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Right Evaluation Methods to Keep Students Motivated

Right Evaluation Methods to Keep Students Motivated | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Many factors can impact students’ motivation such as social, psychological, educational, economical, etc. However, a teacher can still play an important role to keep the students motivated. In Afghanistan’s educational tradition, students are often compared to each other, and they are ranked based on tests and exams throughout the course. Additionally, the teacher corrects every student’s assignment. Notice the word “correct” has been used instead of “mark” or “assess.” The teacher will try to point out every single mistake or error. Having six years of English language teaching experience, plus observing my colleagues’ and students’ behaviour, and studying the methods of foreign language teaching , I have realized that teachers can considerably motivate their students by simply using the right evaluation methods, a teacher is able to make language learning experience interesting, enjoyable, and productive. The following evaluation techniques can be used to increase student motivation.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Zakir Z. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Success and Achievements

The first technique is to focus on success and achievement. When evaluating students’ performance, instead of looking at it with a critical eye, the teacher should examine the ways his students have been successful. This shift in point of view will change a self-centered teacher who is always worrying about his authority into a teacher with empathy and appreciation. In foreign language teaching, this shift is vital. If a teacher looks at his students’ performance over critically, he will never be satisfied because errors and imperfections are a sure part of learning a foreign language. However, if the teacher focuses on his students’ successes, he will be surprised to find how much they are learning and how hard they are trying. There will always be things for the teacher to be proud of. The benefits of focusing on successes and achievements are numerous. Such a focus can build rapport between teachers and students, help students develop positive self-esteem, make learning pleasant, and, finally, lead to greater effort and success. Showing appreciation of students makes it easier for students to like their teacher, and once that happens, they will take a liking to the subject. Of course, praise should never be overused, or it will lose its power. The teacher should be observant and give genuine, well-deserved praise inappropriate ways, keeping in mind the cultural values of the learners.

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The other vital method is using objectives-referenced testing. In the science of language testing, there are two types of measurement: norm-referenced and criterion-referenced (Bachman 1990). The former measures a student’s performance by comparing it to the performance of other students in the group (Bachman 1990:72– 74). The students are arranged along a continuum ranging from the first to the last, or from the best to the worst. The result is contrasting, ranking, and competition. Norm-referenced evaluation is like athletic competition in that prize winners are scarce. It is even worse: language learners are always competing with the same rivals because the groups of students in classes are usually fixed. There are harmful effects for both the good and the not-so-good students. The former might become conceited or sluggish, for their victories seem to be guaranteed owing to the ability gap between them and the others. The latter students will become silent and humble, lose interest and self-confidence, and eventually give up trying. So norm-referenced evaluation can motivate neither the better students nor the slower ones. Criterion-referenced evaluation measures a student’s performance by comparing it to a defined range of knowledge or skills (Bach- man 1990: 74–76). The students are evaluated according to standards, not each other. In classroom teaching, objectives-referenced evaluation relates students’ performance to instructional objectives for a specific course, lesson, or task (Henning 1987: 195). This form of criterion-referenced evaluation has clear advantages over the norm-referenced method. It gives all students a chance to succeed as long as they are attaining the teaching objectives. In the long run, students develop positive self-esteem and confidence and the ability to accurately judge their knowledge and skills. Objectives-referenced evaluation works well with essays. When marking an essay, a teacher does not just rank it outstanding or satisfactory in comparison with the other students’ essays and give a few comments based on a general impression. Instead, the teacher judges it according to how well the student has satisfied the objective(s) of that particular assignment. If, for example, the objective is to develop a topic with supporting details, then this is the standard by which the essay will be judged. The other features of the essay would be dealt with on other occasions or as other assignments. Objectives-referenced evaluation should be an integral part of the everyday teaching process because it evaluates teaching results by referring to instructional objectives laid down during the planning stage. A competent teacher will not only pace his teaching properly but also frequently check whether his teaching has been effective or not.

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Last but not the least, a skilled teacher tolerates differences. Every student is unique and differs from other students in such diverse aspects as his family, educational history, learning strategies, and aptitude for foreign language learning (Ellis 1994). To detect merits and achievements in each student, teachers should be aware of the differences and acknowledge them. Teachers need to evaluate students’ performance not only in light of their teaching objectives but also with due respect for each student’s individual situation.

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Finally, learning a foreign language is a long and complicated task. Learners need constant encouragement, and one of the best forms of encouragement comes from a sense of achievement and success. With a keen eye for achievement, an admiring eye for efforts, and a tolerant eye for differences and individuality, a skillful teacher can manage to enable the majority of his students to enjoy learning. A simple change in the way we evaluate them can yield tremendous results.

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