Three benefits of testing our English language students
Should we test our English language learners? If so, how do we do it so that it’s supportive and empowering, helping them in their learning? We need to ensure we have good reasons for testing our learners, and not just test them for testing’s sake. Here we will look at different types of assessment and then unpack three benefits of testing.
Formative and summative assessment
Essentially, we have two types of assessment, summative and formative. Let’s look at each in turn.
Remember the end of term test you dreaded as a learner? (Me too!) This is an example of summative testing. It evaluates learner progress up to a specific point. You see what they can and can’t do with the language.
However, formative or ongoing testing throughout the term is what we’ll focus on here. This is a way or method of assessing students while they are learning and takes place during the learning process itself. We can do formative assessment through a variety of methods in our classrooms. Here are three examples:
- targeted questioning during the lesson
- questions at the end of the lesson
- through recap warmer activities in the next session
There is a video example of one of these at the end of this blog, so keep reading.
For now, here are three benefits to doing ongoing assessments in our classes and the potential positive outcomes for our learners.
Testing benefit 1 – shows that our teaching has been successful
Students travel the learning journey at different speeds for a range of reasons. Depending on the amount of progress, we might decide to proceed faster or slower with our teaching aims. Or we may decide we need to rewind and do something again. Here’s an example.
Let’s say that you have been teaching a lexis around the theme of work with your beginners. The target is to get learners to speak about their work or jobs, and the jobs of their classmates.
However, on a quick stop and check test at the end of the lesson, you notice that a couple of your students have made basic mistakes with the grammar, such as:
“I an office worker.” “He a shopkeeper”.
Firstly, well done! Your students appear to have learned the lexis you have been teaching. Office worker and shopkeeper are both part of the work lexis. So this quick formative test shows you have been successful on one level. However…
Testing benefit 2 – shows where there are other learning needs or gaps
While the lexis teaching appears to be successful, clearly there is another issue here. There is a problem with verb omission, so a revision for these particular students on the inclusion of the verb “to be” would be crucial before proceeding much further.
Just doing a quick “stop-and-check” test like this, through informal but targeted questioning, could show you a student’s knowledge gap that is crucial to close. It could be that the students are translating straight from their L1, which is common among beginners. In this case, more specific targeting of the structure for these students (perhaps a separate worksheet to practise at home) might be the way forward, so that you don’t slow down the whole class or group.
This simple example of formative testing gives you an indication of what they have learned. It also allows you to see if there is an issue with the teaching itself, or whether the focus should be on individual learners and knowledge gaps.
Testing like this allows us to look at our practice, the type of approach we have taken and potentially try something different next time.
Testing benefit 3 – students feel a sense of accomplishment
If our students do well on a test, any test, they feel a sense of accomplishment. They have learned something and demonstrated to you that they know it, to the extent that they got a question about it right, or reproduced it correctly. So, short pop-quiz tests or simple Q and A sessions can be motivating. They will help to give your learners a sense of their progress.
Indeed, regular tests can also have a positive effect in that they encourage students to review material covered so far.
Assessment, testing and English for exams are all included in our newly refurbished Classic 120 hour TEFL course. We will show you how you can evaluate student assessment results and identify ways to use these to adjust or modify your future learning objectives.
In the meantime, watch the video of Louisa as she conducts some basic formative testing with an intermediate level class at the end of a session. Try to incorporate this into your next lesson and you will begin to see the three benefits of testing your students.
Discover where assessment and testing come in the Classic 120-hour course here >> (hint – scroll down to Module 26!)
Key learning takeaway – three benefits of testing
Formative or ongoing assessment allows us to see and assess whether our teaching has been effective. We will be able to see who needs more help, and who can move forward. This will help to shape our lesson plan for the next lesson, perhaps how we group or pair students next time, therefore allowing us to tailor our approach for individual learners.
Watch out for a future blog, where we’ll build on from three benefits of testing to look at some of the different methods we can use to assess our learners’ performance.
Image courtesy of geralt via Pixabay