TEFL Tests: “Assessment” On ESL Teacher Talk

I am a bit behind the times but I just had the chance to listen to Eric and Mark at ESL Teacher Talk discuss assessment.

They touched on topics like how often they assess students, what is incorporated into the assessment, and how they give feedback. What was most interesting to me though was their perspective on cultural differences in assessment.

One difference (which is also connected to age and level) is how direct a teacher should be with feedback. They pointed out that it may be a more uniquely American trait to want regular feedback on performance – in many cultures people are more used to not getting it quite as regularly. There are also questions about how to present feedback – for kids a system like “okay”, “good” and “excellent” – all mostly positive words – may be fine and in fact better than a numbering system.

They point out that self-assessment can be a useful tool as well…as can noting what a student can do; for example, six months ago he couldn’t answer questions about the past and now he can, or before he could only answer 5 of 10 questions in a set, now he can answer all of them.

They also mentioned that many systems – in their case the university system in Korea and the private language school in Japan – may have a different understanding of how assessment works. To get the full story on Japan, you’ll have to listen – but briefly, it sounds like in public schools the students take one test which determines their final grade. That grade stays, regardless of whether it’s a passing or failing grade, but they have to keep taking the test until they pass it in order to move on to the next class or just “get out of” that one. To each their own of course, but if you’re a new teacher expecting things to work like they do at home: beware. They don’t.

They also mention those frustrating scenarios where teachers are told “just pass him” or where a teacher is told to go away from the book and teach a mainly communication class…but needs to give a written test.

For additional podcasts that are fun and useful, have a look around ESL Teacher Talk; when you want to confirm your believ that this site is in fact a good find, stroll on over to the TEFL Logue Review of ESL Teacher Talk.