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Key Issues and Principles Teachers Should Be Aware of When Creating Assessment Tasks

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ESSAY

Key issues and principles teachers should be aware of when selecting and

creating assessment tasks

This essay discusses key issues and principles teachers should be aware of when

selecting and creating assessment tasks. It is general knowledge that in order to

evaluate the students' performances we need to use a variety of assessment

methods. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning processes as

it focuses on the 'assessment of learning'. Brown (2004) indicates that an

assessment or test is a method used to measure a person's ability, knowledge or

performance in a given area. Therefore, the main aim of the current project was

to develop and select assessment tasks, which allowed us to measure student

skills in terms of fluency, accuracy, appropriateness and complexity and provide

'next step learning' as you would in a classroom setting. Each of the skills areas

had criteria features designed to act as assessment indicators for the analysing of

student abilities in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

In this project certain procedures such as the description of the learners,

selection and development of assessment tasks, implementation of the tasks, the

examination of the English language learner's language skills, a comparison of

Ell's language skills against that of the cohort and finally, the suitability of the

tasks, were evaluated. We analysed the usefulness of the task according to

validity, reliability, fairness, authenticity and practicality. In light of the

evaluation, modifications could be made to the tasks.

In creating assessment tasks it firstly has to be decided what the purpose of

the assessment task is. There are various forms of assessment. The Highland

Council (2004) states that a Summative Assessment is the formal testing of

what has been learned in order to produce marks or grades, which may be

used for reports of various types. This is different from a Formative

Assessment, in which the emphasis is on on-going assessments of different

types used to judge how best to help pupils learn further.

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The assessment tasks developed for this project were in the form of formative

and diagnostic assessments, as we wanted to gain knowledge about the learners'

abilities and what the next step in learning would involve. Swearingen (2002)

states that the purpose of diagnostic assessment is to ascertain, prior to

instruction, each student's strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills.

Establishing these strengths and weaknesses gives the teacher valuable

information on how to remediate students and adjust the curriculum to meet

each pupil's unique needs. Swearingen also states that formative assessments are

used as an ongoing diagnostic tool; therefore, it gives the teacher valuable

information about the learner's abilities which can be used to modify and adjust

his or her teaching practices.

Another factor which should be considered is that authentic assessment in a taskbased

process setting implies a focus on language mastery (criterion-referenced

performance) rather than relative performance (norm-referenced performance),

a focus which Ames & Archer (1988, cited in Finch 2002) found to be highly

motivating in the classroom, fostering long-term use of learning strategies and

helping students form realistic but challenging goals. Task-based process

assessment involves a criterion-referenced orientation, with criterion-referenced

tests providing direct information "about what the learner can actually do with

the target language" (McLean, 1995, p.137 cited in Finch, 2002). Brown (2004)

indicates that strengths and weaknesses can be isolated across the whole test

population, and specific information can be gained about an individual's

performance, in contrast to norm-related assessments that tend to give

information only about learners at either ends of the scale. Therefore it was

important to select criterion-referenced assessments, as we wanted to gain

specific information about the learners in relation to their reading, writing,

speaking and listening skills.

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The English language learners and cohort were selected and described in terms of

their background and current level of proficiency in school. One process, which

proved to be a difficult task for the assessors, was the selection of learners. What

makes this a difficult task is the fact that the ESOL learners selected have to be

assessed against a cohort who is of similar age, background and level of

education.

The Ministry of Education, (2004, p.6) states the following:

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