First of all, I would like to raise my virtual toasting glass to thank and congratulate the Organising Committee of this annual event for their untiring efforts to make this a success throughout the years. We all know that the organisation that goes into running such an event requires enormous effort and team work.
Over the past ten years this conference has evolved to become a key reference source for all language teachers working in the Basque Country. Therefore, having recently celebrated St Patrick´s Day, I would like to quote an old Irish saying that came to my mind for this special occasion, “May Getxolinguae live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”
My warmest thanks and deepest gratitude to your anniversary!
Now getting back to the reason why I am here is that I was kindly asked to write a blog entry on Educational Assessment in a multilingual environment.
When we hear the word assessment, the first things that come into our minds are tests and exams to see what has been learnt. I always get cold shivers down my back because I think it is very difficult to assess student performance in an exact and fair way and provide parents with meaningful and accurate information of their children’s learning process and attainment, but I am sure that we always try to do our best.
Experts talk of the change that has been happening in schools in recent years. Going back in time, most class time was spent with the teacher lecturing and the students watching, listening, working individually on assignments and finally confirming what they knew by means of a test. Hopefully, all this has changed. There is a shift in the emphasis from assessment of learning to assessment for learning. Assessment used as a formative element in the classroom. Nowadays, a great number of teachers share learning objectives with students so that they can understand what they are going to learn at the end of the lesson (learning outcomes).
The meaning of all this is that students have the opportunity of understanding better and becoming more active in their learning process while at the same time, teachers receive information which enables them to help children improve their learning.
However, from my point of view, I would like to highlight another important aspect of our daily work which I consider crucial when we interact with students and that is by asking ourselves: how can we improve our teaching? , or putting it in another way, how much of what we are teaching is getting across? From my personal experience I think a key issue which also helps teachers improve their daily teaching is receiving constant feedback at the end of the sessions from their students about how they feel about their classes and their teaching. I think it is very important to listen to our students on how they are learning, their feelings by showing your interest and caring about how they can achieve success. This is what we call Classroom assessment.
This does not mean you are putting your own head on the block. Some teachers might think that they would be taking a great risk or making themselves vulnerable in front of their students by asking them what they thought of the activities designed by them, if they were difficult, interesting, boring, funny, what they learnt… . If this were carried out in an appropriate way (adequate techniques & strategies), starting at early stages and going up the ladder, we would then have a different vision of the class and it would also enable us to reflect on our own teaching.
After reading these words, someone could disapprove of the idea, affirming that it easier said than done. My answer to that would be that all this is not based only on theory but on practice as well. I mentioned earlier my personal experience, I started doing this with four year olds, in English, and it was amazing the things they could tell you by answering a simple question such as what was the class like and drawing two simple faces on the board. The activity took approximately four minutes and in Primary 6 it took nine minutes because they had to write the comments in their personal diary.
I know that there are lots of teachers of English that are doing this, specially those involved in INEBI and BHINEBI and I suppose others are as well, therefore, the more we know about what and how students are learning, the better we can teach.
To those other language teachers who are not, I would strongly encourage you to do so, because you would be surprised at the results. Have a look at the INEBI & BHINEBI materials available at www.gipuztik.net/ingelesa , specially the sections regarding assessment.
I once read that effective assessment can play a vital role in appropriately placing students, diagnosing learning problems and progress, improving and enriching teacher performance.
By the way, for CLIL fans, a new book has recently come out “CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning” written by Do Coyle, Philip Hood and David Marsh and published by Cambridge University Press. I highly recommend buying and reading the book and I think it is a must have for teachers who are involved with CLIL.