There are largely two ways of evaluating a student’s learning: formative assessment and summative assessment. Sometimes, strong students who appear to be doing well in class get a low mark in a summative assessment such as a mid-term test. It might be properly attributed to a lack of training in paying attention to instructions rather than not understanding the language tested on the paper. While summative assessments are important too, formative assessment can take place in our daily teaching. It doesn’t have to be formal evaluation that you have to set your mind to doing. It can be something as small as communicating each student’s strengths and improvements on any given day.
Course materials nowadays even come with self-evaluation sections with “Can-Do” statements, so I use them to give students opportunities to reflect on their achievements alongside my feedback on their understanding per unit or per target language, saying “You’ve got a full mark in this exercise! Well done!” “You’ve mastered ‘do/does’ now!”
On top of that, there is one thing I’ve been doing since I opened my school. Because most of my students come to class with their parents or guardians, I invite them all into the classroom and spend 10-20 minutes sharing with them how their kids did that day. Instead of giving vague comments like “Taro did really well today,” I’d be really specific in my feedback and say, “I see Taro completed a lot of assignments at home this week. He is now better at distinguishing ‘It’s/It isn’t’ in listening. I really appreciate his father working with him on his studies. His writing has improved, and he was able to correct his own mistakes!” Naturally, I say this with a lot of enthusiasm. To be able to provide detailed feedback, I always take a mental note of the moments when children shine. I do this on the spot or on the same day for the majority of students and when I don’t get to meet their parents, I use emails or a communication notebook.
Unlike tests in summative assessment that are one-sided and one-off, formative assessment needs to be utilized and developed together with students. Through interactions with students, the teacher find what students are capable of now and what they need to work on, suggest a course of action, and elicit students’ own interest. This process also enables the teacher to reflect on their own teaching and leads to them being able to improve their lessons even more.