Working for washback

How much do you test, evaluate, or assess your students? Is it formal or informal? If you teach an exam preparation course or a course in which students receive a grade, what effect does having exams have in the learning process? If you don’t teach a course with formal exams, do you use other forms of evaluation or assessment?

Before you come to the next Springboard get-together, have a look at this section of this text, the section titled, “How can we promote beneficial washback?”, written by a researcher out of the Monterrey Institute of International studies, about Washback. If you don’t know what washback is, read more from the whole text here.
Help us answer these questions and  build your professional value as a teacher!
Come to the next Springboard get-together on Thursday 23rd February at 20:00 at The Fitting Room Restaurant in Welle 7, just next to the Bern main station. Or follow the blog, by clicking on the gear wheel at the top of the page.
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One thought on “Working for washback

  1. Hello,

    I am not directly linked to ELT springboard, because of not working in Switzerland, but I would nevertheless like to make a comment, as testing is something that has been bothering me for some time.

    I teach in France and I think that the problem with teaching here is the fact that we always prepare students for some kind of exams. We do not teach them English, we just prepare them for exams. Out of what I could gather, “positive washback” implies some form of a “perfect” test at the end of the preparation period. And this is where problems start: the students I personally work with are preparing for an equivalent of an HND in various fields ranging from tourism through accounting to management, and each time I have a lesson with them, I feel a need to justify that what we are doing will be useful for the final exam, and because French exams are far from being perfect, there are a lot of practical things that I would like to include in my lesson plan, as they would be very useful in everyday communication, but I have to leave them out, because…”we don’t need them, we are never going to use them” – I can hear my students say.

    In another school where I work with young people studying applied arts, I have a lot more freedom, the only constraint is the fact that I have to have at least three marks per term. I try to vary testing, and mix a traditional written method with speaking – these days mostly in the form of an MP3 or MP4 recording, but it can be done in class as well. Sometimes testing can take a form of a longer assignment composed of various parts that involve, for example, exchanging an email with an English speaking person.

    The final exam (after three years of studies) is a mixture of TOEIC and BULATS (not an official version though), but in calculating the final grade we take into account students’ grades from the end of the second and third year as well, this gives me more freedom of working with them on various creative topics and not only teaching business English. By the way, I have some doubts concerning the efficiency of TOEIC as an exam, but that’s a different story.

    To conclude this somewhat longish comment, I wanted to say that I find it important not to rely on exams, tests and assessments as the only source of motivation for learning a language, or any other subject for that matter. But because we do need to test our students from time to time, I think everyone agrees that these tests should be as varied as possible, and composed of different types of exercises, (not only the multiple choice ones) that allow to check the different skills involved in using a language, and that is why if I was asked to vote, I would rather go for IELTS than TOEIC.

    Looking forward to reading comments of others on this topic.

    All the best,

    Ania

    Like

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