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Assessment in English language teaching in
higher education

Contents

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Introduction………………………………………………………………………….3
Selection of headings and criteria for the mark sheets…………………………3
Marking the scripts and giving feedback…………………………………………6

Introduction

e. The marking criteria chosen to assess the student’s written products focuses on Brown’s reasoning i. Selection of headings and criteria for the mark sheets Each section was assessed separately according to various marking criteria which was structured and placed under specific headings. The criteria for both sections were selected in terms of both language and content because language testing in the form of a summary and essay should include assessment criteria that investigate the level of a student’s language competence (Fletcher et al. This report will discuss the marking of an exam script in terms of marking scheme. ‘that achieving . Peňaflorida (2002: 350) claims that testing writing skills does not mean checking just the level of grammar. but also the communication and organization of ideas. The nature of assessment in higher education can be described as performing a wide array of purposes ranging from measuring student learning to measuring teaching effectiveness. The student’s productive work was assessed by implementing a holistic and an analytic approach. The mark schemes designed for assessing both Section A and Section B consist of headings which concentrate on both language and content. All sheets and scripts are included in the Appendix and their design is underpinned by theoretical aspects which will be mentioned in this report. 2012: 120).3 Assessment has a powerful effect on students’ learning in that it either serves to motivate in the learning process or to undermine a learner’s confidence. criteria and feedback..

the headings and the marking criteria chosen for assessing the student’s writing measure the student’s ‘ability to apply knowledge of the linguistic system in the achievement of communicative goals’ (Klapper 2006: 264). Following. but created a kind of pragmatic marking criteria that would test the ability of the learner to employ language in a natural way within a relevant context. In addition. Moreover.4 language competence means achieving a unified set of interacting abilities that cannot be tested separately’ (2007: 456). Thus. Brown’s theory. As a result. the assessor did not divide language into its component parts to assess them separately. the marking sheets include criteria that cover and cater for wide areas of the language. the criterion-referenced assessment in this paper was designed to provide the student with understanding about his strengths and weaknesses in language as well as in content when writing in a foreign language. As languages are made up of both content and language such as syntax and grammar. the choice for such headings and criterion is also supported by the idea that students are different and one may excel in a certain area of a language and encounter problems in a different area. . This way both the student and the teacher can ascertain the areas of difficulty which require further attention and they can also determine the areas of strength on which the learner can build and increase his confidence level. to bring into discussion thoughts and opinions and to assess a wide array of language functions. Klapper (2006: 265) suggests that one main role of assessments is to monitor students’ integrated performance and their ability to use a range of language functions.

the grading criteria reflects a holistic approach and was adapted from staff development materials entitled DOPLA Module 5 and further edited (Gravestock et al. According to Hativa (2000: 321). Moreover. ‘quality of academic writing’ and ‘spelling. choosing criteria like ‘supporting evidence’. The headings and the criteria mentioned in the appendix for each mark scheme were selected because they provide learners with understanding of what skills and language aspects the task will assess and by which standards will these aspects be tested. The marking criteria for section B reflects an analytic approach and was adapted from a handout on assessment given as part of module M09ENG by the Module leader. grammar and style’ means that the teacher is developing an explicit set of grading criteria which will be useful and which will offer learners ideas of how they can improve and in which area the most. part of the criteria inserted in the mark scheme for section A is also taken from Wang (2009: 43) and from the course handbook of the Department of English and Languages for the Master in English language teaching and further adapted (2013:20-22). Marina Orsini-Jones and was further edited. For section A. 2000: 94). The assessor specifically included the heading ‘clarity’ in both mark sheets because it is of . ‘focus on the subject’. ‘coherence of ideas’. The headings selected for the marking scheme in both section A and B have been adapted from Hativa (2000: 321). ‘organization’.5 The marking criteria presented in this paper has been adapted from three sources. ‘clarity of writing’. from Wang (2009: 43) and from the handout on assessment which was previously mentioned.

between communication and accuracy.. placing more emphasis on the relevance and coherence of what is written according to the task requirements than on how well the student uses English syntax and accurate spelling. Instead. it is concerned with providing learners with opportunities and motivation to develop their ‘linguistic and sociocultural range and proficiency’ (Nott 2008).6 paramount importance. particularly in section A which required the student to read a text before writing a summary. Klapper also states that the level of clarity of second language learners has to be assessed in order to understand how they process factual content and how clear they express it using second language (2006: 282). The assessor decided to mark the scripts using a communicative approach. Hedge (2000: 384) suggests that teachers should include more communicative criteria when assessing writing tasks so as to understand the learners’ developing strengths in expressing a coherent message. .e. Marking the scripts (method and theoretical underpinning) and giving feedback The main purpose of foreign language assessment. particularly written assessment is not to count how many errors a student does. Klapper claims that assessing clarity is fundamental in criteria assessment because it verifies ‘students’ comprehension of a text and their language skill to distinguish main ideas from minor detail and organise them into a coherent text’. Thus. the scripts were marked for both language and content because achieving linguistic competence in a foreign language means achieving a balance between function and form i.

Moreover. This choice is based on the theory of interlanguage development. the way in which the scripts were marked reflect the assessor’s belief that incorrect forms in spelling and punctuation and some examples of wrong verb forms may simply indicate mistakes. Thus. the mark schemes were designed to assess student performance which is compared to a pre-established criteria associated with achievement. The assessor applied a criterion-referenced mark scheme because it concentrates on measuring achievements and on evaluating changes in linguistic performance as a result of the student’s learning experience (Brown 2007: 467). . not errors. which relies on the idea that errors represent an essential part of learning. Moreover. Such mistakes or slips do not reflect deficient knowledge and the student who wrote the scripts was not penalised too much for writing them.7 The marked scripts were designed in such a way so that the content part would weigh a little more than the language part. Another reason for choosing to implement this criterion in the mark schemes is that such a criterion is helpful for both teachers and students to see in which language area they are successful and in which they are not (Brown 2007: 467-468). which may also be due to stress caused by the idea of undergoing assessment (Klapper 2006: 248). the choice for a criterion-referenced assessment instead of a norm-referenced one is that the former evaluates how the learner performed and if he achieved the learning objectives and performance outcomes in a particular module.

the person assessing the student’s writing implemented an analytic marking approach as opposed to the holistic one chosen for the summary (Section A). The analytic marking was selected for section B because the nature of academic essays provides learners with more opportunities to treat a complex topic using a wide range of ideas from their background knowledge and also varied structures. . the sub-components of writing are marked separately and content along with its sub-skills outweighs language. In this analytic approach. the assessor should just describe the nature of the mistake and prompt the learner to become autonomous and self-reliant in his learning. Brown (2007: 451) suggests that the person who assesses should not give all the correct answers particularly if the student made second-order mistakes which can be corrected by himself if he receives input concerning the nature of the problem. The assessor chose this approach so that the student can see the criteria on which he is assessed and the marks allocated and awarded to each sub-skill (Klapper 2006: 267). In his view. While marking the scripts. The most common type of marking employed to mark the scripts was to underline incorrect parts and to encourage the learner to selfcorrect by checking the dictionary or other materials relevant to grammar and spelling. the assessor made use of some marking tools available in the word-processing package and focused on on-screen editing using the Insert Comment icon and establishing a system of annotations which is provided in the Appendix along with all mark sheets and feedback form.8 For the essay (Section B).

The structure of the feedback and the feedback itself are meant to serve as a learning device through which the learner can be provided with a diagnosis consisting in strengths and weaknesses according to different language areas.9 In order to mark effectively and provide clear and concise feedback. the person assessing the scripts took into account the fact that receiving feedback for a written assignment may be a daunting experience for most learners. Such symbols were used in the marking process so as to incite the learner’s inquisitiveness rather than reading passively the correct forms provided by the teacher (Ellis 2009: 103). the feedback provided by the assessor followed Klapper’s guidelines so as to make it clear. remedial. flexible and personalized also bearing in mind . Moreover. Nott (2008) shares the same opinion as Klapper and claims that developing feedback which praises for strengths and which gives constructive criticism of weaknesses is an effective way to foster some principles of second language acquisition like intrinsic motivation and learner autonomy. As a result. the comments which were written on the scripts point to parts that were good and parts that require some improvement. It is believed that feedback about one’s linguistic performance should promote learning and have a ‘positive washback’ (Klapper 2006: 240). The assessor took this aspect into consideration and provided feedback that would wash back to the learner in the form of strengths and weaknesses. The student will prior receive a list with all the symbols. specific. While providing feedback. the assessor established a system of symbols which are presented in the Appendix.

it should not concentrate on . the diagnosis of mistakes presented in the feedback sheet is meant to be constructive and as Nott (2008) suggests. Ellis suggests that the indirect written corrective feedback serves as ‘guided learning’ and prompts learners to reflect on their writing. the feedback sheet and the marked scripts include comments on content planning and style and also on minor points of language. This indirect feedback approach was used by simply underlining minor errors. which do not interfere with the intelligibility of the utterances. Sometimes. In contrast. This is done in cases when there are errors affecting the coherence of the message. According to Ellis (2009: 102) a teacher can use either direct or indirect written corrective feedback. the indirect feedback approach indicates some spelling or word forms mistakes. The comments at the end start with strong features which deserve praise and are followed by comments on weaker features supplemented by what type of remedial action should be approached. Moreover.10 that some language aspects should not be overtly explained by the teacher leaving the learner at times the chance to self-correct (2006: 251-252). Furthermore. The marked scripts included in this paper tackle both approaches with more emphasis on the indirect one. Furthermore. besides a diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses so as to cater for the learner’s individual needs and to serve as formative assessment. The feedback sheet includes some written comments. the assessor uses the direct feedback approach and provides the correct answer by writing it close to the erroneous one.

In conclusion. Irrespective of the methods selected. paragraph structure and on spelling. The constructive feedback received by the student focuses on content. . the assessors need to bear in mind that the manner in which they assess and provide feedback contributes to shaping further teaching and learning.11 more than three areas. In this report. assessment can be approached in various ways and it is perceived as a significant feature of teaching and learning a foreign language. the scripts were marked according to various theories which were presented and the feedback was formulated so as to answer in the best interest of the student’s language needs.

12 Reference List Brown. (2009) ‘A typology of written corrective feedback’... 97107 Fletcher. San Francisco: Pearson Longman Coventry University. An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. High Educ Springer 64. M. H. Meyer.D. (2012) ‘Faculty and Students Conceptions of Assessment in Higher Education’.. R. ELT Journal 63 (2). and Rees. R. Faculty of Business.3rd edn. H.H.B. Environment and Society (2013) MA in ELT Course Handbook Ellis. Johnston. P.. Anderson. (2007) Teaching by Principles. L. 119-133 .

C.llas. J. (DOPLA).13 Gravestock.C. P. (2002)’Nontraditional Forms of Assessment and Response to Student Writing: A Step Toward Learner Autonomy’. Gray. N. T. Klapper. D. (2006) Understanding and developing good practice. and McCulloch.. (2000) Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. R. W.H.ac. J. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press .. HEFCE/FDTL Hativa. A. ed. (2000) Teaching for Effective Learning in Higher Education. by Richards. [online] available from <https://www. (1997) Development of Postgraduate and Language Assistants.. and Renandya. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers Hedge. CILT Nott.uk/resources/gpg/2956#toc_2> [30th April 2014] Peňaflorida. J. in a Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice. (2008) Marking students’ written work: principles and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press Klapper. Language Teaching in Higher Education.A.

14 Appendix Marked scripts Section A .

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17 Section B .

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24 Marking sheet .

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26 Feedback sheet .

27 Symbols SVD = subject-verb disagreement Sp = spelling Ww = wrong word Reg = it should be regular verb Wt = wrong tense Wf = incorrect word form .

28 UC = Upper case WT = Wrong tense AMB = ambiguous Gr = grammar .