Again Barry leaves us with a lot of food for thought as Scott Thornbury did last IATEFL. Last year, Scott spoke about the history of ELT, while this year Sullivan spoke about the history of testing……. What an interesting correlation. Surprisingly, the history of testing this time went back to old Chinese ages to start with the first king, Gaw Zu from the Han Dynasty around 200 BC who decided to set up a system that could identify who are the decent people of his kingdom. The exam lasted three days, the results were announced publically which meant a lot to the people. This went on for many years.
On the other hand, in Europe the church held standardized education during the middle ages and visited China benefit from its system. This was late controlled by military forces. Years later, Oxford offered exams for gentlemen only until a man called Edwin Chadwick appeared in 1853 – 54 to introduce the concept of competitive exams. He was followed by Francis Galton (Darwin’s nephew) who introduced a different idea: psychometrics concept. Later on, Vilim Vunt appeared posing the question “What makes us think? At the same time, one of his followers called Kitchener said if we can identify the psychi or a person why can’t we measure them? Thus he invented the whole idea of “structuralism” which is to take a skill, break it into its components, you test each one and then bring it back to the skill. Unfortunately, Vunt disagreed with him.
Along the way, there appeared the SAT exam introduced by Edward J. Kelly, the first version of standardized tests. This was followed by Edward Thorndike who posed the idea of standardized “handwriting”. Then, the Courtis standard test appeared in 1914. Then, once more Fredrick J. Kelly introduced the “silent reading test” and came up with MCQs.
Time went by and by 1961 Banesh Hoffmann came to speak about “the tyranny of testing”. In the late 1920s Courtis Test sold about 13 million copies in the USA. From this we see that the industry of testing flourished within 15 years. Between 1913 and 1915, the Modern Language Association of Merryland made the decision that “assessing language in modern tests was impractical because there were too many people”. By 1942, the first machine to count scores appeared.
Meanwhile, Henry Swed proposed a system of learning languages called “The Direct Method” concerned with production based on Speaking and Writing. CPE then, appeared in 1913. After that the Americans went down to Psychological measurement route with ETS. While the British Council went down to production route.
A new collaboration took place in 1941 between the British Council and Cambridge University. In 1942, a British Council teacher suggested adding Speaking to the exam. In 1951, another teacher suggested using pair students and by 1953, a rating scale was added.
In 1964, TOEFL stepped forward with MCQ. In 1965 EPTB, English Placement Test Battery, was introduced by Alan Davis. Followed by Brandon Carold who proposed ELTS, English Language Testing Service, that cared about a broad understanding. Between 1989 and 1990, EAP exam appeared. The first significant test based on needs analysis. Finally, by mid 1990s, IELTS turned up. After that changes or developments took place for the TOEFL and IELTS and the points of view between the two sides started coming closer.
Here, then, Barry started stating a number of observations starting with the mid 1990s:
n People around the world became more professional
n Other tests appeared and are flourishing
n Language industry began to Fragment
n Reliability means consistency, but it doesn’t mean the test is good
n We need to have concepts of standards that develop locally and regionally
n In a successful system, Curriculum, Delivery and Assessment must be connected. They should be driven by standards.
n If you don’t have assessment, your system won’t work.
n Local doesn’t just mean my country. It actually means something different. It means ME at the individual level. That’s where education and assessment are moving. If there is no Assessment, there is no future.
n The future is technology driven. We have no choice. If we don’t
embrace what technology can do for us in terms of learning and assessment, then there is no future. It has to be human mediated.
Drucker said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. No one group can do it alone. We have to work together.
n We have to open the door for people who know technology
n We need to get younger people involved, otherwise we have no future.
Finally, Sullivan ended us with the following wrap up points, leaving us with a lot of food for thought and reflections
n Localization is critical. Everything should be locally appropriate.
n Personalization: everything is moving towards personalization. That’s the ultimate goal using technology.
n Technology: it is the delivery mechanism plus human interaction
n Collaboration: Everybody has got to work together because it we don’t, then we don’t get anywhere
If you have time, you can watch the Plenary on https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/living-tell-tale-a-history-language-testing
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