Assessing Speaking: Fluency or Accuracy? What do students think?
This group is formed by 4 college students and 1 high school student. They are taking the first semester of elementary level of New American Inside Out. The coursebook is composed of 8 units. After 4 units, there is a review lesson that focus on the typical CB design: grammar/vocabulary and skills (listening, reading, speaking, writing). The material is light enough to adapt despite of its flaws. At least at beginner and elementary level its easy to adapt the activities.
We’ve had this semester about 30 hours of classes (one meeting for 2 hours every week). Two of these students were my students last year and received 70 hours of instructions. S1 started to be more interested in English after he started the course, but S2 had always liked playing games, so he was familiar with English. S3 on the other hand had never taken a course or tried to speak in English, and at the age of 15 took a placement test and landed in our group. S4 is a young adult and has already graduated in college. Since the beginning, he tried to speak but rarely observed the language patterns presented in the book when doing speaking activities. He always expanded the speaking activity and tried to engage in a more natural conversation at the expense of appropriate use of vocabulary and acuracy. It won’t be surprising to read his opinion that fluency is more important than accuracy. S5 is a dedicated student in law school and his priority is college. He’s participative but not talkative in class. He told me that he likes learning when he has the time by repeating and repeating (rote learning).
1- How did you feel during the test?
2- What do you expect the outcome and feedback to be?
3- In a speaking assessment, what do you think it should be taken into account? What aspect do you think I should consider more when assessing?
4- What do you believe fluency to be?
5- Which one is more important, speak fluently or accurately?
* 6- Did preparing for the oral test by writing what you were going to say, receiving correction and feedback, then trying to talk about it and receive feedback on pronunciation help improve the test result?
I was anxious with the test. **I expect the feedback to be about where I need to improve. I think the aspects should be pronunciation, flow, the way we express ourselves. Fluency is when you communicate well. But I think both fluency and accuracy are important. I think what we did last week helped improve my test results.
I was nervous during the test. **I expect to get corrections, and feel that probably the test result will be ok. I think a good pronunciation should be taken into consideration. Fluency is when you have a good range of vocabulary and know how to use it. Then, you can talk about anything. I think when you speak accurately, you have a good fluency. I think what we did last week helped me improve for sure.
I was anxious. I expect to have an average grade because I started to feel nervous in the middle of the test. I think pronunciation and fluency should be taken into consideration. Fluency is being able to talk with easy and understand what others are saying. I think both fluency and accuracy are necessary. Speaking correctly helps to become fluent.
I felt comfortable with the test. I expect an average grade. Words being pronounced clearly, fluency and a logical presentation of ideas and facts. Fluency is keep the conversation flowing by keeping sentences in a logical sequence. I think ***fluency is more important. Yes, I think what we did last class helped to consolidate all we had been doing.
I felt like stammering and forgetful. I expect an average grade, or maybe even lower. I think pronunciation, how sentences are formed and context. Fluency is the capacity of forming an answer quickly by speaking and also understanding what you hear. I think both are important.
* S3 and S5 weren’t in the previous class, so they couldn’t answer question 6.
** The two students who has been studying with me for more than a year mentioned feedback while the others not knowing what to expect as this was their first formal oral assessment with, focused on their performance.
*** This is very interesting because he mentioned that he thought the book was really tiring with grammar exercises. Although NAIO doesn’t have much grammar explanation (if any it’s kept at the end of the CB which I never use but I show them it is there in case they do want to use it) and focus on getting learners to think about how language works and put into use straight away, he still finds it heavy in grammar. So, it’s interesting to see that learners who find both accuracy and fluency important, finding that the CB supplemented/adapted by the teacher attends their needs while for S4 any focus on grammar is not really useful.