English Teaching Talks - Assessing learning

Use these six short videos from Carolyn Westbrook and Richard Spiby to help you develop effective techniques and ideas for assessing your learners.

A teacher standing behind two seated students helping them with their school work

About English Teaching Talks

English Teaching Talks is new series produced by the British Council and presented by English language teaching experts from around the world. Divided into 6 short episodes, each video gives practical and useful advice, and is designed to help you develop your skills as an English language teacher in a number of different areas. 

Other episodes in the series are available. Click or tap on the title of the talk to visit the page:

About the videos

In this series of six short videos, Richard Spiby and Carolyn Westbrook help us to make sure that the results of the assessments we give our students reflect their abilities and can be used to guide students in their learning. They include practical ideas for how to integrate both formative and summative assessment effectively in class for each of Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing and Integrated Skills to increase the success of our learners. Below is a list of each video. All videos include subtitles in English:

Video 1: Introduction (3:53 minutes) 

Video 2: Assessing reading (3:38 minutes) 

Video 3: Assessing listening (3:32 minutes) 

Video 4: Assessing speaking (3:51 minutes) 

Video 5: Assessing writing (3:22 minutes) 

Video 6: Assessing integrated skills  (04:01 minutes) 

Watch all the videos on YouTube



To assess skills and integrated skills effectively Richard and Carolyn say we need to identify: 

  • which reading skills we want to assess (e.g. reading for main points or for detail) and texts and tasks that are suitable to assess them
  • what type of listening we aim to assess (e.g. gist or inferred meaning) and suitable texts and tasks to do that
  • which real-life speaking tasks and rating scale linked to them could assess how our students communicate 
  • which motivating writing tasks (relevant for their age and level) and a rating scale appropriate for those tasks could assess our students’ writing.   
  • what exactly do we want to assess in an integrated skills task – how learners have used some input; what they produce in speaking or writing or how they achieved the task (the process)? 

Pre-viewing task

Before you watch the videos, think about the question below. If you are using this resource as part of your professional development in your institution, discuss the questions below with your colleagues 

  1. Think about a group of learners you are teaching. What would you identify for each of the points in the rationale above?  
  2. What ideas would you expect to be included in the video for each of the points in the rationale? 

While viewing 

What ideas do Richard and Carolyn give for each of the points in the rationale above? 

After viewing

  1. Choose one of the video clips and watch it again.  Summarise what have you learnt about the following aspects of assessment for that skill or those skills: 

    Sub-skills, texts, tasks, marking criteria
  2. Are you going to change anything about how you assess your learners as a result of watching that video clip? 
  3. In video 3, 'Assessing listening', Carolyn tells us we ‘shouldn’t include questions which require long answers because the students’ writing skills may not be good enough to answer the question and we may be assessing their writing skills rather than their listening’.  What listening tasks does she recommend using? 
  4. In video 4, 'Assessing speaking', Richard says that speaking assessments are a good opportunity for peer- and self-assessment to help learners identify what makes a good speaking performance. What criteria could you give your students for peer- and self-assessment?

Watch the introduction below and watch all six videos in the series on YouTube.


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