The area of language testing and assessment in TESOL, and in EIL contexts, is vast, and the debates numerous. In many cases, the issues being discussed are to do with international standardised tests and their efficacy, their washback, or impact on the teaching programs, and their ethical status in terms of the debates that have been introduced in earlier units of this subject. Indeed, standardised tests such as TOEFL, IELTS and TOEIC can be considered as gatekeeping tests – tests that allow or deny access to educational, business and community resources based upon pre-determined criteria for knowledge of and ability to use English.
Language testing in many international contexts is also directly related to the way that testing is viewed and implemented across the educational sector. In many non-Western contexts, national testing and examination systems have been imported from Europe (see Reading by Amano for an example), resulting in cultural practices revolving around ranking people according to predetermined performance criteria, allowing them varied levels of privileged academic and business status, and creating social hierarchies based upon these privileges.
Assessment, on the other hand, offers teachers, students and other stakeholders in the language program (such as parents, funding bodies, school administrators, etc.) a way to fine tune the language learning experiences of the learners and allow for a flow of information related to the learners developing competencies in English that are intended to feed back into the teaching/learning program. The current array of alternative assessment procedures, foregrounding the learner and her/his individual abilities and learning potential, provide the teacher with a way to shift the classroom focus from performing well on tests to performing as well as the learner would like to. As attractive and liberating as this sounds, in many EIL contexts it is a foreign concept that needs careful implementation by both the teacher and the students.
In this unit, you will do your own research on standardised testing and share your ideas with your colleagues. You will also have the chance to develop assessment protocols for a chosen group of learners in an international context, and again, share and critique your work and your colleagues work on the discussion forum.