Saturday, 6 February 2016

Assessing Reading Proficiency

Assessing Reading Proficiency

Reading ability is very difficult to assess accurately. In the communicative competence model,
a student's reading level is the level at which that student is able to use reading
to accomplish communication goals. This means that assessment of reading ability
needs to be correlated with purposes for reading.

Reading Aloud
A student's performance when reading aloud
is not a reliable indicator of that student's reading ability.
A student who is perfectly capable of understanding a given text when reading it silently
may stumble when asked to combine comprehension with word recognition and speaking ability 
in the way that reading aloud requires.
In addition, reading aloud is a task that students will rarely, if ever, need to do
outside of the classroom. As a method of assessment, therefore, it is not authentic:
It does not test a student's ability to use reading to accomplish a purpose or goal.
However, reading aloud can help a teacher assess whether a student is "seeing" word endings
and other grammatical features when reading. To use reading aloud for this purpose,
adopt the "read and look up" approach: Ask the student to read a sentence silently
one or more times, until comfortable with the content, then look up and tell you what it says.
This procedure allows the student to process the text, and lets you see the results
of that processing and know what elements, if any, the student is missing.

Comprehension Questions
Instructors often use comprehension questions to test whether students have understood
what they have read. In order to test comprehension appropriately, these questions need
to be coordinated with the purpose for reading. If the purpose is to find specific information, comprehension questions should focus on that information.
If the purpose is to understand an opinion and the arguments that support it,
comprehension questions should ask about those points.
In everyday reading situations, readers have a purpose for reading before they start.
That is, they know what comprehension questions they are going to need to answer
before they begin reading. To make reading assessment in the language classroom
more like reading outside of the classroom, therefore, allow students to review
the comprehension questions before they begin to read the test passage.

Finally, when the purpose for reading is enjoyment, comprehension questions
are beside the point. As a more authentic form of assessment, have students talk
or write about why they found the text enjoyable and interesting (or not).

Authentic Assessment
In order to provide authentic assessment of students' reading proficiency,
a post-listening activity must reflect the real-life uses to which students
might put information they have gained through reading.
It must have a purpose other than assessment
It must require students to demonstrate their level of reading comprehension
by completing some task
To develop authentic assessment activities, consider the type of response
that reading a particular selection would elicit in a non-classroom situation.
For example, after reading a weather report, one might decide what to wear the next day;
after reading a set of instructions, one might   repeat them to someone else;
after reading a short story, one might discuss the story line with friends.
Use this response type as a base for selecting appropriate post-reading tasks.
You can then develop a checklist or rubric that will allow you to evaluate
each student's comprehension of specific parts of the text.

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To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”    

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