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The issue of assessment is among the primary ones in foreign language teaching. According to Coombe, Davidson, O’Sullivan, and Stoynoff, “formal testing began about 1,500 years ago in China” (2012, p. 9). Over time, tests became more standardized and universal. In education, they are aimed to assess students’ progress and determine directions of further work. A proper evaluation of students’ achievements is crucial for their motivation and thus demands a careful approach. Assessment practices have various grounds and differ from school to school. When it comes to the assessment of English as a foreign language, specific practices can be used for the evaluation of speaking, listening, or writing skills (Al-Mahrooqi, Coombe, Al-Maamari, & Thakur, 2017). The choice of assessment practices depends on many factors. Since many classroom instructions are content-based (Dupuy, 2000; Lyster & Ballinger, 2011; Song, 2006), content-based assessment can be suggested as a possible model to evaluate students’ competence. On the other hand, tests are commonly aimed to check the level of knowledge, thus level-based assessment can be also suitable. Then research is going to check the suitability of both assessment practices and the results of their application.
The major problem of the paper is to study content-based and level-based assessment practices and provide a conclusion of their suitability for the assessment of student’s skills in English as a foreign language. Consequently, the research will have two hypotheses: (1) EFL assessment practices should be content-based, and (2) EFL assessment practices should be level-based. The research is supposed to answer the question of EFL students should be assessed according to the level of the book they are studying or according to its content.
The literature review conducted within the research revealed that the issue of content-based and level-based assessment models is not well reflected in the current scholarly works. Thus, the notion of content is mainly regarded in the context of classroom instructions (Dupuy, 2000; Lyster & Ballinger, 2011; Song, 2006) while levels are remembered as dealing with placement tests (Coombe et al., 2012). Taylor (2006) raises the problem of implications for language assessment within the changing landscape of English. The author claims that new test models transformed from deficit ones into models focused on “what someone can do, giving credit for positive aspects of performance while acknowledging where there is scope for improvement” (Taylor, 2006, p. 52). Lyster and Ballinger present the results of research on content-based language teaching (2011). They state that “content-driven programs promote language and literacy development through subject-matter learning” (Lyster & Ballinger, 2011, p. 280). Students following those programs need the assessment of content knowledge. Song (2006) suggests different kinds of assessment for content-based ESL instruction. Thus, portfolio assessment is advised for writing for example (Song, 2006). A book by Brown (2003) provides various principles and classroom practices for language assessment. The author claims that “a test measures performance, but the results imply the test-taker’s ability” (Brown, 2003, p. 3). Moreover, a teacher may conclude on the level of student’s ability from the results of the test. Ketabi and Ketabi analyze classroom and formative assessment in second or foreign language teaching. They compare various types of assessment such as formal vs informal, summative vs formative, or explicit vs implicit (2014). Finally, the authors present the effects of formative assessment and its importance. A book by Al-Mahrooqi et al. (2017) provides contemporary approaches to EFL assessment. The authors present theoretical and future perspectives on assessment together with variants of alternative assessment (Al-Mahrooqi et al., 2017). However, the analyzed works do not provide much relevant information on level-based or content-based assessment practices. One of the works found related to content assessment instrument development is a student’s final project report (Mukhopadyay, 2011). The author develops the assessment instrument and evaluates it according to the principles of assessment (Mukhopadyay, 2011, p. 14). Another document regulating language assessment is Guidelines for the assessment of English language learners (Education Testing Service, 2009). These guidelines suggest the way of planning the assessment, approaches to task evaluation, the role of statistics in assessment and scoring, etc. on the whole, they enable language teachers to make correct decisions in the development of assessment strategies while evaluating English learners “in academic content areas” (Education Testing Service, 2009, p. 27).
On the whole, analysis of previous researchers proves that there is no particular study for content-based or level-based assessment practices. Consequently, the current study can be useful for contemporary EFL teaching.
The research will be a qualitative study. The results obtained during both content-based and level-based assessments will pass through the qualitative analysis. Data will be collected during some module tests. Students of the same grade will be involved in the study. One group will pass content-based and the other level-based assessment on the same module. In addition, the research includes interviews with EFL teachers who will have an opportunity to try both content-based and level-based models. They are supposed to express their opinions on the issue based on their experience.
The experiment groups will be selected among EFL students of different grades. They will study according to their usual program, but module assessments will be provided by the researcher. Three age groups are going to be involved. There will be two groups in every age category. Thus, six groups of about 15 people each will be invited to the assessment, a total of 90 students.
The study is expected to determine a more suitable model of EFL assessment. The research and teachers’ interviews are going to reveal the advantages and disadvantages of both content-based and level-based assessment approaches as applied to evaluation EFL students.
The plan of the research will include the following stages.
|1.||Literary review||2-3 weeks|
|2.||Sample selection||1-2 weeks|
|3.||Development of a content-based assessment||1 week|
|4.||Development of a content-based assessment||1 week|
|5.||Assessments (data collection)||2 weeks|
|6.||Data analysis||3 weeks|
|7.||Presentation of the research results||2 weeks|
Possible Research Limitations
The research can have some limitations. First of all, the further application of results can be limited due to the different programs of EFL teaching in various schools. Thus, the assessment efficiency for one program may not suit the other one. Secondly, the sample cannot include all representatives of a diverse EFL community. Consequently, the research results cannot be generalized as applicable to any EFL class.
Implications of Research
The research has some practical implications. The first one is the possibility of inclusion of the research results into the teachers’ preparation program. The second possibility to bring the results to practice is to spread them among practicing EFL teachers to provide them with efficient assessment instruments.
Al-Mahrooqi, R., Coombe, C., Al-Maamari, F., & Thakur, V. (Eds.). (2017). Revisiting EFL assessment. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
Brown, H.D. (2003). Language assessment – principles and classroom practice. London, UK: Pearson ESL.
Coombe, C., Davidson, P., O’Sullivan, B., & Stoynoff, S. (2012). Second language assessment. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Dupuy, B.C. (2000). Content-based instruction: Can it help ease the transition from beginning to advanced foreign language classes? Foreign Language Annals, 33(2), 205-223.
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Education Testing Service. (2009). Guidelines for the assessment of English language learners. Web.
Ketabi, S., & Ketabi, S. (2014). Classroom and formative assessment in second/foreign language teaching and learning. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(2), 435-440. Web.
Lyster, R., & Ballinger, S. (2011). Content-based language teaching: Convergent concerns across divergent contexts. Language Teaching Research, 15(3), 279-288. Web.
Mukhopadyay, L. (2011). Developing a content assessment instrument: Testing implications. Final project report. University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Song, B. (2006). Content-based ESL instruction: Long-term effects and outcomes. English for Specific Purposes, 25, 420-437. Web.
Taylor, L. (2006). The changing landscape of English: Implications for language assessment. English Language Teaching Journal, 60(1), 51-60. Web.