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Testing and Assessment ... not only a practical research approach

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This February was a special month as 10 years ago on Monday 16 Feb 2004, I started a journey in which I feel utterly committed to from the start and even before that.

This February was a special month as 10 years ago on Monday 16 Feb 2004, I started a journey in which I feel utterly committed to from the start and even before that. I was appointed to lead and create -at that time- a new business unit where my time as senior management was totally dedicated to International Examinations.

However, my link with testing/assessment and in particular with Cambridge English examinations goes way beyond that date. Back in the days it used to be called: UCLES, then Cambridge ESOL (this is the time when I went to live to the UK), and, from 2013 -as they were celebrating their centenary, changing their name to Cambridge English Language Assessment, which coincides with my new role that links me with the organisation as Inspector .

So, with this in mind, when asked: How do you evaluate your learners? ... it is not so difficult to understand my weltanschauung described lines below.

First, I believe that assessment is a tangible means of widening access, guiding Teachers but also learners towards the need to focus upon skills and processes rather than outcomes. It is imperative to put learners at the centre of assessment and re-design our ways so that the learning function is emphasized.

As such, improving assessment, should mean, improving learning.
I would confidently say that I am an advocate of LOA, ringing a bell? A mention here to Professor David Carless (HKU) and more recently, Miranda Hamilton as my inspirers.

I was fortunate enough to give a lecture in a Latin American Congress about LOA some months ago. It was very cleared stated to attendees that:
(1) 'Authentic Assessment' is a key role
(2) Assessment could be more effectively focused on enhancing students learning.

Three core aspects indeed:
* Where my assessment tasks are learning tasks.
* There is a core presence of learners' involvement in the assessment process, not only because there are subjects of evaluation, but also with a new role: as peer or self evaluators.
* Forward - looking is essential ie feedback to adjust future outcomes.

In this sense, international exams that meet personal needs from personal development to higher education, from employment to international migration, are at the centre of my vision, as an accurate, reliable and relevant way to assess language skills: quickly and effectively.

How do learners see this issue. During this month I researched amongst English learners and found some most interesting results that I wished to share with you dear readers: this last section is called in their own words. So, here are some extracts from our focus group and interviews ...

Matias (14): "I would like that the teacher evaluate us 70% in the CR and 30% in the final exam. Things like participation in the class should be priority ... I don't think that self-assessment is a good idea because it's difficult to give yourself a bad grade, but peer-assessment is interesting"

Ale (13): "I prefer self-assessment, it gives me more security and is not a threat. I know that once I've made a mistake and the teacher corrects me, I will not fail again. I want to make her feel proud of my achievements"

Andrea (12): "I think self-assessment is very difficult, you have to be very honest and concious of your own work and progress. But with peer assessment, what happens if I say something and my friend never talks to me again? I don't know"

Ariana (16): "I think tests are very important, and even more if I know it is an exam that others around the world are taking! It is then that I know how good I am in comparison with others internationally and not only in my class"

Andres (14): "I like tests because we are sure that the marks we obtain are fair, a way to probate our learning about a specific topic."

Arturo (12): "I used to be in a school where the teacher didn't give enough importance to exams but the attitude in class and the way we behaved, if we talked in class to my friends and stuff. I disagree with that. I prefer to take a exam that really tells me how good or bad I am in international English really because tests evaluates you and your capacities and what you have learnt"

And I could easily go on and on. Listening to learners is vital to me. All that is left for me to say about those comments ... very inspirational and food for thought!
This is me, Patty Alarco-Vizcarra signing off for now.

I would love to receive your comments though, have you got similar learners' views wherever in the world you are?