There are many ways to assess learners, for example, mini-tests or observations, in order to evaluate and monitor their understanding and progress. As well as checking learners’ competencies in some specific language or skill, evaluation allows us to guide learners on how to improve. Part of this is noting any errors they make in completing the assessments, especially errors in the language they use. However, focusing on errors too much can be de-motivating for learners. They may struggle to improve because they are anxious about making mistakes, especially with productive tasks. So how can we correct English errors and at the same time keep learners motivated to improve? Continue reading
What is Assessment for Learning?
Assessment for learning is a process where teachers seek and use evidence to decide where learners are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there. The emphasis here is on using assessment practices to gather information, which can then be used to make judgements about teaching decisions and directly improve learning. The emphasis is on those assessments, which are used to directly help with learning. The term ‘assessment’ is being used in the general sense of ‘gathering information to make a judgement’. Much of this evidence will come from the daily classroom activities – an unexpected answer to a question may alert the teacher to a misunderstanding, puzzled looks on students’ faces may mean a need to clarify some instructions. Continue reading
Effective feedback is the key to successful assessment for learning, and can greatly improve your students’ understanding. So how can you ensure that your feedback is as effective as possible? You need to understand what level your students are at and where they need to improve. Your students will also find your feedback more useful if they understand the purpose of what they are learning and know what success looks like.
Try these 5 tips to improve feedback in your classroom:
1. Ask questions to elicit a deeper understanding
Most questions asked in the classroom are simple recall questions (‘What is a noun?’) or procedural questions (‘Where’s your book?’). Higher-order questions require students to make comparisons, speculate, and hypothesize. By asking more of these questions, you can learn more about the way your students understand and process language, and provide better feedback.
2. Increase wait time
Did you know that most teachers wait for less than a second after asking a question before they say something else? Instead of waiting longer, they often re-phrase the question, continue talking or select a student to answer it. This does not give students time to develop their answers or think deeply about the question. Try waiting just 3 seconds after a recall question and 10 seconds after a higher-order question to greatly improve your students’ answers.
3. Encourage feedback from your students
Asking questions should be a two-way process, where students are able to ask the teacher about issues they don’t understand. However, nervous or shy students often struggle to do so. Encourage students to ask more questions by asking them to come up with questions in groups, or write questions down and hand them in after class.
4. Help students understand what they are learning
Students perform better if they understand the purpose of what they are learning. Encourage students to think about why they are learning by linking each lesson back to what has been learned already and regularly asking questions about learning intentions.
5. Help students understand the value of feedback
If students recognise the standard they are trying to achieve, they respond to feedback better and appreciate how it will help them progress. Try improving students’ understanding by explaining the criteria for success. You can also provide examples of successful work and work that could be improved for your students to compare.
Did you find this article useful? For more information and advice, read our position paper on Effective Feedback:
Chris Robson graduated from the University of Oxford in 2016 with a degree in English Literature, before beginning an internship at Oxford University Press shortly afterwards. After joining ELT Marketing full time to work with our secondary products, including Project Explore, he is now focused on empowering the global ELT community through delivery of our position papers.