As English language teachers, we all know how important it is to design exams which efficiently assess our students’ competences in the performance of a given task.
Indeed, in the competitive exam, candidates have to show whether their assessment criteria, methods and types really measure the level to which their students have achieved the objectives set in their syllabi and how well those students have mastered the contents covered.
There are three conditions any assessment needs to meet for it to be considered of value, as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages specifically states in Chapter 9.
- Validity (ie, what is assessed is what should be assessed and the information gained is an accurate representation of the proficiency of the candidates concerned).
- Reliability (ie, the extent to which the result of what is being assessed consistently correlates in different situations)
- Feasibility (ie, the extent to which the assessment can be efficiently performed, both by the assessor and the person assessed.)
Choosing the best teachers
On 28th January I read in ABC that the president of Madrid Autonomous Region and the Education Secretary announced that there would be a public call for teachers within the framework of “the regional government’s commitment to go deeper into the improvement of the education system in Madrid”.
The article carries on to say that “the greater importance given to knowledge over interinidad” (I’ll come back to this term in a minute) […] ensures the selection of the best primary and secondary school teachers for the public education system in Madrid”.
I assume that what they mean by “interinidad” is not the definition found in the María Moliner, i.e. “Cualidad del que está en un cargo provisional. Situación de provisionalidad. Cargo o empleo provisional” for, if this is what they mean, I fail to understand the connection.
I imagine they are referring to the large group of teachers who went through a competitive exam last year, are now teaching in the state education system and:
- Passed the exam in 2014 but did not get a permanent position.
- Passed the exam in 2012, did not get then a permanent position and failed some part of the exam in 2014, or did not fail but did not get the permanent position either.
This does not seem much to do with the knowledge they have, for in some cases they passed the exam both years and so, according to the education authorities they have already proved they possess the knowledge. Or isn’t that what the exam is showing?
Choosing the best teachers, is it?
If somebody passes one year but fails the following it seems to me that one of the conditions for the assessment to be of value has not been met.
Let’s then analyse what the candidates are assessed on. In this post, the focus is on the list of themes.
Since the candidates have to write on one out of four topics chosen at random from the list of 69 topics in force for over 22 years, nothing much to object to this system other than perhaps the titles of the topics may be —at least in some cases— a bit outdated.
Typically, aspects such as good organisation, language richness and appropriacy, originality, relevance, bibliographic references and the like seem to be part of the assessment criteria.
What many members of the panels expect
I cannot claim to be talking on behalf of all the English teachers who have been or will be members of panels. I am in contact with a few English teachers, though, who have been or are considering to be part of them.
Their main reason for wanting to take part in the assessment of some of their peers and of some newly graduated candidates with no teaching experience is that they want to know first hand the ins and outs of the exam and, especially, to contribute their little bit to turning it into an objective assessment, one which truly selects the best teachers among many others who may also be good teachers but do not happen to be the best.
That’s what competitive exams are or should be about.
What they appreciate and value most is those essays which comply with the assessment criteria and do not repeat parrot-like the same words and the same examples as those used in the topics written by one academy or another, one trainer or another.
Those of you who are planning to take part in the competitive exam to opt for a permanent post in the state education system I would encourage to bear in mind Bloom’s taxonomy for mastery learning: recalling is only the first stage.
If you know about something, you are able to express it clearly for those who do not know much about the subject and to show those who do know about it that you know too.
What do you think?
Have you ever been or are planning to be a member of a panel? Do you agree or disagree? Do you want to make the system a fair one? Let’s hear your views, either privately or as a comment here.