On Testing

Assessment instruments like common assessments and formative tests that require memorization destroy our students’ sense of self-confidence in the language.

Who says that they have to learn it by a certain date, all at the same time? Some kids who process our instruction fast will do well on the test, some who process more slowly will need more time, more reps.

When the teacher assumes that the slow processor “didn’t study” or “is bad at languages” they are unknowingly hurting the student. Really the student is doing nothing wrong, but the teacher is very wrong and, just as bad or worse, teaching without any real knowledge of how language acquisition works.

Again, it is bad to grade a kid on how fast they process a language, which is completely out of the hands of everyone and everything associated with their language education except the unconscious mind, the true orchestrator of language acquisition, or as I like to say, the “chef” who makes the “soup”. 

So what happens when kids turn to memorizing lists for you in order to pass the class? They learn that in order to pass the class, they must memorize, which really flies in face of all the research and you know that. Whatever they “learn” is gone in a few weeks and you know that as well.

No wonder CI is not working in our schools. We’re using testing in a way that hurts our children’s progress, probably more in our subject than in all others. If we just trust that if they hear enough comprehensible input, whether it takes two weeks or two years, we will see them eventually acquire the word, and all will be well. 

To repeat that idea – they just need to hear the word while focusing on the message enough times and they will acquire the word. It’s not about how you teach them. 

So stop making kids dislike languages by forcing them to memorize as the only way to pass your class. They don’t like it and you don’t either.  Hook your CI language wagon up to the research and kiss the textbook goodbye. 

Don’t hook your CI wagon to the textbook because doing that will result in failure, as many CI hopefuls are now finding out. after doing it for a few years because their district or school requires them to teach according to sadly outdated curriculums that are so out of touch with the research that it makes me sneeze. 

Instead, invite your students into your classroom to be who they are and not whom you want them to be. 

Stop testing so much. Or you could keep testing and end up with very small classes in your upper level classes, as happens all the time with teachers who value test scores over their students’ innate ability to love learning a language. That is not good for your job security, which is another way to look at the whole thing.



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