, if the same group of students took the same test twice within two days – without reflecting on the first test before they sat it again- they should get the same results on each occasion. If they took another similar test, the result should be consistent. If two groups who were demonstrably alike took the test, the marking range would be the same. [16,183]
Reliability and validity
1. Inaccurate tests
Hughes conceives that one of the reasons why the tests are not favoured is that they measure not exactly what they have to measure. The author of the paper supports the idea that it is impossible to evaluate someone’s true abilities by tests. An individual might be a bright student possessing a good knowledge of English, but, unfortunately, due to his/her nervousness may fail the test, or vice versa, the student might have crammed the tested material without a full comprehension of it. As a result, during the test s/he is just capable of producing what has been learnt by tremendous efforts, but not elaboration of the exact actual knowledge of the student
Moreover, there could be even more disastrous case when the student has cheated and used his/her neighbour’s work. Apart from the above-mentioned there could be other factors that could influence an inadequate completion of the test (sleepless night, various personal and health problems, etc.)
However, very often the test itself can provoke the failure of the students to complete it. With the respect to the linguists, such as Hughes
and Alderson, we are able to state that there are two main causes of the test being inaccurate:
. Test content and techniques;
. Lack of reliability.
The first one means that the test’s design should response to what is being tested. First, the test must content the exact material that is to be tested. Second, the activities, or techniques, used in the test should be adequate and relevant to what is being tested. This denotes they should not frustrate the learners, but, on the contrary, facilitate and help the students write the test successfully.
The next one denotes that one and the same test given at a different time must score the same points. The results should not be different because of the shift in time. For example, the test cannot be called reliable if the score gathered during the first time the test was completed by the students differs from that administered for the second time, though knowledge of the learners has not changed at all. Furthermore, reliability can fail due to the improper design of a test (unclear instructions and questions, etc.) and due to the ways it is scored. The teacher may evaluate various students differently taking different aspects into consideration (level of the students, participation, effort, and even personal preferences.) If there are two markers, then definitely there will be two different evaluations, for each marker will possess his/her own criteria of marking and evaluating one and the same work. For example, let us mention testing speaking skills.
Here one of the makers will probably treat grammar as the most significant point to be evaluated, whereas the other will emphasise the fluency more.
Sometimes this could lead to the arguments between the makers; nevertheless, we should never forget that still the main figure we have to deal with is the student. [17, 120]
Now we can come to one of the important aspects of testing – validity.
Concerning Hughes, every test should be reliable as well as valid. Both notions are very crucial elements of testing. However, according to Moss
there can be validity without reliability, or sometimes the border between these two notions can just blur. Although, apart from those elements, a good test should be efficient as well.
According to Bynom, validity deals with what is tested and degree to which a test measures what is supposed to measure. For example, if we test the students writing skills giving them a composition test on Ways of Cooking, we cannot denote such test as valid, for it can be argued that it tests not our abilities to write, but the knowledge of cooking as a skill. Definitely, it is very difficult to design a proper test with a good validity, therefore, the author of the paper believes that it is very essential for the teacher to know and understand what validity really is. [18,65]
Regarding Weir, there are five types of validity:
. Construct validity;
. Content validity
. Face validity
. Wash back validity;
. Criterion-related validity.
Weir states that construct validity is a theoretical concept that involves other types of validity. Further, quoting Cronbach , Weird writes that to construct or plan a test you should research into testee’s behaviour and mental organisation. It is the ground on which the test is based; it is the starting point for a constructing of test tasks. In addition, Weird displays the Kelly’s idea that test design requires some theory, even if it is indirect exposure to it. Moreover, being able to define the theoretical construct at the beginning of the test design, we will be able to use it when dealing with the results of the test. The author of the paper assumes that appropriately constructed at the beginning, the test will not provoke any difficulties in its administration and scoring later.
Another type of validity is content validity. Weir implies the idea that content validity and construct one are closely bound and sometimes even overlap with each other. Speaking about content validity, we should emphasise that it is inevitable element of a good test. What is meant is that usually duration of the classes or test time is rather limited, and if we teach a rather broad topic such as “computers”, we cannot design a test that would cover all the aspects of the following topic. Therefore, to check the students’ knowledge we have to choose what was taught: whether it was a specific vocabulary or various texts connected with the topic, for it is impossible to test the whole material. The teacher should not pick up tricky pieces that either were only mentioned once or were not discussed in the classroom at all, though belonging to the topic. S/he should not forget that the test is not a punishment or an opportunity for the teacher to show the students that they are less clever.
Hence, we can state that content validity is closely connected with a definite item that was taught and is supposed to be tested. [18, 98]
Face validity, according to Weir , is not theory or samples design. It is how the examinees and administration staff see the test: whether it is construct and content valid or not. This will definitely include debates and discussions about a test; it will involve the teachers’ cooperation and exchange of their ideas and experience.
Another type of validity to be discussed is wash back validity or backwash. According to Hughes backwash is the effect of testing on teaching and learning process. It could be both negative and positive.
Hughes believes that if the test is considered to be a significant element, then preparation to it will occupy the most of the time and other teaching and learning activities will be ignored. As the author of the paper is concerned this is already a habitual situation in the schools of our country, for our teachers are faced with the centralised exams and everything they have to do is to prepare their students to them. Thus, the teacher starts concentrating purely on the material that could be encountered in the exam papers alluding to the examples taken from the past exams. Therefore, numerous interesting activities are left behind; the teachers are concerned just with the result and forget about different techniques that could be introduced and later used by their students to make the process of dealing with the exam tasks easier, such as guessing form the context, applying schemata, etc. [19,96]
The problem arises here when the objectives of the course done during the study year differ from the objectives of the test. As a result we will have a negative backwash, e.g. the students were taught to write a review of a film, but during the test they are asked to write a letter of complaint.However, unfortunately, the teacher has not planned and taught that. [19,123]
Often a negative backwash may be caused by inappropriate test design.
Hughes further in his book speaks about multiple-choice activities that are designed to check writing skills of the students. The author of the paper is very confused by that, for it is unimaginable how writing an essay could be tested with the help of multiple choices. Testing essay the teacher first of all is interested in the students’ ability to apply their ideas in writing, how it has been done, what language has been used, whether the ideas are supported and discussed, etc. At this point multiple-choice technique is highly inappropriate.
Notwithstanding, according to Hughes apart form negative side of the backwash there is the positive backwash as well. It could be the creation of an entirely new course designed especially for the students to make them pass their final exams. The test given in a form of final exams imposes the teacher to re-organise the course, choose appropriate books and activities to achieve the set goal: pass the exam. Further, he emphasises the importance of partnership between teaching and testing. Teaching should meet the needs of testing. It could be understand in the following way that teaching should correspond the demands of the test. However, it is a rather complicated work, for according to the knowledge of the author of the paper the teachers in our schools are not supplied with specially designed materials that could assist them in their preparation the students to the exams. The teachers are just given vague instructions and are free to act on their own. [19,128]
The last type that could be discussed is criterion-related validity. Weir
assumes that it is connected with test scores link between two different performances of the same test: either older established test or future criterion performance. The author of the paper considers that this type of validity is closely connected with criterion and evaluation the teacher uses to assess the test. It could mean that the teacher has to work out definite evaluation system and, moreover, should explain what she finds important and worth evaluating and why. Usually the teachers design their own system; often these are points that the students can obtain fulfilling a certain task. Later the points are gathered and counted for the mark to be put. Furthermore, the teacher can have a special table with points and relevant marks. According to our knowledge, the language teachers decide on the criteria together during a special meeting devoted to that topic, and later they keep to it for the whole study year. Moreover, the teachers are supposed to make his/her students acquainted with their evaluation system for the students to be aware what they are expected to do. [19,131]
According to Bynom reliability shows that the test’s results will be similar and will not change if one and the same test will be given on various days. The author of the paper is of the same mind with Bynom and presumes the reliability to be the one of the key elements of a good test in general. For, as it has been already discussed before, the essence of reliability is that when the students’ scores for one and the same test, though given at different periods of time and with a rather extended interval, will be approximately the same. It will not only display the idea that the test is well organized, but will denote that the students have acquired the new material well. [20,59]
A reliable test, according to Bynom, will contain well-formulated tasks and not indefinite questions; the student will know what exactly should be done. The test will always present ready examples at the beginning of each task to clarify what should be done. The students will not be frustrated and will know exactly what they are asked to perform. However, judging form the personal experience, the author of the paper has to admit, that even such hints may confuse the students; they may fail to understand the requirements and, consequently, fail to complete the task correctly. This could be explained by the fact that the students are very often inattentive, lack patience and try to accomplish the test quickly without bothering to double check it.
Further, regarding to Heaton who states that the test could be unreliable if the two different markers mark it, we can add that this factor should be accepted, as well. For example, one representative of marking team could be rather lenient and have different demands and requirements, but the other one could appear to be too strict and would pay attention to any detail. Thus, we can come to another important factor influencing the reliability that is marker’s comparison of examinees’ answers. Moreover, we have to admit a rather sad fact but not the exceptional one that the maker’s personal attitude towards the testee could impact his/her evaluation. No one has to exclude various home or health problems the marker can encounter at that moment, as well.
To summarize, we can say that for a good test possessing validity and reliability is not enough. The test should be practical, or in other words, efficient. It should be easily understood by the examinee, ease scored and administered, and, certainly, rather cheap. It should not last for eternity, for both examiner and examinee could become tired during five hours non-stop testing process. Moreover, testing the students the teachers should be aware of the fact that together with checking their knowledge the test can influence the students negatively. Therefore, the teachers ought to design such a test that it could encourage the students, but not to make them reassure in their own abilities. The test should be a friend, not an enemy. Thus, the issue of validity and reliability is very essential in creating a good test. The test should measure what it is supposed to measure, but not the knowledge beyond the students’ abilities. Moreover, the test will be a true indicator whether the learning process and the teacher’s work is effective. [20,78]
Types of tests
Different scholars in their researches ask the similar question – why test, do the teachers really need them and for what purpose. Further, they all agree that test is not the teacher’s desire to catch the students unprepared with what they are not acquainted; it is also not the motivating factor for the students to study. In fact, the test is a request for information and possibility to learn what the teachers did not know about their students before. We can add here that the test is important for the students, too, though they are unaware of that. The test is supposed to display not only the students’ weak points, but also their strong sides. It could act as an indicator of progress the student is gradually making learning the language. Moreover, we can cite the idea of Hughes who emphasises that we can check the progress, general or specific knowledge of the students, etc. This claim will directly lead us to the statement that for each of these purposes there is a special type of testing. According to some scholars there are four traditional categories or types of tests: proficiency tests, achievement tests, diagnostic tests, and placement tests. The author of the paper, once being a teacher, can claim that she is acquainted with three of them and has frequently used them in her teaching practice. [21 ,97]
In the following sub-chapters we are determined to discuss different types of tests and if possible to apply our own experience in using them. Diagnostic tests
It is wise to start our discussion with that type of testing, for it is typically the first step each teacher, even non-language teacher, takes at the beginning of a new school year. In the establishment the author of the paper was working it was one of the main rules to start a new study year giving the students a diagnostic test. Every year the administration of the school had stemmed a special plan where every teacher was supposed to write when and how they were going to test their students. Moreover, the teachers were supposed to analyse the diagnostic tests, complete special documents and provide diagrams with the results of each class or group if a class was divided. Then, at the end of the study year the teachers were demanded to compare the results of them with the final, achievement test. [22 ,123]
The author of the paper has used this type of test for several times, but had never gone deep into details how it is constructed, why and what for. Therefore, the facts listed below were of great value for her.
Referring to Longman Dictionary of LTAL diagnostic tests is a test that is meant to display what the student knows and what s/he does not know. The dictionary gives an example of testing the learners’ pronunciation of English sounds. Moreover, the test can check the students’ knowledge before starting a particular course. Hughes adds that diagnostic tests are supposed to spot the students’ weak and strong points.
Heaton compares such type of test with a diagnosis of a patient, and the teacher with a doctor who states the diagnosis.
Underhill adds that a diagnostic test provides the student with a variety of language elements, which will help the teacher to determine what the student knows or does not know. We believe that the teacher will intentionally include the material that either is presumed to be taught by a syllabus or could be a starting point for a course without the knowledge of which the further work is not possible. Thus, we fully agree with the Heaton’s comparison where he contrasts the test with a patient’s diagnosis.
The diagnostic test displays the teacher a situation of the students’ current knowledge. This is very essential especially when the students return from their summer holidays (that produces a rather substantial gap in their knowledge) or if the students start a new course and the teacher is completely unfamiliar with the level of the group. Hence, the teacher has to consider carefully about the items s/he is interested in to teach.This consideration reflects Heaton’s proposal , which stipulates that the teachers should be systematic to design the tasks that are supposed to illustrate the students’ abilities, and they should know what exactly they are testing. Moreover, Underhill points out that apart from the above-mentioned the most essential element of the diagnostic test is that the students should not feel depressed when the test is completed.
Therefore, very often the teachers do not put any marks for the diagnostic test and sometimes even do not show the test to the learners if the students do not ask the teacher to return it. Nevertheless, regarding our own experience, the learners, especially the young ones, are eager to know their results and even demand marks for their work. Notwithstanding, it is up to the teacher whether to inform his/her students with the results or not; however, the test represents a valuable information mostly for the teacher and his/her plans for designing a syllabus. [24, 265]
Returning to Hughes we can emphasise his belief that this type of test is very useful for individual check. It means that this test could be applicable for checking a definite item; it is not necessary that it will cover broader topics of the language. However, further Hughes assumes that this test is rather difficult to design and the size of the test can be even impractical. It means that if the teacher wants to check the students’ knowledge of Present simple, s/he will require a great deal of examples for the students to choose from. It will demand a tiresome work from the teacher to compose such type of the test, and may even confuse the learners.
At that point we can allude to our experience in giving a diagnostic test in Form 5. It was the class the teacher had worked before and knew the students and their level rather good. However, new learners had joined the class, and the teacher had not a slightest idea about their abilities. It was obvious that the students worried about how they would accomplish the test and what marks would they receive. The teacher had ensured them that the test would not be evaluated by marks. It was necessary for the teacher to plan her future work. That was done to release the tension in the class and make the students get rid of the stress that might be crucial for the results. The students immediately felt free and set to work. Later when analysing and summarizing the results the teacher realized that the students’ knowledge was purely good. Certainly, there were the place the students required more practice; therefore during the next class the students were offered remedial activities on the points they had encountered any difficulties. Moreover, that was the case when the students were particularly interested in their marks.
To conclude, we can conceive that interpreting the results of diagnostic tests the teachers apart from predicting why the student has done the exercises the way s/he has, but not the other, will receive a significant information about his/her group s/he is going to work with and later use the information as a basis for the forming syllabus. [25, 187]
Another type of test we are intended to discuss is a placement test.
Concerning Longman Dictionary of LTAL again we can see that a placement test is a test that places the students at an appropriate level in a programme or a course. This term does not refer to the system and construction of the test, but to its usage purpose. According to Hughes, this type of test is also used to decide which group or class the learner could be joined to. This statement is entirely supported by another scholar, such as Alderson , who declares that this type of test is meant for showing the teacher the students’ level of the language ability. It will assist to put the student exactly in that group that responds his/her true abilities.
Heaton adheres that the following type of testing should be general and should purely focus on a vast range of topics of the language not on just specific one. Therefore, the placement test typically could be represented in the form of dictations, interviews, grammar tests, etc.
Moreover, according to Heaton , the placement test should deal exactly with the language skills relevant to those that will be taught during a particular course. If our course includes development of writing skills required for politics, it is not appropriate to study writing required for medical purposes. Thus, Heaton (ibid.) presumes that is fairly important to analyse and study the syllabus beforehand. For the placement test is completely attributed to the future course programme. Furthermore,Hughes stresses that each institution will have its own placement tests meeting its needs. [26, 113]
The test suitable for one institution will not suit the needs of another. Likewise, the matter of scoring is particularly significant in the case of placement tests, for the scores gathered serve as a basis for putting the students into different groups appropriate to their level.
At this point we can attempt to compare a placement test and diagnostic one. From the first sight these both types of tests could look similar. They both are given at the beginning of the study year and both are meant for distinguishing the students’ level of the current knowledge.
However, if we consider the facts described in sub-chapter 2.1 we will see how they are different. A diagnostic test is meant for displaying a picture of the students’ general knowledge at the beginning of the study year for the teacher to plan further work and design an appropriate syllabus for his/her students. Whereas, a placement test is designed and given in order to use the information of the students’ knowledge for putting the students into groups according to their level of the language. Indeed, they are both used for teacher’s planning of the course their functions differ. A colleague of mine, who works at school, has informed me that they have used a placement test at the beginning of the year and it appeared to be relevant and efficient for her and her colleague’s future teaching. The students were divided according to their English language abilities: the students with better knowledge were put together, whereas the weaker students formed their own group. It does not mean discrimination between the students. The teachers have explained the students the reason for such actions, why it was necessary – they wanted to produce an appropriate teaching for each student taking his/her abilities into account. The teachers have altered their syllabus to meet the demands of the students. [26, 143]
The result proved to be satisfying. The students with better knowledge progressed; no one halted them. The weaker students have gradually improved their knowledge, for they received due attention than it would be in a mixed group.
Having discussed two types of tests that are usually used at the beginning, we can approach the test typically employed during the study year to check the students’ development. We will speak about a progress test. According to Alderson , progress test will show the teacher whether the students have learnt the recently taught material successfully.
Basically, the teacher intends to check certain items, not general topics covered during the school or study year. Commonly, it is not very long and is determined to check the recent material. Therefore, the teacher might expect his/her learners to get rather high scores. The following type is supposed to be used after the students have learnt either a set of units on a theme or have covered a definite topic of the language. It will display the teacher whether the material has been successfully acquired or the students need additional practice instead of starting a new material.
A progress test will basically display the activities based on the material the teacher is determined to check. To evaluate it the teacher can work out a certain system of points that later will compose a mark.
Typically, such tests do not influence the students’ final mark at the end of the year.The authorities of school demand the teachers to conduct progress tests, as well. However, the teachers themselves decide on the necessity of applying them. Nevertheless, we can claim that progress test is inevitable part of the learning process. We can even take a responsibility to declare that progress test facilitate the material acquisition in a way. The students preparing for the test look through the material again and there is a chance it can be transferred to their long-term memory.
Further, we can come to Alderson who presumes that such type of testing could function as a motivating fact for the learners, for success will develop the students’ confidence in their own knowledge and motivate them study further more vigorously. In case, there will be two or three students whose scores are rather low, the teacher should encourage them by providing support in future and imply the idea that studying hard will allow them to catch up with the rest of the students sooner or later.
The author of the paper basing on her experience agrees with the statement, for she had noticed that weaker students when they had managed to write their test successfully became proud of their achievement and started working better.
However, if the majority of the class scores a rather low grade, the teacher should be cautious. This could be a signal that there is either something wrong with the teaching or the students are low motivated or lazy. [27, 175]
Apart from a progress test the teachers employ another type – achievement test. According to Longman Dictionary of LTAL , an achievement test is a test, which measures a language someone has learned during a specific course, study or program. Here the progress is significant and, therefore, is the main point tested.
Alderson posits that achievement tests are “more formal”, whereas Hughes assumes that this type of tests will fully involve teachers, for they will be responsible for the preparation of such tests and giving them to the learners. He repeats the dictionary defining the notion of achievement tests, adding just that success of the students, groups of students, or the courses.
Furthermore, Alderson conceives that achievement tests are mainly given at definite times of the school year. Moreover, they could be extremely crucial for the students, for they are intended either to make the students pass or fail the test.
At this instant the author of the paper is determined to compare a progress and achievement test. Again if we look at these two types they might seem similar, however, it is not so. Drawing on the facts listed above (see sub-chapter 2.3) we can report that a progress test is typically used during the course to check the acquisition of an excerpted material.
An achievement test checks the acquisition of the material, as well.
Although, it is far different in its application time. We basically use an achievement test at the end of the course to check the acquisition of the material covered during the study year, not bits of it as it is with a progress test.
Quoting Hughes we can differentiate between two kinds of achievement tests: final and progress tests. Final tests are the tests that are usually given at the end of the course in order to check the students’ achieved results and whether the objectives set at the beginning have been successfully reached. Further Hughes highlights that ministries of education, official examining boards, school administration and even the teachers themselves design these tests. The tests are based on the curriculum and the course that has been studied. We assume, that is a well- known fact that teachers usually are responsible for composing such tests, and it requires a careful work. [28, 425]
Alternatively, Alderson mentions two usage types of achievement tests: formative and summative. The notion of a formative test denotes the idea that the teacher will be able after evaluating the results of the test reconsider his/her teaching, syllabus design and even slow down the pace of studying to consolidate the material if it is necessary in future. Notwithstanding, these reconsiderations will not affect the present students who have taken the test. They will be applied to the future syllabus design.
Summative usage will deal precisely with the students’ success or failure. The teacher will immediately can take up remedial activities to improve a situation.
Further, Alderson and Heaton stipulate that designing an achievement test is rather time-consuming, for the achievement test is basically devised to cover a broad topic of the material covered during the course. In addition, one and the same achievement test could be given to more than one class at school to check both the students’ progress and the teachers’ work. At that point it is very essential to consider the material covered by different classes or groups. You cannot ask the students what they have not been taught. Heaton emphasises the close cooperative work of the teachers as a crucial element in test design.
However, in the school the author of the paper used to work the teachers did not cooperate in designing achievement tests. Each teacher was free to write the test that best suits his/her children. [29 , 263]
Developing the topic, we can focus on Hughes’ idea that there is an approach how to design a test; it is called syllabus-content approach. The test is based on a syllabus studied or a book taken during the course. This test could be described as a fair test, for it focuses mainly on the detailed material that the students are supposed to have studied. Hughes points out that if the test is inappropriately designed, it could result in unsuccessful accomplishment of it. Sometimes the demands of the test may differ from the objectives of the course. Therefore, the test should be based directly on the objectives of the course. Consequently, it will influence the choice of books appropriate to the syllable and syllable itself. The backwash will be positive not only for the test, but also for the teaching. Furthermore, we should mention that the students have to know the criteria according to which they are going to be evaluated.
To conclude we shall state again that achievement tests are meant to check the mastery of the material covered by the learners. They will be great helpers for the teacher’s future work and will contribute a lot to the students’ progress.
The last type of test to be discussed is a proficiency test. Regarding
Longman Dictionary of LTAL proficiency test is a test, which measures how much of a language a person knows or has learnt. It is not bound to any curriculum or syllabus, but is intended to check the learners’ language competence. Although, some preparation and administration was done before taking the test, the test’s results are what being focused on. The examples of such tests could be the American Testing of English as Foreign Language test (further in the text TOEFL) that is used to measures the learners’ general knowledge of English in order to allow them to enter any high educational establishments or to take up a job in the USA. Another proficiency test is Cambridge First Certificate test that has almost the same aim as TOEFL.
Hughes gives the similar definition of proficiency tests stressing that training is not the thing that is emphasised, but the language. He adds that ‘proficient’ in the case of proficiency tests means possessing a certain ability of using the language according to an appropriate purpose. It denotes that the learner’s language ability could be tested in various fields or subjects (art, science, medicine, etc.) in order to check whether the learner could suit the demands of a specific field or not. This could refer to TOEFL tests. Apart from TOEFL we can speak about Cambridge First Certificate test, which is general and does not concern any specific field. The aim of this test is to reveal whether the learners’ language abilities have reached a certain standard set. The test could be taken by anyone who is interested in testing the level of language knowledge. There are special tests levels, which can be chosen by a candidate. If a candidate has passed the exam s/he can take another one of a different level. However, these entire tests are not free of charge, and in order to take it an individual has to pay for them. [29,279]
Regarding Hughes who supposes that the only similar factor about such tests that they are not based on any courses, but are intended to measure the candidates’ suitability for a certain post or course at the university, we can add that in order to pass these tests a candidate has to attend special preparatory courses.
Moreover, Hughes believes that the proficiency tests affect learners’ more in negative way, than in positive one.
The author of the paper both agrees and does not agree with the
Hughes’ proposed statement. Definitely, this test could make the test depressed and exhausted by taking a rather long test. Moreover, the proficiency tests are rather impartial; they are not test-friendly.
However, there is a useful factor amongst the negative ones. It is preparation to proficiency tests, for it involves all language material starting from grammar finishing with listening comprehension. All four skills are being practiced during the preparation course; various reading task and activities have been incorporated; writing has been stressed focusing on all possible types of essays, letters, reviews, etc. Speaking has been practiced as well. The whole material has been consolidated for many times.
To summarize we can claim that there are different types of tests that serve for different purposes. Moreover, they all are necessary for the teacher’s work, for them, apart from a proficiency test, could contribute to successful material acquisition by learners. [30, 93]
Ways of testing
In this chapter we will attempt to discuss various types of testing and if possible compare them. We will start with the most general ones and move to more specific and detailed ways of testing.
Direct and indirect testing
The first types of testing we are intended to discuss are direct and indirect testing. First, we will try to define each of them; secondly, we will endeavour to compare them.
We will commence our discussion with direct testing that according to
Hughes means the involvement of a skill that is supposed to be tested. The following view means that when applying the direct testing the teacher will be interested in testing a particular skill, e.g. if the aim of the test is to check listening comprehension, the students will be given a test that will check their listening skills, such as listening to the tape and doing the accompanying tasks. Such type of test will not engage testing of other skills. Hughes emphasises the importance of using authentic materials. Though, we stipulate that the teacher is free to decide him/herself what kind of material the students should be provided with. It the teacher’s aim is to teach the students to comprehend the real, native speech, s/he will apply the authentic material in teaching and later, logically, in tests. Developing the idea we can cite Bynom who assumes that direct testing introduces real-life language through authentic tasks. Consequently, it will lead to the usage of role-plays, summarising the general idea, providing the missing information,etc. [30, 146]
Moving further and analysing the statements made by the linguists we can posit the idea that direct testing will be task- oriented, effective and easy to manage if it tests such skills as writing or speaking. It could be explained by the fact that the tasks intended to check the skills mentioned above give us precise information about the learners’ abilities. Moreover, we can maintain that when testing writing the teacher demands the students to write a certain task, such as an essay, a composition or reproduction, and it will be precisely the point the teacher will be intended to check. There will be certain demands imposed on writing test; the teacher might be just interested in the students’ ability to produce the right layout of an essay without taking grammar into account, or, on the contrary, will be more concerned with grammatical and syntactical structures. What concerns testing speaking skills, here the author of the paper does not support the idea promoted by Bynom that it could be treated as direct testing. Definitely, you will have a certain task to involve your speaking skills; however, speaking is not possible without employment of listening skills. This in turn will generate the idea that apart from speaking skills the teacher will test the students’ ability to understand the speech s/he hears, thus involving speaking skills.
It is said that the advantages of direct testing is that it is intended to test some certain abilities