Exams are so important?

<b> Forum for the discussion of assessment and testing of ESL/EFL students </b>

Moderators: Dimitris, maneki neko2, Lorikeet, Enrico Palazzo, superpeach, cecil2, Mr. Kalgukshi2

Post Reply
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2006 2:34 am
Location: beijing China

Exams are so important?

Post by aqvip » Mon Nov 20, 2006 3:40 am

Hi, all
I am a postgraduate student in a normal university in China. Last week, I conducted a questionare concerning elementary students' interests in English learning. There are more than 1000 students, aging from 10 to 13, involved in the project. After collecting the data, I found most students are interested in English learning, however, quite a number of them express their dislike of exams. A pupil said, I like English learning, but I hate doing the cloze exercise. Another pupil said, if there are no exams, I would be more interested in English learning. So I wondered is it necessary or important to have exams in elementary school? I think more attention should be paid to developing students' interests in foreign language learning in elementary school. What is your opinon?

Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2006 2:48 am

exams are still necessary

Post by dianayap2006 » Wed Nov 29, 2006 4:25 am

Although I think it's still early for primary school students to learn a foreign language, but it is the central tendency that we can not do anything with it, schools set this subject as early as possible. Since it is one of the subjects, I think exams are necessary, it's difficult for a primary student to love a subject from their heart because they have too much homework and exams to work on, no exam means no pressure and no care, thus, no students would study it at all. however, cloze test seems too difficult for primary students, some simple items just like listenting, mutiple choices are much more suitable.

Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:17 am

Exams aren't as important as Targeted Assessments

Post by shabudah » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:06 am

I taught in a middle school for almost 5 years, and one thing is certain, students dislike quizzes, tests, exams and any other descriptor that conjures fretful nights of cramming, studying, rewriting notes, or sleep deprivation.

Exams in and of themselves are not important as a single device used to assess a student's understanding of material.

Teachers need to explain to students that assessments are important tools used by teachers to not only evaluate what a student knows, does not know, and should know, but to hold us accountable for our teaching practices.

I spent weeks teaching and testing metric conversion to my 7th graders, only to realize many of the students didn't have a fundamental understanding of long division, multiplication, much less the decimal system...all of which I assumed was basic math they should have know at 11/12/13 years old.

Some didn't even know how to align the decimals correctly in an addition problem. Right there and then, I handed back all the past weeks exams and made a few assessments. 1- My students were math deficient. 2- I need to coordinate with the math teachers and come up with a solution. I mean, shouldn't 7th graders be able to add 12.56 + 209. 456=? 3- Conversion would have to wait. 4- I needed to find another way to teach and assess.

Of course the students were happy that their failing grades wouldn't count, but they were equally disheartened when announced that they'd have Saturday morning math review. A few teachers volunteered to teach them basic math principles every Saturday for a few weeks.

Lastly, let students know that we, adults, workers, parents, The Presidents, are all assessed in some manner to make sure we are succeeding at a given duty, job, or skill.

I've shown my students my quarterly teacher reviews. I heard very few complaints there after. I went as far as to have them evaluate my performance every few weeks. I took what they said seriously and professionally. I am a better educator because of their invaluable input. Hopefully, my “exams” made them better students!

Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:22 am
Location: Taiwan

My personal idea toward assessment for young learners

Post by Patrice » Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:37 am

No student like test! However, I agree with dianayap2006. Students will receive some pressures from assessment. Thus, test will, in some ways, push students to memorize words, to pay much attention on the class, and to review what’ve learned on the class. Pressure could, indeed, improve students’ learning.

I believe students’ learning affection is not the only consideration for teaching and learning. However, if assessment can involve interesting elements, it’ll be easier for students to accept assessment. Therefore, I have some suggestions for designing assessment. Since your learners are young ones, we can integrate activities with assessment.

If you want to raise students’ attention in the class, helping students to compile their personal portfolios can be effective. Students can be encouraged to pay much attention on classroom learning since they may want to keep their best performance in their file. Besides, in the classroom, if you want to push your students to memorize new vocabulary and review what they’ve learned before. I think cooperation for group works might help. For example, you can ask students to line up by groups first. Every group will be assigned a word for spelling randomly. Everyone in a group should utter a letter for construct the words. In this way, when they want to compete with other groups or receive some pressures from their group members, they will spend some effort on learning.

Therefore, students can be tested by interesting activities, too. Assessment doesn’t mean only paper-pencil test. It can also be fun and acceptable.

Sally Olsen
Posts: 1322
Joined: Thu Apr 08, 2004 2:24 pm
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

Post by Sally Olsen » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:32 pm

If you are doing research, what was the overall results? It doesn't count to have one student say that they would enjoy English if there were no tests or one student dislike cloze tests. What was the general pattern? What questions did you ask them? It sounds like an important study if you had so many students. I would be interested in your results.

If you asked a housewife if they enjoyed doing the dishes or doing the household accounts, I am sure they would not. If you asked an office worker if they enjoyed doing some mundane everyday job, I am sure they would not. To me, exams, in school come under the same classification of having to do things we don't particularly like.

I always approached exams, especially in elementary, as learning opportunities, the same as my daily lessons. Elementary children don't understand cloze tests, or multiple choice or spelling tests at first. You have to teach them how to do the tests, all of them including essay tests.
You take it a bit at a time and show them how the test is constructed and as you teach your daily lessons show them what things might be tested from that lesson. I usually do three or four questions at the end of each lesson as a review and have them make up some test questions as a review. It can be exciting for them to be involved and they often come up with other ideas of ways to test themselves.

In China, the final tests are so important because they decide the student's future. If you can teach them how to take tests, they will be forever grateful.

I like the idea of showing the students your teacher evaluations and getting the students to rate you. I always did this as well and it is enormously helpful. I didn't realize how often I scratched my nose for instance and tried to stop this habit.

If students know why they are doing something, they will be more accepting.

Overall though, I don't like exams and wish we could have different ways of deciding what happens to people in their lives. I don't believe that students need the motivation of exams. Children are so eager to learn and if you provide the materials and guidance, they will learn as much as they can about everything. I have seen schools run on these principles and the children are happy, excited, studious, and very knowledgeable in multiple areas. They are able to use their knowledge from all fields to solve problems. They also naturally balance their academic studies with physical activities and the arts. When they graduate, they are very good employees because they are willing to learn all facets of the business. They usually end up being entrepreneurs because they see the bigger picture of life. They often change fields or rather build on their skills to go to different jobs throughout their lives and are confident, caring adults with a great respect for their country. They have a balanced life of work and play and many of them are artists or musicians or high performing athletes. They just seem more all rounded people. They have a love of learning.

Students who are homeschooled are often the same.

Posts: 88
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:49 am

Re: Exams aren't as important as Targeted Assessments

Post by longshikong » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:48 pm

Sally, shabudah, and Patrice:

I agree with all of you that children need to see tests from another perspective. One thing that '7 Habits' / Leadership' Schools have tried doing to offset this is to establish individual goals, both academic AND personal as a checklist. These individual goals are also related to group and classroom goals in which students co-operate to ensure peers acquire the skills/knowledge they need and celebrate their achievements (personal and academic): http://theleaderinme.org/

Posts: 14
Joined: Mon May 07, 2012 9:55 pm
Location: NJ


Post by AnnJ.Ring » Tue May 15, 2012 4:50 pm

I took a brief look at leaderinme.org and I agree that those 7 habits should be taught to elementary children because they are valuable throughout life, but I am unsure how eager schools would be to implement the program. Meaning, schools have a lot of other "things going on" and I'm sure they would like to jump on board with this program, but where's the time? Would it be better if the schools, as a district, agreed to hold assemblies explaining these habits more as what is expected from the students? Also, at what age would this program be most effective? I think kindergartners up to Grade 2 to find it difficult to grasp. I might be playing devil's advocate here, but maybe schools could create their own version of this program.

As far as assessment goes, I agree to what's been said. Also, some students could have test anxiety (speaking from first hand experience) so maybe a "repositioning" of the idea of tests could be up to individual teachers. For example, have the students do an assessment, but form it like a typical class exercise. That way the pressure is lessened, but the teacher still gets a good idea of how the students are understanding and learning the material. Then again, that could lead to some problems, too.

Posts: 88
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:49 am

Re: Leaderinme.org/assessments

Post by longshikong » Tue May 15, 2012 5:54 pm

AnnJ.Ring wrote:Longshikong-
...I am unsure how eager schools would be to implement the program. Meaning, schools have a lot of other "things going on" and I'm sure they would like to jump on board with this program, but where's the time?
Too many things going on, actually. No wonder ADHD levels are as high as they are in Canada. I was shocked to see that on spending time in Cdn classrooms last year.

No, it's not a question of time, it's a question of what community 'shareholders' actually want from schools as the principal who first started the trend discovered. For her, 7 Habits just seemed to fulfill that requirement.

Without negotiating, clarifying and aligning the purpose of education with what goes on in the classroom, schools become 'houses of detention' rather than attention as Neil Postman argues in his End of Education. Learning becomes something 'done' to students--a service--a byproduct of our consumerist expectations. But you can't 'learn' someone something. That's what consumerism teaches us to expect.

John Dewey, the father of contemporary educational thought wrote about this a century ago but we were then and still are too old school in our approach. Alberta, the province with the most Leader-in-Me schools in Canada (more than the rest of Canada combined) boasts one of the most successful public schooling systems worldwide.

Posts: 14
Joined: Tue May 08, 2012 9:16 pm
Location: Camden, NJ


Post by RachelMHansen » Tue May 29, 2012 4:54 pm

Like you, I am also a graduate student teaching an ESL class. I would love the experience of teaching in another country; I am currently teaching in an inner city in New Jersey. I do not believe that there is an age in which it is too young to begin teaching a second language (and many studies have shown, the earlier the better). However, at such a young age the assessments should be different that what is expected of older students. I like the replies you have received suggesting more creative forms of assessments. Personally, I am a fan of more informal, creative methods of assessments, but in NJ a lot of that is beyond my control.
Your study seems very interesting and I would love to read the results. It is on a much larger scale than anything I am able to do (currently, at least).

Posts: 88
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:49 am

Post by longshikong » Wed May 30, 2012 3:32 am

shabudah wrote:I taught in a middle school for almost 5 years, and one thing is certain, students dislike quizzes, tests, exams and any other descriptor that conjures fretful nights of cramming, studying, rewriting notes, or sleep deprivation.
Of course they dislike it and justly so!!! Exams assess studying (short term memorization) not learning (acquired or integrated knowledge or skills). In high school, my idealistic brother wouldn't study for exams considering it akin to cheating. Instead, during the semester he'd regularly review his course notes in order to consolidate his understanding.
RachelMHansen wrote:Personally, I am a fan of more informal, creative methods of assessments, but in NJ a lot of that is beyond my control.
Your study seems very interesting and I would love to read the results.
Given the OP posted that 6 yrs ago and has only 3 posts, that's unlikely. Furthermore, the OPs statements suggest an appalling naivety regarding assessment, especially for someone doing what I'm guessing is a M.Ed (Chinese commonly call grad studies 'post-grad studies').

As for creative ways of assessment, look into self/peer-assessment methods along with peer-teaching. As competitive as they are at times, children are only too eager to feed answers to weaker students in part, due to their innate social need to share learning in order to consolidate understanding but also as part of their innate empathy (I'm sure parents who talk with children about what they learn in school raise more engaged children by the same token). But learning how to help their weaker classmates in ways that bolster rather than diminish self-esteem can provide huge dividends to overall class performance and cohesiveness.

The recruiter/trainer for the school I currently work for doesn't see the obvious value in pre-informing students of lesson goals at the beginning of a lesson or what's going to be relatively easy or what's going to be challenging or provide much in the way of feedback. Not that I'm much better at it than she is but it underscores the obvious disregard we have for the children we end up teaching.

Post Reply