Finding and Defining Pertinent and Practicable Ways of Assessing Language Learners’ Productive Skills at ‘A2’ Level
Due to their direct and ultimately decisive impact on final grades that decide whether or not individual students pass their school year (or successfully complete their learning cycle), summative tests inherently influence the learners’ chances to progress through the various stages of our school system. It is thus of paramount importance that these instruments provide a theoretically sound and fundamentally reliable basis on which the teacher can reach adequately informed judgments about a student’s true level of achievement and competence. Making sure that both the content of summative tests (i.e. what is checked and assessed) and their form (how they verify knowledge and skills) live up to these standards is just as challenging as it is crucial. Especially in a significantly changing national education system which is becoming ever more focused and reliant on competence-based methods of language teaching, it is clear that long-standing practices in the field of summative testing need to be reconsidered and newly adapted as well.
One of the first objectives of this thesis therefore consists in identifying common fallacies that have affected predominant testing and assessment schemes in the Luxembourg school system for many years. After outlining salient theoretical cornerstones that must be at the root of appropriate testing and assessment procedures, Chapter 1, in particular, analyses problematic elements in the ‘traditional’ ways of approaching speaking and writing in summative tests.
In the search for more suitable alternatives, Chapter 2 chiefly focuses on the enormous potential offered by the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages as a basis for a competence-oriented teaching and assessment scheme, though not without highlighting some of the contentious elements of this groundbreaking document in the process. The third and fourth chapters, through detailed descriptions and analyses of practical examples, then illustrate how competence-based tests and assessments can be implemented and integrated into daily teaching practice in relation to each of the two productive skills.
The concluding chapter 5 not only stresses the resulting beneficial effects of these new ways of assessment, but also outlines the challenges that still lie ahead before the Luxembourg ELT curriculum has turned into a maximally effective and coherent framework for competence-based teaching, testing and assessment, uniting and spanning across all its different levels.