Developing Assessment Literacy Through Assessing Classroom Tests: Instruments and Procedures

Developing Assessment Literacy Through Assessing Classroom Tests: Instruments and Procedures

Eddy White (University of Arizona, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6986-2.ch002


While the importance and lack of assessment literacy (AL) has been widely reported in the education and language teaching literature, tools and methods to help teachers actually develop competence in classroom assessment are much more limited. This chapter seeks to help fill that gap and provide tools and procedures for developing AL through teachers formatively assessing classroom tests developed (or adapted) by their peers. This chapter reports on a test review process developed by the author (and Assessment Coordinator) in an English center at an American university. It details a process started in 2012 and currently in use to review teacher-made tests in various programs. Importantly, the instruments and procedures themselves, as well as samples of their use, are provided and shared for possible use in developing AL in other contexts and programs. This report is unique in detailing a process of actually using formative assessment, by and for teachers, to help develop teacher's assessment competence.
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Can anyone recommend a reliable and succinct best-practice list, or checklist, of important steps/considerations/elements of quality teacher-created assessments? - message to the TESOL Assessment e-group by an Academic Coordinator, June 2016

English programs around the world often see the influence of large-scale standardized proficiency tests (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) on their students, teachers and institutions. However, despite the influence of such commercial tests, without a doubt the drivers of the assessment systems that determine the effectiveness of schools and language programs are teachers (Stiggins, 1994). Indeed, it is teachers and the testing tools and assessment procedures they create (or adopt) that determine how effective language schools and programs are in their primary purpose – the development of student’s language proficiency. Relatedly, the development (or lack thereof) of a teacher’s assessment literacy is also directly related to student learning and how effective these language schools and programs are.

It has become widely acknowledged that one of the most critical elements of a teacher’s job is to assess student performance (Coombe, 2012), and that to be very effective as teachers also entails finding effective ways of assessing learners (Green, 2014). Since the turn of the century in the language teaching profession, more and more attention has been paid to classroom assessment –where it most immediately plays out in the lives and learning of students and teachers. This is a much-needed development in the field of English language assessment, and the prominence of the ‘testing industry’ – large-scale, standardized testing with its psychometric terminology and statistical instruments and formulas that are very far removed from the classroom teachers experience of assessment.

Coinciding with this welcomed attention being paid to classroom assessment has also been the unwelcome revelations that many teachers and test users have a limited understanding of assessment fundamentals (Scarino, 2013), and the widespread recognition, based on numerous studies and surveys, that teachers are neither well trained nor knowledgeable about assessment (Bachman, 2014, Gareis and Grant, 2015).

Essentially, this report describes the development and implementation of an instrument and set of procedures for assessing classroom tests developed and administered by teachers. It should be noted that the term ‘test’ in this context refers to any type of graded summative assessment, and may include assignments, projects, presentations, etc., as well as traditional paper tests. As well as providing the test assessment instrument, and related processes for potential use in other language programs, the instruments and procedures described help develop the teacher assessment literacy that our field and profession say is urgently needed (according to the Cambridge Guide to Second Language Assessment, 2012).

Considering the assertion noted earlier that ‘teachers are drivers of assessment systems’(Stiggins, 1994), this report focuses the efforts at one ESL institution at an American university to assess teacher knowledge and skills, as ‘drivers of assessment systems’, and promote ‘driver development’ and better driving practices (i.e. assessment literacy and test-making competence). This report describes the instruments and procedures used to both promote and assess teacher knowledge and skills in creating effective assessment instruments for classroom use.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher-Made Tests: Assessment instruments, typically with a summative purpose, designed to measure and promote student achievement of knowledge/skills specified in the course learning outcomes.

Summative Assessment: Final exams and other assessments that measure what students have learned and that are given a grade that may be aggregated into a final course grade.

Formative Assessment: Where the focus is on feedback, noting strengths and weaknesses in the work produced, and how to improve on it (or similar products) in the future. In this context, the formative feedback is provided not to students (as per usual), but to teachers and regarding the testing instruments they produce.

Assessment Literacy: Teacher understanding and know-how related to classroom assessment, in its various forms and purposes, to both measure and promote student learning.

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