Teachers face the task of evaluating linguistic competence of their pupils every now and then. Assessing linguistic competence of pupils has become an important issue that language teachers need to take seriously. Teachers must therefore know their pupils level of proficiency to develop ways of instructing them appropriately (Kennedy, 2010). Organizations that desire to0 improve language competency have proposed that a linguistic competence indicator be developed. There has been an effort to have a one set standard, used when making comparisons on language competency of different pupils hence enabling making of necessary adjustments where possible. Much progress towards this noble cause has been made. Language assessment falls in the field of applied linguistics (Chimpololo, 2010). It focuses on the assessment of the first, second or other languages in learning institutions or in the work place. The assessment normally includes speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills.
One of the proven methods that when applied produce success is the use of proper curriculum and assessment of pupils taking languages. For instance, in many developing nations that learn English as foreign language, there is no clear guideline on how to teach this language. The curriculum is not assessed thus measurement of pupils progress is hampered. The role of assessment in teaching of any language cannot be over emphasized, for there to be clear and reliable information on a child's progress (Borg, 1981). Research shows that for there to be success in the teaching of languages, teachers must take curriculum and assessment seriously. After analyzing the progress how the pupils are progressing, that is when teachers can modify the teaching approaches. Analysis of progress can be either formal or informal. Appropriate curriculum material should be used in order to have the desired results.
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Other methods that have proved to be successful include the following: use of standardized assessment tools, these tests the proficiency or practical use of the language and the knowledge or theoretical understanding. Teachers should devise goals based on the curriculum. They should be able to motivate pupils, supervise them and evaluate in accordance to these goals. This should involve drafting the teaching plans with the pupil's ability in mind. The teachers' should know the background of the pupils since it greatly affects linguistic abilities of pupils. They should also consider the pupils interest and include including pupils participation especially in planning or organization of teaching (Paulston, 1988). The ideas that the pupils suggest the knowledge of various languages and the skills should be used as a resource. The pupils must also be encouraged to create interest in the learning process. Use of the targeted language in the learning environment enables the children to spontaneously master the language.
Development and use of learning aids is also a necessary tool that can be incorporated in the learning process. Developing use of ICT as part of the tools used in teaching languages will improve the pupils' interest in the learning process (Chimpololo, 2010). Teachers should therefore put effort in evaluating opportunities, which might be available for use of ICT in teaching languages. Use of ICT encourages accessing of information stored in a variety of ways. Activities, which motivate communication not only in languages but also in all subjects, should be created. Since most pupils come from different backgrounds, multicultural perspective needs to be included when preparing and planning the teaching methods (Chimpololo, 2010). Images, singing, art, music from the given languages need to be included in the learning process. This will make learning process will make it more enjoyable for the children. Use of poetry and literary skills will give the learning process the required positive experiences, the pupils will learn more and be able to retain even much more. With all this and the teacher being the best language model for the pupils, evaluating the pupil's language competence will be simplified.
Another method of evaluating pupil's language competence is use of continuous assessment test (CAT) (Chimpololo, 2010). The method has proved to be effective. The CATs provide feedback that is required in order the pupils to benefit wholly. CATs acts as evidence and can be used in making decisions on the areas that require improvement. Language competence is best evaluated if there is evidence, which can guide the teachers when they are making decisions. The importance of the CATs cannot be over emphasized (Estacion, et al. 2004). In fact teachers believe that it is the best method of evaluating the pupil's language competence. The only setback has been the approach used or the methods of applying these CATs. The CATs are normally given to the pupils in the middle or the end of the term or academic year. Once one of the pupils asked me why they should learn a language for nearly three months after which they are given a two hours paper to test how much they know the language (Davison, & Dowson, 2003). The same question has bothered teachers for a very long time. Would the short test adequately determine how much the learner has mastered the given language? Education policy makers say that though the method can be used to assess how much a pupil has learned the language, other methods should also be used to come up with comprehensive results.
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The ministry of education has also passed a directive that when evaluating the pupil's language competence; more than one method should be applied. Use of CATs should be accompanied by another method like, use of standardized assessment tools or verbal tests. This is where a pupil is tested on the general knowledge of the particular language verbally. Educational policy makers view CATs as good measures of evaluating the pupil's language competence quality. They have endorsed it since it offers the best methodology for gauging understanding of language and improvement of success in linguistics.