Conducting tests and assessments
Diary submitted by Buki D. Madrid
How do I test my Students?
The acquisition of grammar, syntax and lexis is a fairly straightforward process however the ability to use grammar correctly and appropriately is a linguistic skill that distinguishes a good speaker from a native speaker. This study on communicative competence is going explain why it is important that EFL teachers conduct assessments which test their student’s communicative abilities.
Conducting tests and assessments gives teachers an insight into their student’s abilities probes such as mini quizzes can also be used to track academic progress. In my experience as an EFL teacher I believed that communicative competence was an important skill that my students needed to acquire. Communicative competence also known as the (ethnography of communication) is a linguistic model that was devised by Dell Hymes (1966) in reaction to Noam Chomsky study on linguistic competence. Hymes states “a normal child acquires knowledge not only as grammatical but also as appropriate” (Hymes, Dell H 1966) communicative competence can be defined as the internalization of “grammar and the rules for appropriate use in social context” (Hymes, Dell H 1966) Communicative competence consists of four components: linguistic, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic.
Asking my students to give me a definition of idioms and expressions that they encountered during their reading exercises was one of the ways that I was able to examine their communicative competence. By asking them to define idioms like the “the American Dream” for example, I was able to gage whether or not they had grasped the concept of certain words and phrases and if they were able to use these words in the right context.. One issue that often occurred was that my students understood the literal meaning of the words but found it difficult to understand non-literal meanings. In order, to tackle this issue I had to explain that some words changed meaning depending on the context that they were used in. This was achieved through using real life examples that they could relate to. Information gaps and role play activities are also useful ways that EFL teachers can use to assess their students. Information gaps can be used “to test language ability” and the purpose of these activities is that “students must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps” (Underhill, Nic 1987).
Nic Underhill, a pioneer of English Language, argues in his publication, ‘Testing Spoken Language: A Handbook of Oral Testing Techniques’, that these tasks and activities “have the advantage of producing concrete evidence of communicative or the lack of it” (Underhill, Nic 1987). On the over hand, he also states teachers should be cautious with such because they may “test general problem solving ability rather than language fluency” (Underhill, Nic 1987).
To conclude communicative competence is a language skill that distinguishes a good speaker from a native speaker although it may be not be regarded as a prerequisite when learning a foreign language. From my personal experience students who undergo assessments which test their communicative competence tend to fare better than students who do not. This is because the acquisition of lexis, grammar, and syntax is not simply enough and this is the reason why I believe students should be taught how to use their acquired knowledge not only grammatically but as appropriately also.
- Chomsky, Noam (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press. Hymes, Dell H. (1966). “Two types of linguistic relativity”. In Bright, W. Sociolinguistics. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 114–158
- Underhill, Nic (1987). Testing Spoken Language: A Handbook of Oral Testing Techniques.