LOA from a Teacher’s Perspective: Key Features in a Typical LOA Cycle

The three LOA frameworks we outlined earlier in this chapter naturally exhibit similarities and differences in terms of what they consider important to account for in their LOA approach. Taking a teacher’s perspective in this chapter, we chose to focus on some common threads: four aspects of the LOA process that we think cover the main LOA features discussed in these frameworks bur, more importantly, have the potential to exert the most impact on teachers’ understanding and successful implementation of LOA. These are: (a) integration of assessment for and of learning, (b) collecting evidence and record-keeping, (c) feedback, and (d) learner autonomy. We discuss each of these LOA aspects in turn and illustrate them with examples from classroom practice as provided by AR projects.

Integration of Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning

The alignment of assessment for and of learning is pivotal in the Jones and Saville (2016) framework. The model proposes an LOA cycle that attempts to align classroom-based learning objectives and assessments with standardized external assessments and international standards. Similarly, Carless (2007) contends that not only formative, but also sum- mative assessment can be learning-oriented, provided it incorporates the three LOA principles he proposed. In an LOA approach, meaningful integration of assessment with learning goes beyond the mere co-existence of the two in a course of study. It does not suffice to include assessment for learning tasks alongside teaching and to use performance on the assessment tasks to inform future learning. Assessment tasks truly become learning tasks if they share the same high-level learning objectives as the course of study, so there is no mismatch between classroom learning and assessment. Likewise, integration of assessment for learning (e.g., diagnostic assessments) and assessment of learning (e.g., proficiency tests) is typically achieved through their common link to the same external criterion (e.g., the CEFR), their alignment to the same high-level learning objectives set for the course, and their common construct (cf. Jones & Saville, 2016; Salamoura &c Unsworth, 2015). The AR projects discussed in this section looked into these issues.

Alignment of the Constructs of Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning

Pugh and Thomas (2016) noticed a discrepancy between the focus and constructs of the formative and summative tests2 used in the private EFL school they were working at. Weekly progress tests were used as formative assessments to evaluate the learning that had taken place that week and focused heavily on the assessment of grammar and vocabulary via discrete-item testing. Summative assessments took place at mid-term and end-of-term points and consisted of a combination of discrete grammar and vocabulary test items and productive skills testing.

Their intervention investigated the benefits of aligning the learning objectives of formative and summative assessments with the ultimate aim of improving the learning experience and student performance. The project involved an intervention group and a control group of ten preintermediate students each. Both groups received an initial writing and speaking test to provide baseline data about their writing and speaking. Whereas the control group would take a standard grammar and vocabulary weekly test, the intervention group would receive either a writing or a speaking test each week designed to match the specifications of the summative assessments.

Overall, the findings indicated that the greater focus on writing and speaking in the weekly formative tests of the intervention group had a positive impact on their performance in both the mid-term and end-of- term summative tests. In terms of writing, although both groups started from a similar level of ability and showed improvement, the intervention group outperformed the control group and showed greater improvement across the majority of the assessment criteria. Results from the speaking tests mirrored the improvements seen in writing for the intervention group. For example, in both writing and speaking, the intervention group displayed a higher use of grammatical structures and lexis studied during the course. In addition, Pugh and Thomas (ibid.) found that the intervention group gradually developed a higher awareness of their progress, more realistic expectations of what they could achieve in the summative assessments, and, in general, a more favorable attitude towards tests in comparison to the control group.

 
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