Teaching, testing and .The backwash effect: good teachers, bad teachers, a survey The headmaster

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  • Teaching, testing and backwash

    Greek ELTin

  • Please God may I not fail

    Please God may I get over 60%

    Please God may I get a high place

    Please God may all those likely to beat me

    Get killed in road accidents


    May they die roaring

  • The influence of testing on content and methodology

    Measurement-driven instruction

    or how Cordelia failed the speaking test:

  • To make sure its a fair test,

    he gives them all the same task

  • Examiner: Which of you shall we say doth love us most?That we our largest bounty may extend

    Examiner (to Candidate 3): What can you say to drawA third more opulent than your sisters? Speak

    (Candidate 1 answers and scores B +)

    (Candidate 2 answers and scores B +)

  • Candidate 3: Nothing

    Examiner: Nothing will come of nothing

    Candidate: I cannot heave my heart into my mouth

    Examiner: Mend your speech a littleLest it may mar your fortunes

  • Candidate 3 (Cordelia) fails the test.

  • He gives them all the same task

    Lears Test


  • Lears Test






    Written documentation (the map)

    Numbers and science




  • What is backwash?the relationship between teaching and testing

  • What is backwash?

    the direct or indirect effect of examinations on teaching methods

  • What is backwash?We may refer to positive and negative backwash

  • What is backwash?

    if a test is regarded as important, then preparation for it can come to dominateall teaching and learning activities

    (Hughes, 1989:1)

  • What is backwash?teachers will teach to a test

  • What is backwash?Before a test has any impact on classroom practice

    it is mediated by factors such as:

    * the place of examinations in particular societies

    * the teachers competence

    * The resources available within the school system

    (Alderson and Wall, 1993)

  • and

    the market

  • What is backwash?A test might encourage the use of beneficialteaching-learning processes

    (Pearson, 1988:107)

  • I had to train students to scan a text and skim as well

    Has the introduction of the new FCE affected the way you teach? If so, how?

    Only in the type of material used, which is more interesting

    The old exam was too mechanical; the new one is more creative

    Lessons are more functional; theres more extended discourse and oral linking

    We do more work on the structure of texts

    More functional use of written language

    We do more writing

    We do more on register both on recognising and applying it

  • Students enjoy doing the editing part they compete while looking for mistakes

    Students find listening/reading skills much more difficult for example, listening and note-taking, text organisation and cohesion

    Theres more interaction in speaking

    The emphasis is more on communication and interaction

    More fun there are some real conversations

    We have to concentrate our teaching on pair work basically

    Students feel happy more comfortable that they share an activity

  • What is backwash?Backwash can be either overt or covert

    Overt: the use of past papers and test-like material and test techniques

    Covert: teachers treat the textbook and all materiallike a testbook

    and behave as if they were testingrather than teaching

  • Does washback or impact exist?

  • Research into backwash:

    Washback in language testing Cheng and Watanabe, 2004

    The Power of Tests Elana Shohamy, 2001

    Washback effects of FCE Oral MA dissertation Stergiopoulou, 2002

  • Investigating the FCE Speaking Test

    Non-exam classes:the activities used with this group were designed according to UCLES criteria


    The activities used were test-like and reflected the UCLES criteria

    (Stergiopoulou, 2002, MA Dissertation)

  • Washback positive negative

    content Congruence between test and lesson (both groups)Varied Material (non-exam group)

    Extensive use of practise tests(with the exam group)

    method PairworkNon-test like activities (non-exam group)Peer correction (both groups)

    Focus on the testTeaching standard expressionsTalking about the test

  • What do we mean by good teaching ?

  • Vygotsky:

    The buds and flowers of learning (ZPD)

    Language= socio-cultural

    Co-operation, co-construction, scaffolding

  • I've done the same in my classes (I mean the collaborationbetween "roses" and "buds"). I thought it wasn't right. Becausethat way I helped "the buds", but it was unfair to "the roses".AndI`ve always had some troubles assessing "the buds`" tests. As youknow "buds" are sometimes a little bit cheeky. When they worktogether with "a rose" they want the same mark as his (orhers).It's very difficult for me to deal with that problem. I hateassessment. For me it's the most unpleasant part of teachers' work.

    Email, Bulgarian teacher, May 2006

  • I'm aware that there are a few "elephants" among my students and it'simpossible for them "to climb the tree". I don't want to make them feeldispirited. I've always tried to make them feel important. For example, I give such student a dictionary while the others are doing a written work. When a pupil has a problem with an unfamiliar word he asks "theelephant" to check it in the dictionary. He does his best, because he feelsimportant and useful.

    Email, Bulgarian teacher, May 2006

  • The good language learner


    A risk-taker

    A good guesser

    Not afraid of error

    A user of the language

    Has a positive attitudeto the language

  • Testing Teaching

    failure success

    weakness strength

    Terror error

    solemnity humour

    cheating sharing

    competition co-operation

    isolation solidarity

    negative attitude positive attitude

    fragments whole

    culture-bound mother-other culture

    learner user

    marks progress

  • Testing Teaching

    One time for all Thinking time

    Correct Answer Multiple answers

    Them and us T-S-S rapport

    Context-less contextualised

    product process

  • No, this testing will ratherMultitudinous teaching incarnadineMaking the green one red


  • Covert backwash

    Classroom management

    body languageeye contactvoice

    Management of


  • Why is backwash important?

    Because of backwash:

    * New methods fail to take root

    * Teachers trapped in an examination cycle

    * Communicative methodologies, humanism, TBL etc are considered impractical: we dont have time

  • * The market demands quantifiable results = exam results

    The causes:

    * The market: competition

    * The non-native / L2 user

    * Tests are discipline-friendly

    * Tests provide extrinsic motivation

    * Tests lend authority

    a dogs obeyed in office

  • The manic, manichean world of testing

  • Tests must discriminate

    Tests would be regarded as inefficientif all candidates enjoyed equal success

    But they encourage a view of students as good or bad; grade A or grade B or C

    Fatalism: some students are natural learners, others failures

    This is administratively, socially, economically useful

  • The backwash effect: good teachers, bad teachers, a survey

    The headmaster used to examine us everyday. He used to ask Cleopatra first and when it was my turn he used to ask me: Will you be able to perform as excellently as Cleopatra did?I dont remember or not whether I was good after that remark but I hated him so much I didnt want to go to school anymore.

  • Backwash: a way forward

    Even though he was limited by the situation (we had to pass our exams) he tried to help us in a more general way. He developed our general awareness, our way of thinking and he helped us view the word (world?)with a critical eye. As he told us, he was working on two levels: one was strictly the Exam, while the other was our general education

  • Exam PreparationCircular writing

    Aim: to provide practice in writing in a supporting atmosphere; to make the most of the diverse levels in any class

    Procedure : Writing brainstorm

    Teacher divides students up into 1s, 2s and 3s. They each brainstorm one of the following essay titles:

  • Title 1: School Subjects

    Topics Vocabulary Tenses

    Title 2: Report (e.g. Places of Interest in My Town)

    Topics Vocabulary Tenses

    Title 3: Story

    Topics Vocabulary Tenses


    it helps you find out how the others are thinking

    I find it good practice when we have to find the mistakes.

    It is interesting to continue the topic and it activates your imagination

  • you have the chance to shareideas so you can continue more easilyit gives you the chance to thinkand connect different things from ideas that arent yours; It helps you think quicklyit makes you think of scenarios different from those you thought at first.

  • I like the unexpected writing of my partners.

  • The Examiners Hat

    Learner input



    Reducing anxiety


  • .5. Paul is employed by Sony, isnt he?


    1. Nobody asked me for my opinion of the ideath