Too Much Testing Makes Αλέξανδρος a Dull Boy
Some of you may be curious to see how testing would work in a communicative classroom. On the one hand, I abhor testing and grades, and think that neither one of them belongs in a language class. If a class is taught communicatively, every class session is a test of sorts. Can the student understand what is being said to her? Can she respond appropriately? Can she follow instructions in the language? κτλ. The focus in such a situation is on acquiring the language. But, when you give formal tests on a regular basis, it puts the focus on memorization and test-taking skills, and raises the affective filter. Students begin looking for the minimum they have to learn, and start finding ways to work the system, as their earlier schooling has taught them to do so well.
The Need For Testing
On the other hand, educrats and beancounters are obsessed with assessment, so it’s a necessary evil when you’re in an academic institution where you actually have to have a syllabus and hand out grades at the end of the year. 😦 Also, many students seem to have a psychological need to take a written test and receive some tangible, quantifiable feedback. And, so we give quizzes and tests.
How I Test
I tend to make most of my quizzes (about once per week) short oral quizzes. For example, I’ll set out four cups and ask the students, πόσα ποτήρια ἔχω; They will need to write as the answer: τέσσαρα ποτήρια ἔχεις, or just τέσσαρα. For midterms and final exams, though, I give them a longer, written test. The goal by the end of the year is to have the entire test written in Greek and requiring Greek answers—no translation! By the middle of the first semester, which is where we are now, most of the instructions are still in English, but all the questions and answers are in Greek. Take a look here at the midterm exam that I gave on Thursday. So far, we’ve covered around 200 vocabulary items, and done units on greetings, names, speaking Greek, I am/you are, numbers and arithmetic, and several basic actions.
Let us know in the comments section below what you think about this test and testing in general in the communicative classroom.