In the modern
world, the studying and knowing foreign language is significant. But knowing
foreign language means not just possession of the speaking skills. It is
possession of all language skills, such as listening, reading, writing and
speaking which we need in each and every field of life for successful business.
We need listening and reading skill for getting new information, but speaking and
writing for sharing the information which we own. According to it the four
basic skills are related to each other by two parameters: the mode of
communication - oral or written and the direction of communication - receiving
or producing the message. Listening and reading are receptive skills while
speaking and writing are productive skills. It is worth-mentioning that both
receptive and productive skills do not take place simultaneously. Listening
precedes speaking and reading precedes writing. Making the best use of
receptive and productive skills depends upon the level of the proficiency,
which should be assessed during the studying year and at the end of the year
with the help of different tasks, exams and tests formats. Such well-known
standardized English-language testing programs as TOEFL (The Test of English as
a Foreign Language) and CFC (Cambridge First Certificate) tests, which college
and universities use to gauge the language skills of prospective international
students, can serve as assessment for language abilities.
Gear said: “TOEFL
and CFC tests are an examination that intends to evaluate the level of the
English language of a foreign speaker.” Moreover, it is commonly one of the
aspects included into the entrance exams of any university in the USA, European Union and England. TOEFL test as CFC test consists of four different parts: listening
comprehension that occupies approximately 35 minutes and consists of three
parts, structure and written expression with time limit 25 minutes composed of
two tasks and reading comprehension is 55 minutes, consisting of several
passages. The differences between CFC and TOEFL tests are: when TOEFL test
consists of just four parts, CFC includes a speaking part more. The difference
could be found in the sequence of them, for example if CFC test will start with
reading first, TOEFL test will deal with listening. The types of tasks and
activities implied in the test differ as well. Moreover, each part of each test
will include a various range of tasks, i.e. each part of TOEFL test will mainly
be composed of two tasks, whereas CFC will classically contain four different
activities, but in any case both of these types of tests involve the four
skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing, the assessing of which will
help to understand the level of student’s or job applicant’s language proficiency.
There are a lot of
reasons for a comprehensive assessment of all four English language skills; we
will point just several of them, which are the main in this field:
1. Users of
English language proficiency tests like the CFC and TOEFL tests may sometimes
be more interested in some language skills (speaking, for instance) than
others. However, what they value most often is a person’s ability to
communicate in English in a variety of contexts that is likely to involve the
use of multiple language skills either singly or in combination.
2. A more accurate estimate of a person’s skill
in any specific area (speaking, for example) can be attained by testing skills
not only in that area but in related areas as well. Because the four aspects of
language are inextricably intertwined, a measure of ability in a related domain
(e.g., listening) can, when used in conjunction with a measure of the target
ability (e.g., speaking), add nuance/depth and accuracy to the measurement of
the target ability.
3. The four skills
are strongly correlated, but not to the degree that a measure of one can
substitute perfectly for a measure on another. They are distinct enough, both
logically and empirically, that they have to be measured separately. Failing to
measure all of these important aspects of proficiency, therefore, may leave
critical gaps in a test taker’s language proficiency profile.
4. Related to
point 2 above is that, for most kinds of decision making, more information is
almost always better than less. More trustworthy decisions are possible when
additional relevant information is used to supplement initially available
information, whether that decision concerns language abilities or other types
tests are almost always fairer to those who take them when multiple methods and
multiple question formats are used. Some people perform better on some types of
test questions than on others, and so it is appropriate to use a variety of
methods and question types to assess critical abilities. Obtaining more
information about test takers is not only valuable to the test user but also
fairer to the test taker.
6. There are
long-term societal consequences of testing English-language skills selectively.
What is tested can affect what is taught as well as what is learned. Selective
testing can result in greater attention paid to some language skills than
others, resulting in uneven profiles of proficiency in overall communications
skills. Testing all four skills is not only fairer to individuals, but it
benefits society as well.
It is important,
however, to test each of these four skills individually because each is a
critical aspect of communicative competence. Furthermore, direct evidence of
specific individual skills can provide at least indirect evidence of other
skills, because they are strongly related with each other.-Listening, reading,
writing and speaking are distinct, and each contributes uniquely to an
individual’s overall communicative ability. When test scores are used to make
consequential decisions, the use of several sources of information provides better
decisions than does a more selective use of information. Moreover, assessment
is fairer to test takers if they are allowed to demonstrate their skills in
multiple ways - with different tests, different methods and different question
formats. Comprehensive testing also encourages broader and more general
teaching and learning of language skills by test takers. All of the reasons
given here are consistent with the trend toward more comprehensive, integrated
testing of language skills as seen in many prominent language testing programs.
Also there are a
lot of others tasks which can be used by the teachers for skills assessment,
but for every type of assessment each teacher or test developers should be
guided by the cornerstones of good testing practice when constructing or
choosing their tasks, tests or exams.
cornerstone is validity the main point of which to be clear about what to
assess and to ensure that assessing not something else. Also assessment must
have some degree of reliability i.e. that it is consistent and that under the
same conditions and with the same performance by students` assessment produces
the same or at least similar results. Practicality is another important feature
the main point of which to be practical in terms of physical resources such as
tape-recorders and photocopies and teacher’s attitude to the assessment must
not be too time-consuming, in terms of class hours and of teacher’s own time
outside the class. Washback effect or the influence of assessment on both
teaching and learning after examinations is another cornerstone, which can
cause the stress situation or can have positive emotions if all tasks were
forward-thinking, communicative and taken from real life situations
(authenticity). Transparency is next feature, which answer the questions: Are
expectations clear to students? Do students and teachers have access to information
about the test/assessment? And the final element is accountability. As
professionals, teachers should be able to provide learners, parents,
institutions and society in general, with clear indications of what progress
has been made and if it has not, why that is so and also should be able to
explain the rationale behind the way assessment takes place and how conclusions
are drawn, rather than hiding behind a smoke screen of professional secrecy.
If teacher follows
all these cornerstones during the writing or choosing the test, task or exam
the assessment will provide information for improvement when learning is less
than satisfactory. Through practice in assessment, faculty become better able
to understand and promote learning, and increase their ability to help students
themselves become more effective, self-assessing, self-directed learners.
Simply put, the central purpose of assessment is to empower both teachers and
their students to improve the quality of learning in the classroom and in
teaching language is to hold under control the language skills of each student,
both receptive and productive.
passively receive and process the information through the receptive skills. A
hard and tough competition always goes on among the students for the achievement
of ultimate success. The student, who are vigilant, curious and having thirst
of knowledge make the best use of their receptive skills. They are good
listener and untiring readers, they are fond of being with learned
personalities for listening their lectures and they like to spent their maximum
time in reading books, so as to enrich their knowledge, till the could be able
to produce wonderful things at their own.
For assessment of
reading most language teachers use component subskills, because it is not
possible to observe reading behavior directly. They normally focus on certain
important skills which can be divided up into major and minor (or contributing)
skills include skimming for gist, scanning for specific details, and establishing
overall organization of the passage; reading carefully for main ideas,
supporting details, author’s argument and purpose, relationship of paragraphs,
fact through opinion. Information transfers from nonlinear texts.
Minor reading skills
include understanding at the sentence level: syntax, vocabulary, cohesive
markers; at inter-sentence level: reference, discourse markers; also the understanding
components of nonlinear texts includes the meaning of graph or chart labels,
keys, and the ability to find and interpret intersection points.
But for assessment
of listening abilities according to Buck (2001) teachers can use three major
approaches: discrete point, integrative and communicative approaches. The
discrete-point approach identified and isolated listening into separate
elements. Some of the question types that were utilized in this approach
included phonemic discrimination, paraphrase recognition and response evaluation.
An example of phonemic discrimination is assessing students by their ability to
distinguish minimal pairs like ship/sheep. Paraphrase recognition is a format
that required students to listen to a statement and then select the option
closest in meaning to the statement. Response evaluation is an objective format
that presents students with questions and then four response options. The
underlying rationale for the discrete-point approach stemmed from two beliefs.
First, it was important to be able to isolate one element of language from a
continuous stream of speech. Secondly, spoken language is the same as written
language, only it is presented orally.
approach “attempts to assess a learner’s capacity to use many bits at the same
time, whereas discrete items attempt to test knowledge of language one bit at a
time.” (Oller, 1979:37) Proponents of the integrative approach to listening
assessment believed that the whole of language is greater than the sum of its
parts. Common question types in this approach were dictation and cloze.
approach, the communicative approach, with the help of which the listener must
be able to comprehend the message and then use it in context. Communicative question
formats must be authentic in nature.
A number of issues
make the assessment of listening different from the assessment of other skills.
Buck (2001) has identified several issues that need to be taken into account.
They are: setting, rubric, input, voiceovers, test structure, formats, timing,
scoring and finding texts.
The main rule for
comprehensive assessment of reading and listening skills lies in the choice of
the texts or audio/video records. They should be carefully chosen to fit the purpose
of assessment and the level of the students. Such factors as length, density
and readability should be taken into consideration. All teachers should avoid
texts and records with controversial or biased material because they can upset
students and affect the reliability of test results. Ninety percent of the vocabulary
in a prose passage should be known to the students (Nation, 1990). They can be
purpose written, taken directly from authentic material or adapted. The best
way to develop good reading and listening assessments is to constantly be on
the watch for appropriate and authentic material from newspapers, magazines, brochures,
instruction guides, news, films – anything that is a suitable source of real
texts and audio/video records. Other ways to find material on particular topics
are to use an encyclopedia written at an appropriate readability level or to
use an Internet search engine. Whatever the source, cite it properly.
such as speaking and writing also should be assessed by teacher, because the
students possessing efficient productive skills are able to produce something:
an essay, a book, a research paper or a speech.
assessment is good to start with a simple task that puts students at ease so
they can perform better. Often this takes the form of asking the students for
some personal information or interview, when teacher asks students or student
asks another student. Also teacher may ask student to describe a photograph or
item, to narrate a story from given a series of pictures or cartoon. Next
exercise which teacher can use for checking speaking abilities called
information gap activity, when one student has information the other lacks and
vice versa. Students have to exchange information to see how it fits together.
Negotiation is also very useful task, when students working together may have
different opinions. They have to reach a conclusion in a limited period of
time. During the role plays, students are given cue cards with information
about their “character” and the setting. They should imagine a situation and
play. Oral presentations strive to make students impromptu instead of
Based on Bygate’s
categories, Weir (1993) divides oral skills into two main groups: speaking
skills that are part of a repertoire of routines for exchanging information or
interacting, and improvisational skills such as negotiating meaning and
managing the interaction. The routine skills are largely associated with
language functions and the spoken language required in certain situations. By
contrast, the improvisational skills are more general and may be brought into
play at any time for clarification, to keep a conversation flowing, to change
topics or to take turns. In circumstances when presentation skills form an
important component of a program, naturally they should be assessed. However,
avoid situations where a student simply memorizes a prepared speech. Decide
which speaking skills are most germane to a particular program and then create
assessment tasks that sample skills widely with a variety of tasks. While it is
possible to assess speaking skills on an individual basis, most large exam
boards opt to test pairs of students with pairs of testers. Within tests
organized in this way, there are times when only one student speaks and other
times when the students interact in a conversation. This setup makes it
possible to test common routine functions as well as a range of improvisational
skills. For reliability, interlocutors should work from a script so that all
students get similar questions framed in the same way. In general, the teacher
or interlocutor should keep in the background and only intercede if truly
student written proficiency firstly teacher should decide what kind of marking
scale he chooses. The foreign language assessment literature generally recognizes
two different types of writing scales: holistic marking and analytical marking.
Selecting the appropriate marking scale depends upon the context in which a
teacher works. This includes the availability of resources, amount of time
allocated to getting reliable writing marks to administration, the teacher
population and management structure of the institution. Reliability can be
increased by using multiple marking, which reduces the scope for error that is
inherent in a single score.
Scales according to McNamara is where the scorer “records a single impression
of the impact of the performance as a whole”. In short, holistic marking is
based on the marker's total impression of the essay as a whole. Holistic
marking is variously termed as impressionistic, global or integrative marking.
Experts in holistic marking scales recommend that this type of marking is quick
and reliable if 3 to 4 people mark each script. The general rule of thumb for
holistic marking is to mark for two hours and then take a rest grading no more
than 20 scripts per hour. Holistic marking is most successful using scales of a
limited range (i.e. from 0-6).
Scales according to Hamp-Lyons is where “raters provide separate assessments
for each of a number of aspects of performance”. In other words, raters mark selected
aspects of a piece of writing and assign point values to quantifiable criteria
(Coombe & Evans, 2001). In the literature, analytical marking has been
termed discrete point marking and focused holistic marking. Analytical marking
scales are generally more effective with inexperienced teachers. These scales
are more reliable for scales with a larger point range.
reliability, it is recommended that clear criteria for grading be established
and that rater training in using these criteria takes place prior to marking.
The criteria can be based on holistic or analytical rating scales. However,
whatever scale is chosen, it is crucial that all raters adhere to the same
scale regardless of their personal preference. The best way to achieve inter-rater
reliability is to practice. As always, assessment should first and foremost
reflect the goals of the course. In order for assessment to be fair for
students, they should have plenty of opportunities to practice a variety of
different skills of varying lengths. In other words, language tests should be
shorter and more frequent, not just a "snapshot" approach at midterm
and final exams.
On the basis of
said before we can make a conclusion that assessment is a major component of
the possessing language skills and learning process, which involves student and
teachers in the continuous monitoring. It provides faculty with feedback about
their effectiveness as teachers, and it gives students a measure of their
progress as learners. Assessments are created, administered, and analyzed by
teachers themselves on questions of teaching and learning that are important to
them, the likelihood that instructors will apply the results of the assessment
to their own teaching is greatly enhances. But it is very important to make a
clear distinction between assessment and evaluation, because assessment is the
observation of students in the process of learning, the collection of frequent
feedback on students’ learning, and the design of modest classroom experiments
that provide information on how students learn and how students respond to
particular teaching approaches. Assessment helps individual teachers obtain useful
feedback on what, how much, and how well their students are learning. In a
short assessment is feedback from the student to the instructor about the
student’s learning. Evaluation on the other hand is feedback from the
instructor to the student about the student’s learning, because during
evaluation teachers use methods and measures to judge student learning and
understanding of the material for purposes of grading and reporting. Evaluation
involves looking at all the factors that influence on the learning process,
such as syllabus objectives, course design, materials, methodology, teacher
performance and assessment. Assessment and evaluation are often linked, because
assessment is one of the most valuable sources of information about what is happening
in a learning environment.
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