The word test has become extremely negative amongst teachers and I can understand why. I also tend to agree with the objections I hear towards the word.
Schools have become obsessed with testing and getting/giving results and scores. When inside a teacher´s room, you can feel the atmosphere getting tenser and tenser as the days become closer to the testing periods, which have become more and more frequent.
There has been much misunderstanding between the words testing and assessment.
A test should be used when you would like to examine someone's knowledge of something specific, to determine whether he/she knows the specific content of a determined subject, such as a grammar topic in teaching a foreign language. You test when you want to measure the level of knowledge that has been reached within a year or semester. It is a Polaroid (ancient) picture taken at certain time of year.
Assessment documents knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs. The main reason you will be assessing a student is to make improvements, not to simply judge or score. An assessment is a process. It is not stagnant as the Polaroid picture. You are able to analyse the process of your students’ communicative skills and understand the ways they learn best and the next steps that should be taken for them to be successful.
Unfortunately, teachers are testing much more than assessing. Therefore, they are teaching in order for students to pass tests, as the teachers themselves, are being judged upon their performance, having to show off perfect grades to the principals of the schools. However, when you ask the students what they have actually learned, they will smile with a big blank expression on their faces.
Assessments go beyond tests
Assessments are tremendously important instruments in education. I have no doubt about that. Unfortunately, they are being used for the wrong reasons. They are not being used to monitor student learning or to provide ongoing feedback to the students or even as a way for teachers to improve their teaching or by students to improve their learning.
The fixation on testing has made teachers and students lose their motivation for teaching and learning. Scores have become more important than skills. Teachers are wasting their precious time elaborating and correcting tests, when they should be focused on class planning and student involvement.
You should bear in mind that it is possible to assess your students everyday, without actually testing them. I am not saying that testing should be grounded for life, but definitely used less than it has been used in the classroom today.
Assessments help students build confidence in their ability to learn if done in the right manner. They can even motivate students and make it fun. They can build graphs comparing their growth in the past year, setting their own standards and goals, designing their own learning path.
However, being tested over and over again only for the sake of getting a grade does not motivate any student to learn. Nor does it give any teacher time to engage students in an interesting project, where they would have to use their higher order thinking skills to interact, research, give an opinion, build up their knowledge together with their colleagues, and present a final project using any kind of social media. For example, by trying to understand how glass is actually made and where it comes from, they can use the language itself without being tested for grammar.
More effort has to go into teaching/learning and not testing. Teachers need to be supported inside the classrooms doing what they know how to do instead of having to show results through testing. Shifting our view from test elaboration to teacher development is a successful starting point.