Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Assessment Orientations of State Primary EFL Teachers in Two Mediterranean Countries

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Assessment Orientations of State Primary EFL Teachers in Two Mediterranean Countries

Article excerpt

Introduction

Assessment constitutes an important aspect of teachers' daily practice in the broad field of English language teaching (ELT) programmes worldwide. Classroom-based language assessment (CBLA), in particular, plays a central role in language teaching and learning and requires considerable time, knowledge and skills to be successfully implemented (Cheng, Rogers, & Wang, 2008; Leung, 2014). Given its importance, CBLA is not to be neglected or taken for granted. Its effectiveness should become the driving force for every teacher who seeks to maximise student performance, maintain and/or increase student interest. Teachers must therefore be alert to situations in which opportunities for assessment appear, and must prepare efficiently for their CBLA activities.

Although the field of language testing and assessment (LTA) has recognised the importance of CBLA, language teachers are very often found to be insufficiently prepared for their assessment tasks and lack basic CBLA knowledge (Fulcher, 2012; Gatullo, 2000; Hasselgreen, 2000; Hasselgreen et al., 2004; Tsagari, 2012; Tsagari & Michaeloudes, 2012; Vogt & Tsagari, 2014). Researchers call for further investigation into teachers' CBLA practices (Leung, 2014), as we still do not have a complete picture of the ways in which language teachers cope with assessment demands and whether they possess the required competencies to carry out effective assessments. Motivated by such calls, the current small-scale comparative study will attempt to delineate the CBLA landscape in two Mediterranean countries and investigate the status quo of teachers' CBLA literacy in the state primary school sector.

Literature Review

Leung (2014) stresses that assessment is an integral part of teaching that has received a lot of attention recently. He also points out that CBLA, in particular, has been a major focus in curricula and is part of teachers' daily life in many parts of the world (Davison & Leung, 2009). However, CBLA is not an easy task. Cheng, Rogers and Wang (2008) emphasise that "the day-today assessment of student learning is unquestionably one of the teacher's most demanding, complex and important tasks" (Cheng, Rogers, & Wang, 2008, p. 10). It is indeed the case that in many ELT programmes teachers undertake the task of designing and administering classroom tests themselves. They are also required to use various forms of continuous or formative assessment procedures and develop or adapt scoring schemes for their institution. Furthermore, in many contexts teachers are faced with external testing procedures, e.g., school-leaving examinations and international standardised tests. In Europe in particular, new developments in language teaching, as well as EU policies on language learning, require new competencies of teachers. For example, the European Language Portfolio (Morrow, 2004; Schneider & Lenz, 2001) highlights self-assessment as a supplement to teacher assessment. Peer assessment has also been added to the pedagogical agenda of the innovative foreign language teacher (Tsagari & Meletiadou, 2015). These developments call for new skills to be acquired by language teachers (see also Edelenbos & Kubanek-German, 2004), as the more teachers understand the nature and requirements of their assessment tasks, especially classroom-based assessment, the better they will be able to make principled decisions that can lead to beneficial uses of assessment to support enhanced language learning. For these reasons, teachers need to acquire sufficient levels of "assessment literacy".

Stiggins (2001, p. 531) defines "assessment literacy" of language teachers as representing the standards of professional excellence that teachers need to attain in relation to assessment, such as the ability to critically evaluate, compile, design and monitor assessment procedures in order to enhance learners' language achievement and use grading and scoring procedures based on theoretical knowledge. …

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