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Communicative Testing

1) Communicative testing is a learning tool, providing evaluative information to both

learners and teachers. Its focus on student-centered and student-managed ongoing
assessment also reflects educational thought in other areas of language acquisition:
collaborative learning (Vygotsky, 1978)
individual learning styles and preferences (Bickley, 1989; Keefe, [Ed.], 1979; Reid,
the importance of affect (Arnold, [Ed.], 1999)
the process syllabus (Breen, 1984).
2) Communicative testing encourages a cycle of intention , action and reflection ,
facilitated by contextualized situations, which appeal to the students reality, thus
becoming meaningful and self-motivational.
3) An institutional respect for the learner (which must be implicit in this approach), sees
him/her as an active and socially responsible agent, fully capable of needs analysis, goal
setting, and assessment of achievement.
4) Psychologists and educators still know little about how language learning occurs, and
why and how some individuals are more competent than others, so that it is wrong to
test discrete symptoms of the process.
5) Observable factors that appear to be associated with learning include:
construction of meaning, sharing of experiences
identification of needs and purposes
critical evaluation of performance strategies
awareness of this process (Harri-Augstein & Thomas, 1991, p. 7).
These factors can be satisfactorily examined (from the point of view of both teacher
and students) using reflective , authentic , communicative and interactive testing
methods in appropriate learner-centered classroom activities .
7) Integrated into the entire curriculum, assessment can become both a means and an
end , and considerations of validity, reliability and efficiency remain as a major issue in
the ongoing reflective examination of language performance.

Traditional vs. Communicative Testing
Traditional Testing Communicative Testing
Testing and instruction are two separate
Testing is an integral part of instruction
Students are conceived in a uniform way Each learner is seen as a unique person
Decisions are based on test scores Tests are one of many sources of data
Emphasis on weakness/failure (what
students cannot do)
Emphasis on strength/progress (what
students can do)
One-shot test Ongoing assessment
Cultural/socio-economic status bias Intercultural approach. More culture-fair
Focus on one right answer Possibility of several perspectives as in real
Judgment without suggestions or
opportunity for improvement
Immediate feedback with useful
information for improving/guiding learning
Teaching is adapted to tests Tests are adapted to teaching
Focus on linguistic competence (language
Focus on communicative competence
(language skills)
Promotes individual learning and
comparison between students (norm-
Encourages collaborative learning and
compares students to their own
performance and the aims
Promotes extrinsic motivation for a
passing grade
Promotes intrinsic motivation for the
students own sake

1) Start from somewhere by Phan (2008)
When making a communicative language test, test makers should clearly state
what they expect test takers to perform when they use the target language in a
particular context what is tested. Then test makers should establish scales and
criteria for assessment which can measure exactly the stated features of testees
performance to ensure the validity of the test.
2) Concentrate on content.
It is important that test makers pay attentionnot only to topics and but also task types.
Both the topic and task type should be suitable fortest takers age, proficiency level,
interests and needs. According to Carroll (1983), ... the language tasks our learners are
expected to perform in their future jobs will guide us with the tasks we will set them in
our tests (p. 37).858
3) Bias for best is the third principle, which, according to Brown (2006)
A term that goes little beyond how the student views the test to a degree of strategic
involvement on the part of student and teacher in preparing for, setting up, and
following the test itself (p. 34). In other words, test makers should make sure that test
takers are well prepared or test takers are familiar with the test.
Brown (2005) suggests five core characteristics for designing a communicative language
meaningful communication
authentic situation
unpredictable language input
creative language output
integrated language skills (p. 21). First, the purpose of language
In other words, language tests should be based on communication that is meaningful to
students and meets their personal needs. Authentic situations can help increase
meaningful communication. The usefulness of authentic situations in increasing
meaningful communication is emphasized by Weir (1990) when he states that,
language cannot be meaningful if it is devoid of context (p.11). By using unpredicted
language input and creative language output, Brown (2005) means that in real
situations it is not always possible to predict what speakers say (unpredictable language
input) so learners need to prepare for replying (creative language output). The last
characteristic is integrated language skills. A communicative test should require test
takers to show their ability of combining language skills as in real life communication
situations. These above-mentioned characteristics should be paid attention to and
included in communicative language tests.
Communicative Language Testing: Do School Tests Measure Students Communicative

Performance-based assessment
Performance-based assessment involves having the students produce a project,
whether it is oral, written or a group performance. The students are engaged in creating
a final project that exhibits their understanding of a concept they have learned.
There are two parts to performance-based assessments:
Product Descriptor defined task for the students to complete. The assessments
are either product related, specific to certain content or specific to a given task.
The second part is a list of explicit criteria that are used to assess the students.
Generally this comes in the form of a rubric. The rubrics can either be analytical,
meaning it assesses the final product in parts, or holistic, meaning that is
assesses the final product as a whole.
Types of Performance-Based Assessment:
1. Journals
Students will write regularly in a journal about anything relevant to their life, school
or thoughts. Their writing will be in the target language. The teacher will collect the
journals periodically and provide feedback to the students. This can serve as a
communication log between the teacher and students.
2. Letters
The students will create original language compositions through producing a letter.
They will be asked to write about something relevant to their own life using the target
language. The letter assignment will be accompanied by a rubric for assessment
3. Oral Reports
The students will need to do research in groups about a given topic. After they have
completed their research, the students will prepare an oral presentation to present to
the class explaining their research. The main component of this project will be the oral
production of the target language.
4. Original Stories
The students will write an original fictional story. The students will be asked to
include several specified grammatical structures and vocabulary words. This assignment
will be assessed analytically, each component will have a point value.
5. Oral Interview
An oral interview will take place between two students. One student will ask the
questions and listen to the responses of the other student. From the given responses,
more questions can be asked. Each student will be responsible for listening and
6. Skit
The students will work in groups in order to create a skit about a real-world situation.
They will use the target language. The vocabulary used should be specific to the
situation. The students will be assess holistically, based on the overall presentation of
the skit.
7. Poetry Recitations
After studying poetry, the students will select a poem in the target langugage of their
choice to recite to the class. The students will be assessed based on their pronunciation,
rhythm and speed. The students will also have an opportunity to share with the class
what they think the poem means.
8. Portfolios
Portfolios allow students to compile their work over a period of time. The students
will have a checklist and rubric along with the assignment description. The students will
assemble their best work, including their drafts so that the teacher can assess the
9. Puppet Show
The students can work in groups or individually to create a short puppet show. The
puppet show can have several characters that are involved in a conversation of real-
world context. These would most likely be assessed holistically.
10. Art Work/ Designs/Drawings
This is a creative way to assess students. They can choose a short story or piece or
writing, read it and interpret it. Their interpretation can be represented through artistic
expression. The students will present their art work to the class, explaining what they
did and why.