Scholarly article on topic 'Tests in Foreign Language Teaching'

Tests in Foreign Language Teaching Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Sarka Hubackova, Ilona Semradova

Abstract The paper is aimed at using tests in teaching of German as the second foreign language at university. On the base of her experience its author writes about two kinds of tests, about the informative and classification ones. She mentions their purposes and describes the more important among them. She complements their descriptions with some concrete specimens of their contents. She uses the informative tests to be able to specify or modify her teaching strategies in her seminar lessons. The classification tests represent a part of teaching process, their results are a subject matter of the discussions with students. The author shows her attitude to students‘mistakes in test and describes some ways of test corrections.

Academic research paper on topic "Tests in Foreign Language Teaching"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 83 (2013) 352 - 356 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

2nd World Conference on Educational Technology Researches - WCETR2012

Tests in foreign language teaching

Sarka Hubackova a *, Ilona Semradova b

a University of Hradec Kralove, Rokitanskeho 62, 50003 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic b University of Hradec Kralove, Rokitanskeho 62, 50003 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic

Abstract

The paper is aimed at using tests in teaching of German as the second foreign language at university. On the base of her experience its author writes about two kinds of tests, about the informative and classification ones. She mentions their purposes and describes the more important among them. She complements their descriptions with some concrete specimens of their contents. She uses the informative tests to be able to specify or modify her teaching strategies in her seminar lessons. The classification tests represent a part of teaching process, their results are a subject matter of the discussions with students. The author shows her attitude to students' mistakes in test and describes some ways of test corrections.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hafize Keser Ankara University, Turkey Keywords: University study, tests, German language, foreign language, classification test;

To be understood we are taking for useful to say something about our school background. The Faculty of Management and Informatics of University Hradec Kralove in the Czech Republic gets its students from secondary schools. All of them, without regard to their results at those schools and without regard to the results of their final exams take entrance exams. To be accepted they have to pass them.

As far as foreign language is concerned, their study may look like this: They have to take English in each broader field of their studies. They can study a second foreign language, if they want to. If so, then the language they have chosen is a compulsory subject for them. Most often they choose the language they had been studied at the secondary schools, most frequently the German language.

The German exam paper is not very difficult and lower level of knowledge of German is usually not the main reason for which a student might be not accepted. Although all students had used the same exercise book of German before their final exams, their proficiency level of this foreign language is very different. The seminar groups in which they are being taught have usually 14-17 members and are as regards to their readiness to study German very diverse.

Our first task, as being a German teacher, is to unify and consolidate students' knowledge. And this task brings our first contact with tests. We distinguish two kinds of them. The informative ones are aimed at our needs. We use

* Corresponding author (*). Tel.: +42049333230 E-mail address: sarka.hubackova@uhk.cz

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hafize Keser Ankara University, Turkey doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.06.069

them to identify our teaching strategy. In reference to their results we change by modifying our teaching techniques, never of course the goals and contents of the subject. These are set by the curriculum. Sometimes we use these tests as a means of motivation, sometimes as a means of checking students' diligence but never as a means and source of students' classification. Another kind of tests is designed for this issue. We call them evaluating tests. We want to mention here the fact that all tests described in further explanations are not being used in one fifteen-lesson term, but they are being incorporated into six-term studies. The informative test that we are describing in the next paragraphs comes in this long study only once: just in the first lesson of the first term, then it never reappears.

Foreign language knowledge rests on students' memory. The purpose of our first informative test is to find out how much of German do they keep in mind after finishing secondary schools. That is why our introductory test is a bit longer and more complicated. It should provide us as accurate idea as possible about students' knowledge. We expressly say „about knowledge", because we deliberately resign to find out students' oral communicative skills. We will focus on this area of their language competence on other opportunities. We always announce the students the purpose of this test. We point out that this is not an exam. To persuade them that it is so we only ask to sign the paper those students who will manage to do most items of it. We explain to our students that we need to know the range of their knowledge to be able to modify our teaching procedures and to meet as much as possible their language needs. Sometimes we manage to arrange an extraordinary meeting for that purpose. In this way we gain our first idea about the number and names of the better prepared students. Even such a rough idea is very important to me. And therefore we incorporate different language items into our test. It is a multiple component test. Its concrete contents may be seen in the subsequent survey. We use linguistic terms in it, but in real test we avoid them, we use some paraphrases of them to rule out the cases that students do not answer at all or answer with errors the test items, because they do not understand the linguistic terms. We proceed from the assumption that students' interest in economics may show itself in a way, concretely in vocabulary and therefore the test contains also its items. The basic language areas are combined in the test differently. We try to incorporate the expressive and receptive knowledge of language as well.

As regards semantics we try to gain an insight into students' vocabulary. Their concrete tasks are as follows:

a) Translate 10 given ordinary and 5 technical words, 2 compound nouns inclusive. (We demand the identification of gender by means of definitive article with nouns, relevant forms with so called strong verbs.)

b) Put down as many words as you manage to, that you think might be - according to their meanings -elements of technical vocabulary of economics. Their order is not relevant. Write nouns with their definite articles. You may repeat or use the words written here in the tasks as well.

c) Give the synonyms to the words senden (schicken) etc. (Five pairs of synonymous.)

d) Morphology with semantics is combined like this: Put down the words you know: Verbs with prefix be-, er-, aus- durch-; their meanings in Czech write in brackets. Nouns with suffix -er, -heit, -keit, -schaft; with their definite articles and their Czech meaning in brackets. (If you can not remember any words like those, put down some words with other prefixes or suffixes. This paper really is not an exam!)

e) Write the Czech meanings and the definite articles of the words Schule, Ruhe, Mühe, Kreide, Getreide, Schade.

f) Write the Czech meanings of the subsequent pairs of words: reden-Redner, schuld-Schuldner and 3 other pairs.

g) Examine correctness (also spelling!) of these compound nouns: underline the right word: Volkswortschaft-Volkswirtschaft, Bankkonto-Bankskonto, Kreditanstalt-Kreditsanstalt, importfähig-importsfähig, Steuerzahler, Steuerbelastung.

h) Translate these collocations: the lowest unemployment, the whole million, the shorter term, the best quality, the more expensive goods, etc.

i) Make preposition structures with durch, ohne, in, aus, für.

Syntax is represented by clauses and sentences:

a) Make short clauses (5-6 words)\with the subsequent expressions: debt, money, investment, loan, regular (or regulary), short-term. (use each word only once.)

b) Translate the subsequent clauses, but connect their pairs into sentences at the same time. Your translation need not be litteral. (sentences with temporal, conditional, final and other clauses.)

c) Translate these sentences: Fill in this side only. - Can you inform me of it? - Don't let this letter without any answer. -We are sorry to announce you...

d) Translate these sentences: I do not understand it because I cannot read it. -I only buy goods I need necessarily. -Be you so kind as to tell me where did you see it. - I do not know if it is still possible to buy it.

Another kind of informative test is a short occasional single-component test which we use continuously when we explain new material. The linguistic subject matter as it is set in the syllabus in the grammar area is sometimes only a repetition of material taught in secondary schools, nevertheless it broadens in some segments. Such an item is for example the word order of a subordinate clause introducing its finite verb in its end. Secondary school gives attention to the relevant rule, students practise this phenomenon first of all in the dependent clauses in present. More complicated cases are the future and past clauses formulated with compound verbal forms and the cases when a finite verb is represented by a modal verb. We explain the material and we try by means of a short test to find out how well the students have understood it. Also this time we announce to them that it is not an exam but nevertheless we ask them to sign the papers. Then we move around the classroom very slowly not to help the students but to monitor the results of the task. We comment on some mistakes, we sometimes complement our prior explanation. Students write their tasks on separate pieces of paper provided by us and immediately after finishing their work they give them back to me. We check them more carefully at home but we do not bring them back to the students. If necessary we explain back some aspects of the given subject matter in our next seminar lesson. (For example: There is quite a new thing for some students that the finite verb is not represented by a full-meaning verb but its syntactical function is adopted by a modal verb in some cases.) We put down the names of the students whose results are very bad and illustrate a total lack of their attention. But of course we do not rule out also our explanatory fault either.

We use another kind of informative tests in the connection with a classification test when we incorporate it into our teaching procedure for the first time. We use it after a discussion about corrected mistakes and we place it into the subsequent seminar. Its exam items are the same as those in the prior test, but the time designed for answers is a bit shorter. We compare its results with the results of prior test. They are always interesting and we use them as a negative but very effective means of motivation. Their basic principle looks like this: on average the results of the second test are better. Nevertheless, there are two aspects that is the reason for incorporating of this informative test into our teaching process repeatedly : Sometimes one test occurring whose results are much worse than the ones on the prior test and which might introduce the question, if the prior test was really done without a foreign help. But what is worse: One or two subsequent tests always occur with results as bad as in the prior test. That means, that that the students had not studied their written notes from the discussion about the prior test's mistakes. We mention the established facts in our seminar. We do it anonymously. We have two reasons for it. Those situations had repeated in our praxis and we come to the conclusion that it is better to do it in this way. We can say that it is always enough if we repeat such usage of the test once only. The second reason for the anonymity is the law concerning personality protection. In accordance with this law we are not allowed to make such an unanonymous criticism publicly.

Our classification tests are aimed both at knowledge (always) and at skills (sometimes). At semantics is aimed the test evaluating the level of correct usage of interchangeable words and expressions. It is a simple-component test following the area of expressivity and receptivity as well: The students are given some expressions like langweilig and langfristig. Their task is to formulate short clauses related to the meanings of given words.

Other kind of classification test we use after we had taught a lot of technical words. The purpose of incorporating it for the students is to see and realize again how these new words are used in written German and what their correct spelling is. The base of relatively frequent mistakes is that students are not sure in the correct visual perception of a word. There are many neglectings or superficialities in usage or misperceptions of its oral usage caused by miscorrect or careless pronunciation. This applies to some consonant groups. Students write for example Schrifdeutsch, Schrifsprache, Schrifsteller instead of words with the correct morphem Schrift-. The mistakes like this have their connection with the spelling usage of the first morpheme of compound words that is not always written with supposed uniformity. Let us mention for example and comparison the previous morpheme Schrift- and the morpheme Wirtschafts- very often reappeared in words concerning economics and written in students' essays very frequently without -s-, as e.g. Wirtschaftorganization etc. The form of compound nouns and their spelling has to be pointed out from case to case. The mastering of new compounds is of course made difficult by the fact that students may meet two or even three correct forms of the same morpheme. Let us compare e.g. Taglohn, Tagegeld, Tageskosten, Tagesproduktion, Tagesumsatz etc. The secondary school has got a very rare opportunity to deal with this subject issue. It is necessary to deal with it in the seminars. And the purpose of the test is to find out the level of students' knowledge of it, to collect the single cases of mistakes or doubts, to discuss and practice the correct forms and spelling of compounds.

Another kind of test may be used in connection with checking reading and comprehension skills. It is a close test whose usage was many times analyzed - for example by Taylor (1984) - in literature. We use a continuous professional text of about 12 sentences, that is of about 150 words with certain of them deleted. We usually delete 12 items, one item pro one sentence on average. Six words are taken from everyday life usage, six items are of technical characteristics. The texts are printed on separate worksheets.

The test might seem to be easy. And so it would really be if its text would be taken from a narrative. But if its text is professional, the test might be quite difficult. (In this connection we want to mention that it is very difficult to find a suitable, relatively short technical text concerning economics.) The students have to read the text and analyze its content first. Simultaneously they have to analyse its linguistic structure, because we demand the missing words to be provided in correct forms, the missing nouns with correct articles inclusive. The purpose of the test is to find out and to measure students' ability to interpret the printed passage and to show their level of knowledge in the area of grammar. In both aspects the test may serve only as a rough indication of the language knowledge level and it has to be supplemented by other forms of checking. To be sure students will do their tasks without a foreign help we usually prepare the same test in two variants of text and tasks.

Meanwhile the informative tests are distinct for our purposes only and we never give them back to students, we correct the classification test immediately to be able to distribute and show the corrected worksheets to them. (Here we are to mention that students have to return the worksheets back to me, because all classification tests are placed into archives of our faculty and kept here for three years.) We correct very carefully. In our experience some mistakes are frequent and classic but in some cases we question ourselves how an error can have arisen and how it could or even should be rectified. We put down a note about it in our home preparation. We use these remarks in the discussion in our next seminar lesson.

Before we will deal with the content of such a discussion about errors in students' performances we want to mention our approach to mistakes in students' tests. We tick up only the random errors and some unimportant spelling slips but we do not speak about them. The mistakes in vocabulary and errors with prepositions we mark with a wavy line, the errors in grammar - both occasional and classic ones - we mark with straight line. Each of the two underlined kind of mistakes is taken as a type of error requiring its discussion and usually a different remedial strategy. Students do not write their correction in their worksheets but in their notebooks. They put down both the text with mistakes and its correction. After the discussing they give their worksheets back to me. They are supposed to study their mistakes and their corrections at home.

The overall level of language knowledge may be identified by means of a multiple-component test aimed this time at certain readiness and speed with which students react to the given text from the point of view of its correctness. Students work with worksheets with longer text with different mistakes in them. They have to correct as large a number of them as they can manage in a relative short time. We incorporate this test usually before the final exams at the end of the complete studies. We do not make an analysis of errors, we only mention them.

Some of the described tests have got their tiny variants. We do not mention them, but we want to add an idea: We always consider all the possibilities concerning the most suitable time before incorporating a test into our teaching process and how to use its results. If we have no clear answers to these questions, we do not incorporate any test at all.

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