English Language Teaching Language and Assessment Harmful Effects of Tests A Personal Experience

The application of testing goes beyond the field of education. In fact, testing is incorporated in certain fields like medicine, sports, drama, and criminal justice. Nowadays, it is a&nbsp. &nbsp.practice in important football contests to test players for drugs. In testing skills, a driving test is a must in almost every country to be eligible for driving. In the field of medicine, some countries require the bride and bridegroom to be tested for blood-related diseases and AIDS before they can officially get married.

In the academe, language testing serves two important functions, namely as a source of information for making decisions within the context of educational programs and as indicators of abilities that are of interest in research on language (Bachman 2008). In the field of language testing, we test either language elements ( including phonology, vocabulary, and grammar ) or language skills ( listening, speaking, reading and writing) (Heaton 1990). A test can have an effect on both learning and teaching and this is known as washback or backwash ( McNamara, 2008. Alsadat,2004. Prodromou, 1995 ). The washback can be negative or positive depending on whether or not it promotes the teaching and learning process.

Hughes (2003) argues that “too often, language tests have a harmful effect on teaching and learning, and fail to measure whatever it is they are intended to measure”. Thereafter, I will describe the nature of the tests I used to take and along with the washback of each test. It is important to point out that the educational context is similar for all tests viz teachers college. My experience there prepared me to be an English teacher in state schools. However, the nature of the tests was different which had an adverse effect that eventually influenced my English learning.

The educational context is the English department at teachers college in the small city of Hail, Saudi Arabia. The department aims to prepare undergraduates to serve as English teachers in state schools.