Sunday, October 21, 2007

iBT TOEFL ~ reflecting authenticity...3

Topic: Purposes and Types of Language Test Date: 20 January 2007 11:54 AM
Subject: iBT TOEFL ~ reflecting authenticity... Author: Mondy, Steven

I can see the value of providing a goal to work towards and providing tasks that will not only develop their abilities to take the test, but through some kind of ‘osmosis’ process in learning, pick up some of the TL (target language). However, this defeats one of the main purposes of an evaluation tool, and it then becomes something else ~ as I said before, a tool to prescribe what some group in society thinks is needed. Isn't it dangerous, and at cross- purposes with ‘authenticity’ to do so? "They need to be able to fulfill certain requirements to succeed in a course," you may ask. Yes they do, and is that the purpose of this kind of test? What is the TOEFL and TOEIC trying to be?
1. A proficiency test (ability in language regardless of ability),
2. or achievement test (how much individuals have been achieving goals of program)
3. or diagnostic test (identify learners' strengths and weaknesses)
4. or placement test (getting info to help position an individuals in a certain place)?
(Hughes, 2005)
Which is the TOEFL or TOEIC, really? In Japan, the TOEIC seems to operate as a placement test for climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder. High score and you get the promotion! TOEFL is closer to the ideals of the proficiency test. And with the new changes is heading towards a closer connection to the real world, and authenticity.
You ask who really cares whether or not they are good speakers? Well, maybe no one does, except the individual who is trying out for the test. Many of my students are still under the illusion that a good score on either of these tests correlates with a good ability in the TL. Probably with the revised TOEFL, they may be right!??? So, do we head down the path of teaching to the test or do we maintain our determination to help these individuals with learning the target language? I think I’ll let you decided on that one for yourself. As for me, I’m still sitting on the fence…

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