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Author Topic: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?  (Read 619 times)

Offline ithinkinailedit

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There's a scary amount of tension in my office this week due to the English exams being graded. I've worked in two public middle schools within the last four years, and the exams have ranged from absolutely ridiculous, to not so bad but still a potential grading nightmare. Korea isn't exactly a place that promotes thinking outside the box, and testing is no exception. Sure Koreans understand that English is a hell of a lot more flexible than Korean, but they don't apply that understanding to making test questions.  Once grading starts, I'm often the final word as to whether or not a student gets a question right or wrong. I do my best, but like most Americans I have very little background studying grammar. I think the biggest problem is that teachers insist on asking questions that have 1,000 potential answers. It's difficult to understand why, considering they've spent years and years specifically studying and teaching English grammar. So ultimately they're left with a massive amount of unique responses, and have to check each one. Some of the students who lived abroad are more fluent than the teachers, and their answers are often so advanced that they simply cause confusion. Some answers are grammatically correct but the meaning is wrong, and vice versa. Some students make sentences that sound like a mess at first, but can easily be correct in a specific context. And when the teachers don't understand the language enough to grade without having to do extensive research, you have a recipe for one, big mountain of stress. Anyways, I have very little pull at my school but I plan to suggest some new ideas before the next school year. At my last school I suggested more multiple choice questions, but my co teacher said "nope, too easy". I still think it should be done. What about the majority of the questions being multiple choice and a short essay at the end with a very specific, organized grading system? I've only just started to toss around ideas in my head, so I'd love to hear some input from fellow public school teachers. If you guys had some power or say in the testing, what would you change? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

« Last Edit: December 22, 2016, 10:24:07 AM by ithinkinailedit »

Offline tofusquare

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2016, 10:35:47 AM »
I used to have to do that at my first school, but my current school uses only multiple choice and do not even have a listening section.

When I taught elementary, there was a listening question that focused specifically on pronounciation errors. I thought it was a great question. I forget the exact words, but it was common errors that koreans make and just single words for options (one was grandfa)

I do think they should have to write sentences themselves, but in that case it seems impossible to have ONE correct answer.

This year when I made questions, my cot was telling me some of them are too easy, but they were questions the students were getting wrong over and over again despite going over it every class. When I'm able to make all the MC answer options, I think they could be difficult because I'm able to pick up on the subtle mistakes the students are making all the time such as using the wrong article or missing an s.

However, the first and foremost thing I would change is making the questions IN ENGLISH. I have never taken a test in a foreign language in my life that has the questions written for me in english.

Offline yeticorn

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2016, 11:30:15 AM »
I've done the essay thing at my last middle school. It seemed like a better representation of the student's abilities, but it was just a small portion of a larger test. However, the time it took to grade three hundred one-page essays should not be easily dismissed. It took me a week or so, doing in inbetween classes.

That said, the way the teachers had prepped the kids for this essay made it easier to grade. Basically they had to discuss their dream jobs. They were required to: state their dream job, how they hope to attain their dream job, and what they hope to do after their job is attained. They were required to write a paragraph on each, so it was easy to see which students tried to skim over or skip things. But I still graded grammar and for the general flow of their writing.

Basically it appealed to the kids because it had the structure of a Korean test. That is... do X Y Z = A+. But there was enough variability and room for creativity that even the kids who didn't perform well on traditional tests, or were incredibly fluent, could strut their stuff a bit. I'm not sure how the kids felt about it in the end, but I liked it.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2016, 02:09:55 PM by yeticorn »

Offline Aristocrat

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2016, 01:48:04 PM »
There's a scary amount of tension in my office this week due to the English exams being graded. I've worked in two public middle schools within the last four years, and the exams have ranged from absolutely ridiculous, to not so bad but still a potential grading nightmare. Korea isn't exactly a place that promotes thinking outside the box, and testing is no exception. Sure Koreans understand that English is a hell of a lot more flexible than Korean, but they don't apply that understanding to making test questions.  Once grading starts, I'm often the final word as to whether or not a student gets a question right or wrong. I do my best, but like most Americans I have very little background studying grammar. I think the biggest problem is that teachers insist on asking questions that have 1,000 potential answers. It's difficult to understand why, considering they've spent years and years specifically studying and teaching English grammar. So ultimately they're left with a massive amount of unique responses, and have to check each one. Some of the students who lived abroad are more fluent than the teachers, and their answers are often so advanced that they simply cause confusion. Some answers are grammatically correct but the meaning is wrong, and vice versa. Some students make sentences that sound like a mess at first, but can easily be correct in a specific context. And when the teachers don't understand the language enough to grade without having to do extensive research, you have a recipe for one, big mountain of stress. Anyways, I have very little pull at my school but I plan to suggest some new ideas before the next school year. At my last school I suggested more multiple choice questions, but my co teacher said "nope, too easy". I still think it should be done. What about the majority of the questions being multiple choice and a short essay at the end with a very specific, organized grading system? I've only just started to toss around ideas in my head, so I'd love to hear some input from fellow public school teachers. If you guys had some power or say in the testing, what would you change? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

The reason tests are set this way are based on the way things were and the way things are, from what I've heard.

- Back in the day, parents used to bribe teachers for marks, when answers were more open
  and left up to the teacher's discretion. In an attempt to curb this, tests became more
  'objective' and standardized.

- These days, the people who mark and create the tests (Korean English teachers), simply
   aren't proficient enough in English to be able to mark an open-ended question or essay...
   they're all too well aware of this, which is why they'll never protest to have it changed.

If you've lived here long enough you'll know that very few places are more resistant to change than SK, even if the change is in the best interests of everyone. Furthermore, the tests are tied into Korean culture and Confucianism, it's just the way things are.

Offline ithinkinailedit

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2016, 04:45:02 PM »
The reason tests are set this way are based on the way things were and the way things are, from what I've heard.

- Back in the day, parents used to bribe teachers for marks, when answers were more open
  and left up to the teacher's discretion. In an attempt to curb this, tests became more
  'objective' and standardized.

- These days, the people who mark and create the tests (Korean English teachers), simply
   aren't proficient enough in English to be able to mark an open-ended question or essay...
   they're all too well aware of this, which is why they'll never protest to have it changed.

If you've lived here long enough you'll know that very few places are more resistant to change than SK, even if the change is in the best interests of everyone. Furthermore, the tests are tied into Korean culture and Confucianism, it's just the way things are.
[/quote]

But the problem is that there are many "open-ended questions". If you look at the average public school test maybe half of the questions at most are multiple choice. The rest ask for the students to answer in complete sentences, which is a recipe for disaster as it allows for a billion possibilities. The teachers are indeed not proficient enough in English so often can't really confirm if the student is right or wrong. Students frequently return their tests in an attempt to protest their grades, sometimes with notes from hagwan teachers explaining grammar rules, printouts from the internet, etc. It's a mess.

Maybe essay grading is too much but having a listening and more multiple choice questions would definitely ease things up.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2016, 09:20:34 AM by ithinkinailedit »

Offline fishead

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2016, 09:35:29 AM »
 I would change nothing.
It perpetuates the cycle of Korean teachers using the Grammar Translation approach  therefore allowing waygooks to keep their jobs.

Offline yirj17

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Re: Public School Teachers: what would you change about the English tests?
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2016, 11:27:16 AM »
At my main school my coT asks me to check over the tests beforehand for errors. It's generally all multiple choice with a few short answer (full sentence) ones. Some are scrambled sentences. If I recall correctly, most of the questions are in Korean but I think a few were in English.

Once one of the scrambled sentences had two distinct possible answers, so I wrote both down. She asked me about it and I confirmed that more than one answer was possible. This seemed to distress her a little, but I told her if she wanted only one answer then she should rephrase the question.

 

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