Here you can find activities addressed to teachers whose main aim is the achievement of a professional standard, concerning the creation of oral activities which comply with these three pedagogical goals: initiation-orientation-guide, according to the principles of (LOLA) “Learning Oriented Language Assessment”. Since assessment and training are considered to go hand in hand, this section is based on the relationship between these two concepts.
We cannot talk about skills assessment without looking at Bloom’s taxonomy first. Bloom has established a classification based on 5 levels of new knowledge acquisition and we invite you to look at it, taking speaking into account:
- Remembering: the learner knows how to reproduce learned and memorized facts and information. This is useful in the context of a simple knowledge check. the context of a simple knowledge check.Source : http://seduc.csdecou.qc.ca/taxonomie-de-bloom/jpg
- Understanding: the learner can explain something in his/her own words, selecting the right concepts. This can be useful when the learner needs to choose the correct answer in a multiple choice test or as part of an oral exam.
- Applying: The learner must use what he/she has learned in the context of an activity or a problem to be solved. This is necessary when the (oral) examination assesses the ability to perform tasks for which the learner has already been trained.
- Analysing: the learner knows how to connect new knowledge with previously acquired knowledge (= compare, criticize, classify, sort, prioritize, etc.). This is necessary when the task does not simply require the learner to use a known approach (= standard activity), but also to draw on other information (= more complex tasks).
- Synthesising (evaluating): the learner is able to propose new analyses, to think critically and to generate new knowledge. In these situations, he/she is able to build new links between various bits of information1. (1
1.1. Self-assessment and/or external evaluation
While learning, it is also important to acquire the ability to self-evaluate in order to adjust learning strategies according to the objectives that the learner has set for him/herself, naturally taking into account his/her current level and whatever goals he/she wants (or is obliged) to achieve..
Countless language tests are available on the Internet to measure writing and listening skills, but the technical formats are quite limited and hardly allow assessment of speaking skills.
It is therefore necessary to resort to external evaluations, most often evaluations carried out by teachers.(3) que tienen como objetivo optimizar la objetividad de la evaluación.
Teachers can be interlocutors and evaluators at the same time, or these functions can be separated to ensure greater objectivity.
There are also numerous analysis grids or assessment grids for speaking that have been established according to the different levels of the CEFR and according to the teaching objectives (general language teaching or specialized language), which aim to optimize the objectivity of the evaluation.
Main functions of the evaluation
1. Experts, generally agree that evaluation performs three main functions (2).
2. Placement, which is mainly used to find out the level of the learner. This will be used for placement tests (standardized and calibrated), pre-tests and post-tests. The prognostic assessment serves to assign the student to a class that corresponds to his/her level and helps the teacher to establish the level of the learner’s language skills. We can also offer learners the self-evaluation grids available in the various European Language Portfolios (ELPs).
3. Diagnosis, takes place after the prognostic evaluation throughout the language course. The main role of this evaluative function is to analyze the student’s competence at a given moment, in order to make a judgment on it and to look for ways of improving pedagogical practices and remedial work. This kind of assessment shows not only whether the student needs remedial education, but also what he/she needs. The diagnostic function is educational. It allows the student to reflect on how to learn and implement strategies for making progress.
4. A type of evaluation, that serves to certify educational outcomes is called summative evaluation. It is an evaluation which tests end-of-course student learning. It may also appear at the beginning of a course in the form of criterion-referenced formative evaluation. It assesses both knowledge and know-how. The role of this type of evaluation is therefore to certify that a certain level has been reached3. Such tests are often developed by a group of experts or a recognized institution.
1.1. The task and its evaluation (4)
Unfortunately, and this is an unforgivable negligence, there are still forms of evaluation that do not sufficiently take into account the absolute concordance that must prevail between THE TASK (included in the scenario 5) and its EVALUATION.
Let us now make some remarks on the importance of the task for an objective evaluation.
“A task is defined as any action-oriented aim that the actor perceives as a result to be achieved in relation to a problem which has to be solved, an obligation to be fulfilled, a goal that has been set”.
The characteristics of the tasks are as follows:
- Authenticity: the task must refer to real problems.
- Rigour: the task must be understandable, achievable, explainable.
- Fairness: the task must be fair and not favor learners of a particular group or culture.
- Coherence: the task must allow for resource mapping.
- Validity: the task must provide useful data to guide learning, progress, improvement.
A well-designed task must lead to acts of communication. In a monologue we speak to someone (speeches, radio, announcements, etc.), on the other hand, we speak with someone in a dialogue (interaction)..
A good task requires the understanding of a topic (of a problem to be solved) and allows learners to activate their whole repertoire of skills (a combination of knowledge, know-how and also the attitude and behaviour or social skills) in order to complete the task, typically following instructions (the latter facilitate an objective evaluation).
A good task is clearly structured, easily understandable and contains elements that require research capabilities and concrete proposals for solutions or contribution to discussion. All of this will provide the opportunity for the learner or candidate to show their individual skills.
Finally, a good task acknowledges the fact that oral communication is a deeply social act.
In the Core Inventory the authors prefer the term “scenario”. A scenario “provides a meaningful context for simulated yet realistic language use by the learner. In a real-world derived scenario, simulations replace mere role-plays as we move from fictional personalities in artificial situations to real people acting as themselves in real contexts. Finally and fundamentally a scenario suggests a holistic setting that encourages the integration of different aspects of competence in real (istic) language use. Properly conceived scenarios automatically create an appropriate background to support learning and teaching ….”
CEFR-based scenarios are frames that in the context of a set of defined real world variables (domain, context, tasks, types of language activity and texts involved) integrate holistically:
“Can-Do” descriptors (as objectives); quality criteria (for evaluation);
As teachers and/or evaluators, we also find that people who communicate effectively tend to use verbal and non-verbal strategies consistently to understand or get the message across, regardless of their relative proficiency in the language. It is therefore essential to practise identifying them and to include them in an evaluation of speaking skills.
These non-verbal strategies obviously do not replace knowledge of the language, but the most effective «communicators» are people who are good at using both verbal and non-verbal strategies 6. These strategies do not replace the systematic study of the vocabulary and the morphosyntactic system but are an indispensable part. Well-used strategies go unnoticed.
1.2. Our criteria for assessing speaking skills
Taking into account the aspects mentioned above we suggest the following five criteria to assess oral communicative competence:
Next, we focus on our primary role as a teacher: helping the learner in their learning process throughout the language course. We know that each individual learns at their own pace, with their own intellectual processes.
Moreover, not all learners have the same way of learning, of remembering things. According to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences7 some are rather visual, others auditory and others even kinesthetic. Some have a complex language biography, others do not know any other foreign language.
It is therefore obvious that we must use a variety of teaching aids testing tools that allow us to make a diagnosis of learners’ speaking skills from time to time, to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Proficiency tests of our students’s speaking skills which are based on the criteria mentioned above can improve their learning strategies if necessary and/or encourage and motivate them when they are making progress fairly quickly.
Learning oriented tests of students’s speaking skills which are based on the criteria mentioned above can improve their learning strategies if necessary and/or encourage and motivate them when they are making progress fairly quickly.
(1) Adapted for our content from: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomie_de_Bloom
(2) E.g.: Tagliante, Cuq Gruca, Bertocchini et Constanz
(3) Adapted from: http://www.su.lt/bylos/fakultetai/humanitarinis/uksk/bikulciene_cours_de_didactique_du_francais_langue_etrangere_2007.pdf; 07-10-2018
(4) Confer: F. Georges, M.F. Brundseaux, S. Géron & J.F. Van de Poel,LabSET–IFRES–Ulg 2009
(5) Used as such in: British Council | EAQUALS Core Inventory for General English
(6) See CERCL: aspects of competence, from strategic, through pragmatic to linguistic (as enabling objectives). – EAQUALS Core Inventory 2011, p. 13
(7) Gardner H., Les intelligences multiples, la théorie qui bouleverse nos idées reçues, Retz, 2008
3. Examples of approved assessment grids for speaking: