Evaluating Your Students, A. Baxter, Richmond, 1997


Image source: Pixabay

Summary notes:

The traditional way to assess students has been through using tests. Testing has largely been aligned with scientific study – to administer a (placement) test, to make some changes (i.e., to teach), and to re-test (an end-of-course test). With this, if something is too difficult to measure, it hasn’t traditionally been tested (although newer ideas allow for forms of assessment and evaluation in the form of things such as student portfolios).

A good test is: valid, reliable, practical, has no negative backwash.

  • VALID – There are three types of validity:

content validity – Does the test test what was covered in class?

construct validity – Does the test test what it’s supposed to test and nothing else?

face validity – Does the test look like it’s testing what it is supposed to test from an initial glance?

  • RELIABLE – There are two areas of reliability:

test reliability – If you gave the same test to the same person, would the result be the same?

scorer reliability – Would two people come up with the same mark for the same test?

  • PRACTICAL – How practical is the test to administer?



direct testing – We ask the student to perform what we want to test (preferable).

indirect testing – We test things that give us an indication of a student’s performance (less preferable).

norm-referenced testing – When the results of a test compare students (a popular notion among state and exam board tests).

criteria-referenced testing – When test results tell you about what an individual student can do.

summative testing – Done at the end of a semester/year.

formative testing – Ongoing assessment that allows change to take place before the course is over.

congruent testing – This looks at the whole process before it starts so that any issues get resolved before a course is underway.

profiles/profiling and analytic mark schemes – A profile is not so much a score, but a reference to a set of descriptors of a person’s ability. A student might fall into a certain band. Some students will not have a flat profile.



A cloze test is a test in which words are deleted not according to what we want to test (as regular gap fills), but on a regular basis. Thus, every seventh word, or near enough, will be deleted. A variation on this is the C-test (first letter (elsewhere, literature says first half) of words given).

When to give assistance (i.e., provide clues/hints) depends on three testing problems:

  • When we are testing the students’ ability to transform something.
  • When we want to force the student to use a desired item.
  • When we want to put the same idea in each student’s head.



It is obvious that students don’t always learn everything we teach. On the other hand, it must also be true that they learn things we don’t teach.

If a student has a question about a text, this might mean that he/she may be ready to learn it. Baxter calls this the saliency effect. However, what is suddenly salient for one individual will probably not be salient for the whole class. Also, what the individual is ready to learn will probably not fit in with the teacher’s plan. If the teacher is practising skimming, and a student asks what a particular word means, the teacher would probably tell them the word wasn’t important because they are practising skim-reading.


The Reading Lists

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! Work in progress… ! The below list is separated into sub-lists by category. I’m working through one category at a time, starting with Testing & Assessment, followed by Phonology.

A hyperlink means there is a relevant post to this book on this site, as it’s a book that I have read.

R = Recommended minimum reading; an item NOT marked with ‘R’ might purely be because I haven’t read that title rather than it not being useful.


TESTING Alderson, J. (2000) Assessing Reading, CUP

TESTING Alderson, J.C., Clapham, C. and Wall, D. (1995) Language Test Construction and Evaluation, CUP

TESTING Bachman, L. and Palmer, A.S. (2010) Language Assessment in Practice, OUP

TESTING Bailey, K. (1988) Learning about Language Assessment, Newbury House

R TESTING Baxter, A. (1999) Evaluating Your Students, Richmond

TESTING Buck, G. (2001) Assessing Listening, CUP

TESTING Burgess, S. and Head, K. (2005) How to Teach for Exams, Longman

TESTING Carr, N.T. (2011) Designing and Analysing Language Tests, OUP

TESTING Carroll, B. and Hall, P. (1985) Make Your Own Language Tests, Pergamon

TESTING Cohen, A.D. (1994) Assessing Language Ability in the Classroom, Heinle

TESTING Coombe, C. et al. (2012) The Cambridge Guide to SLA Assessment, CUP

TESTING Coombe, C. (2018) An A to Z of Second Language Assessment: How Language Teachers Understand Assessment Concepts, British Council

TESTING Douglas Brown, H. and Abewickrama, P. (2010) Language Assessment: principles and Classroom Practices, Longman

TESTING Douglas, D. (2000) Assessing Language for Specific Purposes, CUP

TESTING Fulcher, G. (2010) Practical Language Testing, Hodder Education

TESTING Fulcher, G. and Davidson, F. (2007) Language Testing and Assessment, Routledge

TESTING Genesee, F. and Upshur, J.A. (1996) Classroom Based Evaluation, OUP

TESTING Green, A. (2014) Exploring Language Assessment and Testing, Routledge

TESTING Harris, M. and McCann, P. (1994) Assessment, Macmillan

TESTING Harrison, A. (1983) A Language Testing Handbook, Macmillan

TESTING Heaton, J.B. (1988) Writing English Language Tests, Longman

TESTING Heaton, J.B. (1990) Language Testing, MEP

R TESTING Hughes, A. (2002) Testing for Language Teachers, CUP

TESTING Jang, E.E. (2014) Testing: Focus on Assessment, OUP

TESTING Luoma, S. (2004) Assessing Speaking, CUP

TESTING Madsen, H.S. (1983) Techniques in Testing, OUP

TESTING Martyniuk, W. (2012) Aligning Tests with the CEFR, CUP

TESTING McKay, P. (2006) Assessing Young Language Learners, CUP

TESTING McNamara, T. (2000) Language Testing, OUP

TESTING Purpura, J.E. (2004) Assessing Grammar, CUP

TESTING Rea-Dickins, P. and Germaine, K. (1992) Evaluation, OUP

TESTING Underhill, N. (1987) Testing Spoken Language, CUP

TESTING Weigle, S.C. (2002) Assessing Writing, CUP

TESTING Weir, C. (1988) Communicative Language Testing, Prentice Hall

TESTING Weir, C. (1993) Understanding and Developing Language Tests, Prentice Hall

TESTING Weir, C.J. (2005) Language Testing and Evaluation, Palgrave

TESTING Weir, C.J. and Roberts, J. (1994) Evaluation in ELT, Blackwell


PHONOLOGY Bowen, T. and Marks, J. (1992) The Pronunciation Book, Longman
PHONOLOGY Bradford, B. (1998) Intonation in Context, CUP
PHONOLOGY Brazil, D. (1997) The Communicative Value of Intonation in English, CUP
PHONOLOGY Brazil, D., Coulthard, C. and Johns, T. (1980) Discourse Intonation and Language Teaching, CUP
PHONOLOGY Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D.M. and Goodwin J.M. () Teaching Pronunciation,
PHONOLOGY Dalton and Seidlhofer (1994) Pronunciation, OUP
PHONOLOGY Fitzpatrick, F.A. (1995) Teacher’s Guide to Practical Pronunciation, Phoenix ELT
PHONOLOGY Gilbert, J.B. () Teaching Pronunciation, Using the Prosody Pyramid, CUP
PHONOLOGY Jenkins, J. (2000) The Phonology of English as an International Language
PHONOLOGY Kelly, G. (2000) How to Teach Pronunciation, Longman
PHONOLOGY Kenworthy, J. (1987) Teaching English Pronunciation, Longman
PHONOLOGY Kreidler, The Pronunciation of English: A Course Book, Blackwell
PHONOLOGY Marks, J. (2012) The Pronunciation Book, Peaslake Delta
PHONOLOGY McCarthy, P. () The Teaching of Pronunciation, CUP
PHONOLOGY Pennington, () English Phonology for Language Teachers, Longman
PHONOLOGY Roach, P. (2000) English Phonetics and Phonology, CUP
PHONOLOGY Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations, Macmillan
PHONOLOGY Wells, J.C. (2006) English Intonation, CUP

Approaches and Methods in English Language Education


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Well… It might take me a few more years to get through my entire reading list in preparation for a Cambridge DELTA course, but I’ve at least made a start by going over the books dealing with the history of language teaching approaches, and below is the resulting chronological summary. If this summary is of use to anyone else preparing for the DELTA, please feel free to make use of it.

What becomes noticeable about the history of English language education is the influence that was exerted by French and German scholars around the turn of the 20th century.

Useful references: Stern (1983) Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching; Richards & Rogers (1986), Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching; Kelly (1969) 25 Centuries of Language Teaching

Stern: We should distinguish between the history of ideas on language teaching and the development of practice.


Middle Ages – Learning from books and focus on literary study emerged; at this time, England was trilingual: French (royal court, nobility, legal system), English (lower classes), Latin (scholars)

17th, 18th, 19th C – The ability to read and translate classical texts gave rise to the ‘grammar-translation’ method (first known in US as ‘Prussian Method’ because of German roots – e.g., Ploetz and Seidenstuecker); reading & writing paramount; sporadic anti GTs, e.g., Comenius – practice is all-important; learning grammar rules is not important

19th C – Series Method (variation of Direct Method)– Gouin: lang should be used to talk about experience rather than memorizing random word lists

1878 – First Berlitz school opened in Providence, Rhode Island [links: Direct Method – speaking & listening important]

1883 – Foundation of the Modern Language Association of America

1886 – Foundation of the International Phonetic Association; IPA felt that studying other languages should begin with the drilling of sounds (re. creation of International Phonetic Alphabet), followed by the study of everyday spoken language not formal literature

1892 – Foundation of the Modern Language Association (UK)

Early 20th C – Grammar-translation persisted; the ‘nature vs nurture’ study of children emerged and the Direct Method (or ‘Natural Method’ or ‘Reform Method’) arose in opposition to GT (inductive approach to grammar; Q&A based on a text; realia; role play; importance of pron – the first lang should be abandoned as the frame of reference) [links: Situational Language Teaching and TPR and Berlitz Method]; DM criticized for lacking a rigorous theoretical basis, and conversation practice considered impractical in schools with large classes

1904 – Jesperson, How to Teach a Foreign Language

1906 – Saussaure delivers the first tertiary linguistics course in Geneva; ‘langue’ vs. ‘parole’

1917 – Palmer, The Scientific Study and Teaching of Languages; Palmer = ‘father of British applied ling’, started as a Berlitz teacher

1920s & 1930s – Piaget’s theory of cognitive development – learning by interaction and scaffolding with an adult

1920s & 1930s – Situational Language Teaching, led by Palmer and Hornby; attempted to develop a more scientific foundation for the Direct Method; vocab and reading important; grammar was classified into sentence patterns (= substitution tables) and taught inductively; SLT coexists with the Oral Approach (teaching begins with the spoken language; new language points are introduced and practiced situationally; chorus repetition; dictation; drills; pair practice; visual aids)

1923-1927 – Ogden & Richards, Basic English – an attempt to simplify/rationalize language learning problems

1929 – Coleman The Teaching of Modern Foreign Languages in the United States. (= The Coleman Report); the recommendation that the primary objective of language teaching should be reading fluency = Reading Method

1933 – Bloomfield, Language – American structuralism: linguistics should be an empirical, descriptive science [links: Audiolingual, Silent Way, TPR embody structuralist view]

1939 – University of Michigan started the first English language institute in the US

WWII – had a huge impact on modern language study with large-scale migration and deployment of military; language study should now be delivered to the masses not just scholarly elite (through e.g., ‘language labs’ and Audiolingual Method – pattern drills; dialogs; intensive study; speech at core, but mastery of grammatical structures important; reflects behaviorism and habit learning)

1950s – Neo-Firthian Theory – UK-based – language must be understood in context of culture and meaning (re. anthropology)

1951 – Centre d’Etude du Francais Elementaire (CREDIF) established to counteract the falling global status of French

1953 – West, A General Service List of English Words and Hornby, Gatenby, Wakefield, The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English – standard references for developing learning materials

1954 – Hornby, Guide to Patterns & Usage in English – another standard reference for developing learning materials

1957 – Skinner, Verbal Behaviour – anti-systems; account for language learning through observable events; language learning is developed just as other human behavior is developed – i.e., through habits – stimulus > response > reinforcement

1957 – Chomsky, Syntactic Structures – anti-behaviorist: need to understand the system of rules ‘in’ a learner; Chomsky argued that behaviorist theory was inadequate for explaining creative language use; an innate language acquisition device (LAD)

1958 – Experiment in a British grammar school with an audiovisual language course (Ingram and Mace 1959)

1959 – Penfield & Roberts, Speech and Brain Mechanisms – explained critical period hypothesis (if language acquisition does not occur by puberty, full mastery of a language is not possible)

1960s – Focus on the learner as an individual; re. sociolinguists and the ‘speech community’

1960s – Pimsleur Method – dialog-based translation; instruction starts in learner’s L1; Pimsleur Lang Aptitude Battery (PLAB)

1963 – Anthony, defined approach (assumptions about lang), method (theory put into practice), and technique (implementation)

1965 onward – French immersion in Canadian schools started

1965 – Transformative generative grammar – led by Chomsky who (based on Humboldt) asked what linguistic knowledge must be presupposed in a native speaker to be able to produce and interpret sentences; TGG is a rule-governed system

1966 – TESOL Association (USA) founded

1968 – Bilingual Education Act (USA)

1970s – Reactions against the ‘method concept’: The Silent Way (Gattegno), Community Language Learning (Curran), Suggestopedia (Lozanov); a shift from methods to objectives, with attention on syllabus design (re. Allen, Candlin, Corder, Widdowson, Wilkens)

1970s – Communicative Language Teaching arose in UK – essentially integration of grammatical and functional teaching with learner-centered focus; language is a system for the expression of meaning

1970s – Asher’s TPR – adult language acquisition should parallel child first lang acquisition; develop comprehension skills first (aka Comprehension Approach); nonabstractions – e.g., imperatives – can be taught first by actions; stimulus-response view; draws in psychology findings around right-brain learning of motor movement

1970s – Gattegno’s Silent Way – Cuisenaire rods; learner should discover or create and solve problems rather than repeat – discovery learning similar to child development; early learning focuses on pron using Fidel charts; teacher should be silent

1970s – Curran’s Community Language Learning – learner-centered; learners ‘overhear’ others; the learner tells the knower what they want to say, and the knower tells them how to say it; focus on oral proficiency; learners become members of a community; echoes child learning

1972 – ‘Communicative competence’ was first used by Hymes (1972) (in contrast to Chomsky’s ‘linguistic competence’) to reflect the social view of language

1975 – Publication of the Threshold Level syllabuses (van Ek 1975) – forerunner to CEFR

1976 – Wilkins Notional Syllabuses – notional-functional approaches to language learning; in the functional view, language is a vehicle for the expression of functional meaning; a notional syllabus would not only include grammar, but also specify the topics, notions, and concepts the learner needs to communicate about; criticized for idea of merely replacing one item (grammar) with another (a notion/function) and is too simplistic [links: Communicative Language Teaching]

1978 – Widdowson – teaching a second language as communication rather than a system

1980s – Krashen’s ideas (e.g., Monitor theoryinput hypothesisnatural order hypothesisaffective filter hypothesis)

1980s – Terrell and Krashen’s Natural Approach – communication is primary focus; unlike Direct Method/Natural Method, places less emphasis on teacher monologues and accuracy; emphasis is on input/exposure (I + 1 input hypothesis) before re-producing the language; more about acquisition rather than structure – acquisition is the ‘natural’ way, whereas ‘learning’ is a conscious act

1980s – Lozanov’s Suggestopedia (similar to ‘Superlearning’) – utilizes Baroque music, classroom décor to maximize memory capacity; learners detach themselves from the past, like infant learners; teacher reads texts with varied delivery to help aid retention; 30 days of study, 12 learners, sitting in a circle

1980s – Prabhu’s Task-based learning (task-based instruction) – notion of ‘authentic’ lang to do meaningful tasks; assessment is based on outcome rather than accuracy; learners don’t necessarily need ‘language’ problems to learn a language

1990s – Ray’s Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling – a variation of TPR

Flashy Flashcards


Image source: myself

I’m aware that for Delta Module 1 you need to be sure of a lot of terms and definitions and provide examples of them, so I thought I’d follow in Sandy Millin’s footsteps to get myself a set of flashcards. I ordered a set of 100 from Amazon (although the rate I’m going, I’m reckoning I’m going to need at least 200). Sandy does it better than me in that she provides the terms on one side, and then a definition, example, and further info on the back. I’ve got my ‘testing and assessment’ set done as that’s where I’m at with reading at the moment, and I feel I’ve ended up with sometimes a not overly clear or lengthy explanation of terms, and I haven’t included examples, as I’m going to venture to wing those on the spot.

Now I’ve got to learn to become dedicated to actually using these flashcards…

Sandy mentions using Quizlet, which is an app to make your own digital flashcards. I personally like to do revision with old-fashioned pen and paper, as looking at bright screens and holding a device for long periods of time feels uncomfortable, and I find that not as much goes in if I’m trying to review terms or read from a screen.

Crikes! How to Buy All the Books?


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Good question.

There is NO official set reading list for the Cambridge Delta. My Delta ‘longlist’ currently has some 300 book titles on it. I amalgamated several course provider lists to make my own list, but I’m already sensing that I won’t need to read all 300 books to be able to get the content that I need for the Delta Module 1 test, or even the entire course.

Problem 1:

If you were taking all three Delta modules in the space of just twelve weeks, there is no way you could do the reading list justice unless you had a genius-level super-memory.

Problem 2:

Cost. Imagine that each book cost averaged 10 GBP. That would mean a theoretical 2,500 GBP spent on the reading list if you attempted to buy ALL 300 books yourself.

Now, having been in teaching for nearly twenty years at this point, I have already accumulated a lot of the ‘classics’. These classics, as it were – such as the Richards and Rogers’s Approaches and Methods – are still very much the staple of most Delta reading lists. In fact, glancing through the reading lists, most books were published in the 1990s. Have things not moved on that much? It wouldn’t seem like a huge amount, certainly not in the general terminology needed for Module 1. Therefore, some of my purchasing (and reading – but it’s too rusty to rely on) is already done, but I still only have about 50 titles on my longlist of 250+.


So where to get the rest? Here is how I got my books so far, and how I will get any future books:

Amazon, eBay, Gumtree:

The likes of Amazon definitely help when sourcing used books at reduced prices (some of the titles I’ve bought were priced at only 1 GBP), although don’t forget to try and support the independent retailers and charity bookstores on the high street first. Especially around big universities, charity stores can stock a lot of used academic reading list titles.

Other teachers:

Have any of your pals already got the books? Are they willing to lend them to you? Have you asked around on online ELT forums if other teachers have unwanted books?

Your school:

If you are studying for your Delta on-site at an institution, they are sure to have a lot of their recommended reading titles.

If you are teaching at an institution, look around the shelves of your school and ask the managers if there are any boxes of old books lurking around in the basement (I once got a few this way after a nearby retired teacher was moving house and who thought that the best place to take all his old ELT books was to our school).


Don’t forget ye olde library. These days, a lot of titles can be accessed electronically, so no more being on wait lists, dubious stains on books, or going back to and fro in person.


If you’re doing a stint working with an ELT publisher, they can often have shelf loads of titles, and if you’re working for them freelance, say, as an author, you can request some books from them as part of your research.

Some publisher websites will have PDF samples of their books available for anyone to download. A chapter or so is better than nothing.


A word about ‘Sharing’ websites:

There are several such sites out there which shockingly have just about everything on them. I mean whole ELT books. Coming from a publishing background, I really don’t support sites which are filled with PDF downloads of commercial titles, and if I happen to be working with a publisher while I come across one of their titles on these ‘free-sharing’ sites, I will let the publisher know. ‘Sharing’ in this way is denying authors of royalty and denying publishers from raking back on their heavy investment in producing a book. However, despite my avid support for publishers, I am going to confess here that I have sourced a couple of books through such sites that are out of print and unavailable elsewhere.


And where is my reading list?

I will be providing reading lists later on, as the list needs a bit of filtering work. My list is organized into several areas: Grammar, Testing, Phonology, Approaches, the ‘four’ skills, Lexis, and Discourse.