This ELT 1200GMT chat took place on Wednesday 19th of March. It involved a lot of healthy discussion and ELT professionals sharing, adapting and evaluating a variety of ideas and approaches to assessment in ELT. Here’s a summary of what was said.
Initially, the discussion was taken slightly in the wrong direction to begin with, as I said that I understood LOA to be the idea of not testing learners on “what they should know” but on what “they do know” and gave the example of tests which involve productive tasks so that learners can demonstrate their linguistic skills. This sort of assessment was later referred to throughout the chat as ‘can-dos’.
@teflgeek quickly pointed out that while it was a valid point, I was rather looking at LOA from the wrong perspective: LOA is rather about using data collected from summative and formative testing to inform teaching.
@Marisa_C was very helpful in setting the scene by posting a link to a Cambridge English video which takes a 42” look at answering the question: how can assessment support learning?
The video is available here:
@SueAnnan kicked started the discussion by asking: what do we understand by Learner Oriented Assessment (henceforth LOA)
What type of assessment?
The comments above naturally led on to @SueAnnan’s next question: are we more used to using formative or summative assessment?
After a quick reminder of the difference between the two – formative is continuous assessment and summative assessment often takes the form of final exams – teachers pointed out which form of assessment they prefer.
Interestingly, @SueAnnan pointed out that formative and summative are “two ends of a continuum” and involve teachers “watching in class” and “testing at the end of the course.” This further led on to the suggestion of learners carrying out their own self-assessment with “teacher oversight.”
@Marisa-C quickly highlighted that this type of assessment would fall under “progress testing” and would “inform future lessons”, which is exactly what LOA is all about. I also added I prefer formative assessment as it gives a continuously developing picture of how learners are getting on and which areas needed to be worked on or even revisited.
Syllabus Design and the Learners’ Abilities
All the participants really took this topic to pieces, worked through each segment and put it back together with a better understanding.
Basically, as it had been previously mentioned by others, assessment should really be looking at what learners can do and not what they can’t do. A question by @Marisa_C really demonstrated the basic idea to this approach: is there any point in slavishly following a syllabus if students are unable to do it?
The judgement in the end was that ELT professional should be using the data collected from formative assessment to constantly redesign course syllabi so that it is responsive to the learners’ ever changing needs. Covering the past perfect once and then moving on to another topic when most of the class clearly failed some form of continuous assessment on it is not fruitful for anyone involved.
It quickly came to the fore that some educators will be bound by syllabi, with little room for manoeuvre. However, @teflgeek highlighted the fact that the syllabus “describes” the learning goals, “how you get there” and “how long” it takes is another question.
So who’s for LOA?
So, nearing the end @SueAnnan posed the big question: How many of you actually use LOA as standard?
The question seemed to fall on deaf ears, with only some asking exactly how it works.
There were several links posted to try to explain how LOA works. It will come as no surprise there are rather large tomes out there on the topic (see 1 below) ) as well as shorter blog posts (see 2 below).
In short, however, we could safely bring the chat to an end with the understanding that LOA is nothing too special or radical, but simply the idea that a teacher takes the results of continuous assessment to inform their learning goals of the course.
About the author
Anthony Ash is a Senior Teacher at International House Torun
He is @ashowski on Twitter and this post is from his blog www.ashowski.wordpress.com