Saturday, September 26 2020


Good assessment helps improve English teaching: symposium

Update: May, 23/2017 - 19:00
Dr Jamie Dunlea, senior researcher in language assessment from the British Council, speaks about using test specifications to help design better classroom tasks at Việt Nam’s first Language Assessment Symposium in HCM City yesterday. —VNS.Photo.Gia Lộc
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — Their huge workload, limited teaching hours and large numbers of students in classes prevent teachers from improving their classroom-based assessment practices, considered vital to improving English teaching, an expert has said.

Dr Vũ Thị Phương Anh, dean of Bình Dương University’s foreign languages faculty, said efforts to reform the quality of English teaching in the country have thus been in vain.

She was speaking at Việt Nam’s first Language Assessment Symposium held today at the Southeast Asian Ministers Of Education Organization Regional Training Center (SEAMEO RETRAC) in HCM City.

Classroom-based assessment refers to teachers’ informal day-to-day interactions with students and interim formal tests to assess students’ progress.

“Everywhere, the main focus of class-based assessment is on vocabulary, grammar and reading,” Anh said, explaining that some other key skills like listening and writing are added only at university-level final exams.

Yet others like group testing and peer assessment are completely ignored, she said.

“No reflection on assessment results seems to exist at high school level. Results are rarely discussed with students. Some teachers correct mistakes that many students make and provide some further practice. [But] most do not.”

Good classroom-based assessment promotes learning, but teachers do not have enough time to create good assessment due to the heavy and tightly controlled curriculum, she added.

Ian Gibbons, the British Consul General in HCM City, said: “An effective language testing and assessment system which tests real skills in communication is essential in the teaching and learning process.

“It’s incredibly important to test how people really use the language, and to have standard, reliable, assessment tools that can be properly used to support the teaching and learning of English.”

High quality, reliable assessment builds trust in the education system and in its qualifications, and it creates real opportunities for people to demonstrate ability and to get better jobs, or further their studies in Việt Nam or overseas, according to the diplomat.

It also drives positive change as teachers focus on teaching real communicative skills rather than just teaching for tests. 

The English language is now much more than just a subject to study at school and university as the use of English has spread around the world and the language has become an important skill for the 21st century.

He pointed out that the importance of English had been recognised by the Việt Nam Government in its ambitious National Foreign Language Project 2020.

Dr Jamie Dunlea, senior researcher in language assessment at the British Council, called for using test specifications - or design templates which make clear the purpose of the task and criteria for input texts and expected responses - to help design better classroom tasks.

"Specifications designed based on the socio-cognitive model link to different levels of proficiency, and test tasks which use these specifications are useful as they facilitate the teaching and learning of abilities relevant to a level rather than teaching to the test itself," he said.

The symposium was organised by the British Council, the National Foreign Languages Project 2020 and SEAMEO RETRAC, bringing together UK and Vietnamese testing and assessment experts to exchange information and keep abreast of developments in English teaching, learning and assessment.—VNS


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