Focus on Assessment
Eunice Eunhee Jang
OUP 2014

This book is part of the Oxford Key Concepts for the Language Classroom series, edited by Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada. The series aims to make research topics which are relevant to second language teachers more accessible. It is designed primarily for teachers of English in primary- and secondary-level contexts.  

Focus on Assessment centres on reminding teachers of the pedagogical purpose of language assessment and using the results of assessment to plan future lessons and help improve student learning. The research discussed aims to guide teachers in their planning, activities and assessment of their learners’ progress.  

The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 begins by laying the foundations for the reader in terms of the uses and purposes of assessment. The author highlights that for effective teachers, assessment is an integral part of their teaching and not just an add-on.  

Chapter 2 discusses the theories of language development and the academic language proficiency that is expected of school-aged learners. It also gives details of research that explores the students’ language development in content-based instruction.  

Chapter 3 focuses on assessing young language learners and discusses the assessment approaches and issues that are associated with them, while Chapter 4 is dedicated to the principles of assessing adolescent language learners.  

The final chapter provides a summary of the main points discussed in the previous chapters. It also invites you to reflect on your own ideas about issues raised in the book.  

Each chapter contains Classroom Snapshots which are authentic classroom situations and interactions between teachers and students, or students and their peers. Each snapshot is accompanied by questions or key concepts to reflect on while reading.  

There are also Activities in each chapter which provide the reader with the opportunity to reflect or to have more in-depth discussions with colleagues.  

The Spotlight Studies give details and results of case studies which guide the reader in different approaches to help them make decisions on the best assessment methods for their own context.  

What I most enjoyed about this book were the Activities and the Classroom Snapshots because they got me thinking and reflecting on my own practice, and allowed me to make the material relevant to my own situation.  

At the beginning, you are invited to complete a questionnaire to raise your awareness of key issues surrounding assessment and what your opinions are. In the final chapter, the author invites you to revisit the questionnaire, having read through the research, to see if your opinions have changed. The book closes with the author giving her responses to the same questions and offering some suggestions for further reading.  

This book is quite academic and text heavy, but the Glossary is a very clear and useful guide to new terminology that arises over the course of Chapters 1 to 4. Focus on Assessment also gives plenty of opportunities to reflect on examples, case studies and your own practice, which keeps you engaged throughout. 

Although the book is aimed at language teachers at primary and secondary level, I would recommend it to anyone seeking to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the purpose, use and methods of assessment, which in turn will allow them to provide their learners with more meaningful assessment and a better overall learning experience. 

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