Adult Language Learners' Informal Employment of ICT Applications and Websites to Assess Their English Skills

Adult Language Learners' Informal Employment of ICT Applications and Websites to Assess Their English Skills

Ferit Kılıçkaya (Burdur Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2116-8.ch005
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This chapter attempts to investigate which ICT applications are employed by language learners to assess themselves. The study focuses mainly on 500 universities in the intensive English programs that aim to furnish students with essential language skills to pursue their studies in their subsequent departments or programs. The participants were directed to an online questionnaire in which they were asked to indicate the ICT applications that they did employ informally outside the classroom. Moreover, the participants were also asked to explain how they used these applications during the interviews. The findings of the study indicated that the participants employed websites and applications mainly for listening and grammar and that the participants had fewer options regarding speaking and writing assessment activities. Regarding the participants' choices of the applications that they could use to assess themselves, several reasons were provided that show the cost of the application and easy access and use.
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Assessment of teaching and learning activities is crucial in any learning context including language learning and teaching. Assessment informs stakeholders of not only learners’ performance but also whether objectives set for the curricula are successfully reached. More importantly, the main function of assessment is to determine and improve student learning and to act accordingly. Given that teachers’ own beliefs regarding assessment and learning can affect the way assessment is conducted (Djoub, 2017, Naimi, 2018), it is almost no doubt that teachers have a crucial and indispensable role in assessment as Gareis and Grant (2015) define assessment as “... the process of using tools and techniques to collect information about student learning” (p. 2). In other words, assessment is the way teachers see their students’ learning. Assessment can be conducted in a variety of tasks and for several purposes depending on the nature of learning and teaching activities and the context in which assessment is conducted.

Assessment types and tasks can be distinguished by different purposes, and uses such as placing students into appropriate classes considering their level of proficiency or determining their weaknesses and strengths so that remedial teaching and learning activities can be administered. When tests are used after the tasks and activities are conducted to determine whether learners have acquired the objectives, they are named summative assessment. However, if tests are administered during learning and teaching and the main aim is to improve instruction and to provide feedback to learners about their performance, then they are called formative assessment (Combe, Folse, & Hubley, 2007; Miller, Linn, & Gronlund, 2013). Brown and Abeywickrama (2010) define formative assessment as the type of assessment which evaluates learners during which teachers are “forming their competencies and skills with the goal of helping them to continue that growth process” (p. 7). Additionally, as teachers are required to make decisions regarding learners’ performance such as assigning grades and writing performance reports, they also benefit from formal assessment and informal assessment. The former often cover traditional ways of assessment such as multiple-choice questions and fill-in-the-blank activities, while the latter includes a variety of techniques such as questioning and observing students while they are on tasks (Cunningham, 1997; Cheng & Fox, 2017). Moreover, formal assessment often include official announcement of assessment days, scores and feedback. However, informal assessment basically informs teachers of their students’ performance on tasks in the classroom.

Assessment of language learners’ proficiency and progress in a language is often conducted by teachers themselves locally in the classroom or through high-stakes language tests conducted nationwide as one-shot exams. However, these assessment practices appear to test only a small portion of learners’ ability and knowledge (Brown & Abeywickrama, 2010; Wright, 2015). Moreover, teachers are often held responsible for assessing learners’ performance through formal assessment tools, most of which are assessment formats such as multiple-choice questions and matching activities in the form of quizzes, midterms, or final examinations. Few informal assessment practices are provided in the form of unrecorded assessment such as informing learners for strategies for reading and vocabulary difficulties and or advising on how to improve pronunciation (Wright, 2015). These examinations have positive and negative effects on teaching and learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in the classrooms. As quizzes mainly assess vocabulary and grammar, student learning is often based on memorization, leaving almost no room for practicing productive skills.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Informal Activities: Learners’ activities online to learn and assess their English without the guidance of their teachers.

Online Self-Assessment: Learners’ assessment of their skills using applications and websites on electronic devices generally through online quizzes and exercises.

Applications and Websites: Mobile and computer software and websites that can be used to assess English skills.

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