How assessment influences the classroom teaching and learning of English: A Talk at IATEFL 2014
Hornby scholars attending ELT courses in the Universities of the United Kingdom are a privileged, gifted and a highly motivated group of teachers having a rich and varied experience of English language teaching in diverse contexts. The talk on “How assessment influences classroom teaching and learning of English at IATEFL, Harrogate on 2 April gave a me a chance to listen to a few Hornby scholars coming from three continents.
The Hornby scholars Simon Ruiz Hernandez (Venezuela), Saraswati Doradi (Nepal), Tomas Andujar (Cuba), Rezvan Rashidiporfard (Iran), Zainab Cengiz Umaru (Nigeria), Santi Budi Lestari (Indonesia), Deepa Ellepola (Sri Lanka), Dame Diop (Senegal), Abayneh Haile Mengesha (Ethiopia), and Patrick Musafiri (Rwanda) had a common objective. They wanted to investigate how English language learning is assessed in schools in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With the help of a power point presentation, they discussed the influence of assessment on classroom teaching and learning and explored the possibility of using assessment as a tool for learning English. The talk was based on the actual classroom experience of the presenters in their specific contexts. It was nice listening to them unfolding the mismatch between the curriculum goal and the assessment goal affecting the ELT scenario of their countries.
As soon as the talk started, Simon posed four pertinent questions: (1) Curriculum and Assessment: a (mis)match? (2) Why this inconsistency? (3) What are the effects of inconsistency on teachers and learners? (4)Why is assessment ?
The New National Curriculum 2007 of Venezuela proclaims that communication is the ultimate goal of the English Curriculum: “To use oral and written language as a means for communication with the rest of the world….”, the said NNC 2007 announces. This goal is similar to the goals for English language learning in countries which were represented by the members making the presentation. But this goal of the curriculum does not match with the goal of assessment followed in these countries.
Why is this inconsistency? Abayneh from Ethiopia was very straightforward in articulating his point of view. The curriculum is not aligned with the educational needs of the country and its culture. Learning is a one way transmission of knowledge in his country, Abaneh declared. The teacher is a sage on the stage and the language is viewed as a body of knowledge to be transmitted to the students by the teacher. In Ethiopia, students hardly ask questions in the class, he lamented. The assessment takes into account discrete elements of grammar and vocabulary, not the communicative competence of the learners. The curriculum is in the clouds and it does not reflect the
cultural reality of the country, Abaneh declared very emphatically.
Dame Diop who is studying in the University of Lancaster stated that assessment should inform classroom teaching and learning, but the existing system of assessment puts the English teachers in a dilemma.
The bleak ELT scenario looming large in the horizon suddenly changed when Deepa Ellepola from Sri Lanka started narrating the present ELT scenario of her country. She spoke about the ‘English as a life skill programme’ of Sri Lanka. It was nice listening to her when she spoke about the innovative ELT scenario of her country. The “Massive awareness programme” launched in Sri Lanka has a very positive impact on the teaching-learning of English in her country, Dame stated. The slogan “ SPEAK ENGLISH OUR WAY” is innovative indeed.
Continuous assessment should be an integral part of the teaching learning process and it should be inconsonance with the objectives of the curriculum, said the speaker summing up the main points of the talk.
The talk was quite informative and interesting. While listening to the talk, I felt like travelling across 10 countries in 3 continents in 45 minutes! An exciting experience, indeed.