The Journal, Volume 6, 1999

Evaluation and Assessment: Selected articles following the TESOL France Colloquium Focus on Evaluation, November 1998


Developing a culture of evaluation
Dermot F Murphy

L'Evaluation dans l'enseignement de l'anglais en France Enseignement secondaire
Marie-France Chen - Géré

Evaluation and In-company language training
Peter Strutt

L'évaluation de l'oral au lycée
Gilles Fériel

L'évaluation formative interactive par la subordination de l'enseignement à l'apprentissage
Maurice Laurent

"I didn't learn my lesson, Sir" The Case for Learner Centred Error Analysis
Richard Duda

Faire de l'évaluation un outil de négociation. Compte-rendu d'une expérience d'évaluation formatrice
Joëlle Aden

Training Students for Exam Success
Peter May

How to Take the Pain out of Marking and Exams
Lynne Rushton



TESOL France has always tried to bring together the two worlds of l'Education Nationale (the public school sector) and Form Co (the adult education sector). We all have a common goal: those of us who work with adults in companies are carrying on from where public school teachers left off. Those of us who are working with public school children are trying to prepare our charges for the adult world. The theme of evaluation is a perfect meeting place because we all face the same problems. Teachers from l'Education Nationale, struggling with huge classes and the mass education system, have the same criteria for a good evaluation system as do teachers from the adult education sector who might be working with smaller classes but are struggling to find fast and cost-effective ways to make their students become competent English language users.

Dermot Murphy introduces the broad subject of evaluation by showing how it leaves no one and no institution indifferent. He explains how it has the potential to be useful to individuals and institutions but how it may be perceived as being negative or harmful. The way evaluation is conceived, introduced and managed must be thought through carefully.

Marie-France Chen-Géré's description of secondary school testing echoes some of the principles laid down in Dermot Murphy's article. The Education Nationale system has developed a pioneer program that includes entry-level tests for all those going into secondary schools. This institution, which has to deal with mass education, manages to carry out continuous assessment throughout secondary studies.

Leaving the setting of an academic learning environment to situate the problem of evaluation in an industrial context, Peter Strutt discusses the importance of establishing clear testing procedures for in-company language training. Through effective testing the company can evaluate needs, set target language performance, assess progress throughout the course and determine the degree of attainment at the end of the program. Peter Strutt, by insisting that a good test should be valid and reliable proposes clear guidelines while taking into consideration the "washback" effect.

Returning to the totally different environment of public secondary school teaching, Gilles Feriel establishes similar criteria for both progress testing (formative) and achievement testing (summative). The key words of reliability and validity are central to the new evaluation system being set up throughout France. In this new system, the clear criteria agreed on by both teachers and students include the notoriously difficult area of assessment of oral production. Instead of only focusing on form, it also takes into account communicative competence.

From still another perspective, Maurice Laurent proposes a permanent interactive assessment system. Inspired by the work of Caleb Gattegno, the originator of the Silent Way, this system gives assessment a central position in the course. By continually evaluating student needs and progression, the teacher constantly modifies classroom activities. However, in order for this system to work, the evaluation procedure must take into consideration emotional, perceptive and mental faculties of the students as well as the necessary processes involved in the learning procedure. If the activities are well adapted, students will develop personal learning strategies by analysing their own errors.

The learner-centered error analysis proposed by Richard Duda is of a more targeted nature for language learning. He identifies three sources of defective discourse: interlingual or interlanguage errors, developmental errors and intralingual errors. By explicitly pointing out these types of errors, teachers help learners to become more aware of what they know or think they know about language and language learning. They can learn to accept their mistakes as part of their learning process, using them to progress.

By giving a mark, a teacher is quantifying a learning process that can only be judged in qualitative terms. Instead of helping students to become better language learners, the marking system can lead to a negative personal image and a negative feeling for the English language in general. Joëlle Aden tells about an experience in a secondary school where through enormous personal investment, students completely transform their negative perception into a positive representation. When a teacher fosters the desire to learn a foreign language, students gain a deeper self-awareness.

The theme of evaluation would not be complete without some practical activities that could be used directly in the classroom. Peter May's exercises take into consideration learner motivation and the importance of learners taking charge of their learning process by analyzing the examinations themselves.

By attacking the difficult task of writing from another perspective, Lynne Rushton enables even the weakest students to have the satisfaction of producing a coherent document. When a piece of text is approached from the reader's point of view, the emphasis switches from grammatical accuracy to successful communication. In this way the learner can focus on things like layout, functional language, and organization of information, which are much easier to understand and reproduce than perfect spellings and tenses. Then, once a successful text is produced, students have the motivation and framework to improve their grammatical accuracy. This article includes many practical tips on how to implement these ideas in the classroom.

Reading and re-reading these articles will be extremely helpful for all teachers. When we are in the midst of working through an evaluation procedure, we can easily lose sight of long term objectives and higher level criteria. The similar views of authors from such different worlds as industrial in-company training and Education Nationale show how important it is to take into consideration both the learner as an individual and the language skills we are trying to assess.

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