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“Reaction Paper”

Subject: Language Assessment

Professor: Roxana Correa
Student: Andrés Hunter

Concepción, July 23th of 2010

Reaction Paper: Testing to Learn: A personal view of Language Testing

This article exposes an assessment issue which is not taken into

consideration at the moment of assessing student performance after taking major tests like
TOEFL or IELTS. Hence, Brian Tomlinson demonstrates the importance of “learning
validity” without excluding the concepts of reliability, fairness and validity mentioned in
this article. Learning validity could be understood as the opportunities that a test could
bring for test takers. Therefore, this author shows the importance of this concept providing
crucial ideas that supports it. In fact, learners can learn from the preparation for a test as
well as the developing opportunities for knowledge/skills they know or can do.
Unfortunately, this idea is very hard to achieve because of the influence of major test is not
only in the summative assessment preparation for them but also during the formative
assessment process. In fact, books associated with the assessment issue give useful
information of the tools and theory necessary for assessing correctly but they do not
mention the opportunities to learn while being assessed. This explained quoting Tomlinson
citing Alderson (2001) who said that the purpose of an assessment task is to collect relevant
information for purposes of making inferences or decisions about individuals” (p.42 ,
2005). Thus, Tomlinson proposes ideas of how incorporate learning opportunities for
preparing a test, during a test and from feedback. Firstly, it involves the use of similar
activities and situations in the test and also expending time reviewing and extending what
students know. Secondly, students can learn new vocabulary, knowledge and skills as they
are being tested, i.e. they learn skimming for the gist as they do an exercise. Finally,
feedback can be applied as a self one during a test; this can be done leaving an activity in
which they give feedback themselves.

Personally, this document evoked encountered feelings in my mind that I have to

describe. I admire the insight that Tomlinson has about the importance of what assessing
students should involve additionally to the fact of obtaining information of the assessed
person. This insight reaffirms a popular saying that is “life is a never-ending process of
learning” and as an educator it surprised me because the assessing instances are considered
as unpleasant events that are need for continuing learning. Unluckily, this particular
vantage point for improving learning demands to increase the teaching efforts to achieve
learning. In fact, the eight point of learning during a test indicates that students can learn
new topics by including them in tests as you assess them using the common activities and
exercises. This requires looking for texts that contain similar vocabulary (in terms of
complexity) and structures that could not confuse them. Also, there is a risk in the point 10
which tells that it is a good idea to test learners in pairs or groups, but it does not indicate
the fact that some students could rely over others who are better at the language, which is
something totally unfair. On the other hand, I think that the way in which this author
proposes for giving feedback is extremely useful. Indeed, giving students the criteria that
will be used for assessing them help students to prepare themselves focusing their efforts on
the aforementioned elements (the criteria). Additionally, I think that giving feedback to
students during and after a test not only help them to increase their learning but also
encourages them to continue making efforts to learn because they can see that there is
someone who cares about their language learning process. Lastly, I cannot finish this essay
saying that this is a worthless article or the other way around but what I can say is that it
will give new things to think about for teachers of English and also for teachers of other