Yes kids, it’s that time of the year when we start to see furrowed brows, even more Blackberry activity than normal, pained facial expressions and we try to think of new and ingenious ways to avoid answering questions.
Last week in my Dogme-style class, I decided that it might be a good idea to throw the whole testing system wide open and let my students decide on the form of testing they would like for their reading, writing, listening and grammar exams.
Initially I felt like my students we a bit spooked by being asked for their input and after some uncomfortable paper shuffling and shoe-gazing, we decided on the following:
Grammar and vocab: an oral-style exam where each student would prepare a 1-minute topic to talk about and try to use as many of the language points covered that year as possible.
Reading and listening: many options discussed and all eventually rejected… we ended up going back to the IELTS-style tests they’d had for the mid-years.
Writing: topics of their choice, and again, trying to use as much of the language we have seen this year as they can.
Ok. So far so good. Then we got onto the scoring… one student suggested that we have the marks based on a class average, i.e. that the students all got the same mark based on their overall performance. Cue twenty minutes of debate.
Some students thought this was fair in a liberal, quasi-Marxist way, while others felt they wanted their own marks based on their own performance, or how were they going to know how much they had (hadn’t) improved over the year?
We let this hang.
Right, so far, so good (ish). Next class – all change. They decided that the abovementioned system for writing and grammar would be too complicated and they wanted the classic FCE-style writing choices and the good ol’ grammar gapfills.
In yesterday’s class I made a joke about the mood-change, only to be told that it was my fault for not just telling them what to do in the first place. And you know what? I think they had a point…
We hear a lot about the “ideal” teacher’s role being that of “facilitator” and about making the class student centred, but for us, this just didn’t work on this occasion.
I feel that if I’d stuck to my guns and justified the original testing system from the outset, none of this would have happened (wooo – third conditional). But then, at least it was them who made the choice, right?
Are students ready for control to be handed over to them? Perhaps we’ve some way to go yet…