Assessing Listening

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Moray House school of Education

MEd TESOL
2008-2009

Learner Assessment in TESOL

Tutor: Gillies Haughton

Student: Shaaban Ahmed
S0899927

Learner Assessment in TESOL
Assessing Listening

Introduction
Assessing listening is one of the most significant areas of language testing. However, it is the least area that is cared for and developed in assessment. Perhaps this is due to it is a very complex process. Listening is NOT assessed in my context and this has caused dramatic drawbacks in language learning and teaching related to listening skill. Therefore, the test specs and test instrument constitute a proposal to incorporate them into English language testing in my context. The importance of assessing listening is in the potentials of washback on classroom practices and priorities. This paper attempts to provide a rationale and evaluation of a test design, instrument, process and outcomes.

Rationale
Testing the ability to understand oral discourse in English as a foreign language in my context will considerably encourage students and teachers to enhance and reinforce listening teaching and learning in classrooms. “Backwash” refers to the effect of testing on teaching and learning (Hughes, 1989, Desforges, 1989, Heaton, 1975). This effect can influence classroom practices either negatively or positively. The positive backwash expected from assessing listening is that it may have and immediate effect on; the syllabus, selection of new coursebooks and methodology (Baker, 1989, Davies, 1990, Alderson and Wall, 1993, Cheng et al, 2004). Black and William (2006) indicate that assessment in education must, first and foremost, serve the purpose of supporting learning. There are four main reasons behind my proposal to assess listening. Firstly, students and teachers will pay due attention to listening skill activities in the coursebook and consequently the four skills will be equally catered for in the coursebooks. Secondly, learners’ autonomy will be provoked as students will be encouraged by parents, teachers and peers to search for extra materials by which they can enhance and improve their listening abilities. Thirdly, curricula planners and coursebook designers will improve and develop listening tasks so as to meet the demands and expected goals formulated by public examination authority or the ministry of education especially for high-stakes examinations such as GSECE. Fourthly, assessing listening may affect speaking skill positively because teachers, by teaching listening, will necessarily have to engage in some sort of speaking activity in class (Buck, 2001). In addition, considerable amount of listening input will inevitably result in considerable oral output from students (Krashen, 1995). It also deserve mentioning that listening is ignored because it is not assesses “Areas that are not tested are likely to become areas ignored in teaching and learning” (Hughes, 2003: 27). Gipps and Stobart (1993) also indicate that teachers concentrate on what assessment measures and not teach other untested skills.

Choices in the test and test specs
My rationale behind the choices I have made in the test specs will be focused on these aspects; the purpose of the test, text type, method, and marking (see appendix 1). Concerning the purpose of the test, I have notified in the test specs that the test will measure the students’ ability to recognize spoken language at word, sentence and text levels. The rationale behind this purpose is to include the two comprehension processes bottom-up and top-down. These two processes refer to the acoustic input and the linguistic information. Buck (2001) argues that these two processes should not be underestimated when we consider listening comprehension. The listening operations mentioned in the test specs are based on the general goals of teaching listening for third year secondary schools in Hello! Series (IELP-II, 2003). My reference in formulating...
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