Testing and Teaching: Myths and Misunderstandings
Date: Saturday, February 16th, 2013 Time: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Speaker: Trevor Holster (Fukuoka Women's University)
Standardized tests are often seen as harmful for language instruction. While much of this criticism is justified, many claims are founded on myths and misunderstandings. One criticism is that standardized tests are inherently summative, intended to summarize ability as a single score, whereas teacher assessments have beneficial formative properties. Formative and summative tests, however, are based on the same process of assessment, and thus "formative" and "summative" refer to the end use of the assessment rather than the assessment process. Washback, the effect of tests on teaching and learning, is also seen as a negative result of standardized tests, in particular on "curriculum narrowing", where instruction focuses on test content. However, research shows washback to reflect beliefs about tests and teaching as much as the actual features of tests, so reducing harmful washback requires changing the beliefs of end users as much as changing the design of tests. A further misconception is that multiple-choice standardized tests provide objective measurement, whereas performance tests involving judges are inherently subjective. This view confuses objective scoring with objective measurement of ability, and it will be argued that not only can judged performances provide objective measurement, but also that subjectivity is an inherent problem in the choice of tasks and content in any test. An important implication of this is that classroom assessments intended for formative purposes can be combined with standardized tests intended for summative purposes. As well as providing formative benefits and reducing curriculum narrowing, this can improve the validity of testing for summative purposes. The presenter will propose that the harm caused by standardized assessments results from their high-stakes, low frequency, and misunderstandings by end users about their nature, that this harm can be reduced through more frequent assessments with lower stakes, and that this is best addressed by combining standardized tests and classroom assessments.
Trevor Holster has a Master's degree in TESOL, specializing in curriculum design and materials writing. His research interests include the integration of classroom assessment with instruction, performance based testing, peer-assessment, and placement testing. He is the Membership Chair of the JALT Testing and Evaluation SIG.
Organization: Fukuoka Chapter of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (Fukuoka JALT)
Cost: JALT Members: free
Non-members: 1,000 yen
Venue: Seinan Gakuen University Community Center 2F Meeting Room (map to the venue). Near Nishijin Subway station.
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