Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Alternative Assessment as Perceived by EFL Teachers

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Alternative Assessment as Perceived by EFL Teachers

Article excerpt

The Emergence of Alternative Assessment: Introduction

Traditional methods of measuring students' learning outcomes have been soundly criticized in favor of more meaningful assessment practices (Culbertson and Jalongo 1999; Meisels 1995; Smith 1993). Moving to the notion of multidimensional assessment means that measuring students' learning outcomes should broaden the information that is collected about students' ability to apply knowledge and reflect sound teaching principles. More specifically, students should be provided with more than one opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do. Accordingly, as asserted by O'Malley and Pierce (1996), a number of assessment methods are currently being suggested as alternatives to testing, many of which are already around and in use. The range of options is so broad that teachers can select from to meet the instructional and students' needs.

Regardless of the labels, these forms of assessment have become integral parts of the instructional process. These types of assessment are thought to have a vital role in enhancing the positive learning atmosphere and students' motivation toward learning, and in providing useful information for instructional planning.

Calls for a friendly classroom atmosphere and the instruction reform away from the transmission model of education have given rise to alternative assessment. Another important reason for the widespread interest in alternative assessment is the heavy criticism over the traditional methods of assessment. There is a consensus that alternative assessments are more developmentally appropriate for young learners than traditional testing is (Grace 1992; Huerta-Macias 1995; Jane 2012; Katz 1997; Meisels 1995; Smith et al. 1993; Stiggins 2004).

What Is Alternative Assessment?

There is no single definition of alternative assessment. However, many labels have been used to distinguish it from traditional testing (Huerta-Marcias 1995). According to Butler (1997), alternative assessment is commonly defined in terms of what it is not. It is usually stated in contrast to traditional methods of assessment. Alternative assessment usually calls for using more than one way of measuring students' performance as conventional tests do. It is an ongoing process that measures whether students can apply knowledge and skills in real life contexts. Mueller (2005) also claims that this kind of assessment offers the student an opportunity to apply meaningful knowledge and skills in the real world which represents the kinds of problems faced in the real life that require students' creative and effective solutions.

Motivating children and keeping them learning a language is also considered as an important factor that supports the use of alternative assessment. Ioannou-Georgiou and Pavlou (2003) believe that children usually do not choose to learn a language because they are too young to be aware of the importance of learning a foreign language. Therefore, they need a friendly environment to reinforce them and keep them learning. Teachers usually create enjoyable tasks for this purpose. Nevertheless, their hard work in establishing a motivating environment and changing their students' negative attitudes toward learning may be destroyed when the time for assessment comes. For this reason, it is suggested that the new assessment should be carried out in a way that keeps this friendly classroom atmosphere and attitude toward learning.

Tedick and Klee (1998) illustrated how to design an array of tasks that lend themselves to alternative assessment. This constitutes speaking tasks, listening tasks, writing tasks, and reading tasks. As an attempt to quell the limitation of standardized testing, O'Malley and Pierce (1996) suggested approaches for using authentic assessment that originated from workshops conducted over a period of years for teachers of English Language Learners (ELL). Among the authentic forms of assessment suggested by O'Malley and Pierce (ibid. …

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