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Archived Content from Conference Held in May 2001 

Building on our Strengths:
Second International Conference on Language Teacher Education


Summary of Presentation:
"The Power of Tests over Teachers; The Power of Teachers over Tests"

Elana Shohamy, Tel-Aviv University · May 18, 2001

The act of language testing is not neutral; although not explicitly stated, language tests are often used in a 'top/down' manner as tools for defining language knowledge, implementing policies and gatekeeping unwanted groups (Shohamy, 2001). As part of this process teachers become the agents through whom such power and control is being exercised as teachers are the ones responsible for implementing the testing policies of central agencies with no power and authority to resist. This phenomenon is especially noticed in contexts where national and state-wide tests.

The paper will describe the above process, provide empirical data that will demonstrate its effects and impact on language teaching in the classroom. It will argue that the top down approach to testing is undemocratic and unethical as it treats teachers as agents for carrying out orders rather than as authoritative, professional decision makers. It will propose alternative assessment models which are driven by teachers, are based on pedagogical considerations and where tests and other assessment tools serve as devices for educational purposes in interactive, cooperative, democratic and constructive ways. It is thus in the power of teachers to turn tests into effective pedagogical tools that can empower teachers and improve language learning.


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