| Handbook for classroom testing in Peace Corps language programs |
|Chapter One: The purposes of language testing|
Mari, a Peace Corps language instructor, was excited about trainees try a new pair-work activity she had prepared for her class. After explaining the purpose of the exercise, she selected a student to model it with her so that the five other learners would all understand what was expected of them. But something went wrong and the group had difficulty even beginning the tasks. Two of the trainees gave up entirely and started speaking to each other in English. Mari realized that something had been misunderstood, but she was not sure what the problem was. Was the activity too difficult? Perhaps she should have conducted a quick classroom assessment to find out if her students were really ready for this kind of exercise.
Sheldon has been in Pre-Service Training for nearly ten weeks and everyone seems to be satisfied with his performance in the language classes -- everyone, that is, except him. He knows that when he tries to use the language in the community -- or even with his host family -- he has trouble understanding. In order to make his simplest wishes known he frequently has to enact embarrassing pantomimes or draw pictures. Perhaps if he had been given on opportunity to assess his own progress in the language, the Peace Corps staff would have recognized his difficulties and could have helped him.
This handbook addresses the kinds of problems experienced by Mari and Sheldon. By using the information in this book, language instructors will be able to develop simple, informal tests and assessment procedures to help them decide which activities to do next in a doss. In addition, they will learn to help trainees take more responsibility for their own learning as they monitor their own progress. The handbook also explains how learners" self-evaluations can be combined with instructors' evaluations to provide a dearer picture of learners' abilities. All of these activities will contribute to more effective language teaching and learning in Peace Corps programs worldwide.