Review – A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners (Keith Folse)

Keith Folse’s A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners is an aptly-named resource for teachers who seek to become more comfortable assessing the English-language skills of students for whom English is a second or other language. Every activity and test is presented in such a way that it can easily be implemented in the classroom; the theory presented is a supplement to, rather than a replacement of, practical instruction. Coombe, Folse, and Hubley emphasize the following criteria for developing effective assessments when working with ESOL students: usefulness, validity, reliability, practicality, washback, authenticity, transparency, and security.

A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners is divided into ten chapters, which are logically arranged and organized in a way that teachers will appreciate both for the quality of the content and the ease with which information can be accessed. Separate chapters are devoted to assessing students’ skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking English. Depending on what a teacher needs at any given time, he or she may find that only one or two of these chapters will serve the purpose at hand. Indeed, each chapter could stand alone as a useful resource for teachers who seek information on assessment of specific language skills, or the techniques described therein can be combined if that is what is called for. This contributes to the flexibility of A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners, which teachers can adapt for their own purposes to best suit the courses they are teaching and the students they seek to help.

Placement testing, including the commonly-used tests TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment), is covered in A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners, as are test-taking strategies for students preparing for such examinations. At the end of each chapter is a list of “Ten Things to Remember,” which is very helpful for reiterating and summarizing key points. For teachers who are looking for information quickly, this is a handy tool to find answers to pressing questions, more detailed explanations of which can of course be located within the preceding chapter.

Using A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners, teachers can develop strategies for both creating and using effective evaluative tools. As promised by the title, it is written with a straightforward, no-nonsense style that includes insightful observations and useful tests and activities that can easily be used in the classroom.

Michael Ortiz

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