Assessing students pronunciation fairly

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Assessing students pronunciation fairly

Unread postby RobJames » 13 Jan 2010, 08:01

HI Lucy,

Thank you so much for your help before.

REF - Assessing students objectively - Chinese students (English Majors), large classes (50-60)

I am teaching freshmen - 19 years old, in a private college in central China.

During my pronunciation classes I have to assess students with a test. However, I find the problem is that of time. I have to listen to each individual speak. Since classes are so big, I have to assess the students with just two/three minutes of time and assess them on pronunciation of various phonemes/words. I am not sure how to do this objectively. Since pronunciation can vary, but still be correct (due to American/English/Australian pronunciation) I am concerned of the best way to assess the students.

So what is the best way to assess pronunciation in a test. Assign a point for every word pronounced correctly? But even then it seems hard to assess what words are correct and what are not correct.

If you can give me any ideas I would be very grateful. Thanks Lucy!!

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Re: Assessing students pronunciation fairly

Unread postby Lucy » 16 Jan 2010, 19:09

Dear Rob,

First of all, do they all have to be tested during the same class? If not, focus on testing a few students in each lesson. Depending on the size of the class and discipline issues, you could also set students a task to do in groups. Go around spending some time with each group; that may help you get around all the students more quickly.

As for what you test, I would suggest focussing on the sounds that the Chinese generally find difficult to produce. This might be the distinction between “l” and “r”. Make a list of sounds that are difficult for them and you could give them a mark for getting one right. Remember to grade intonation and stress (including unstressed sounds or the schwa). Remember as well to give a mark for overall intelligibility. You could grade them out of ten, giving two marks for overall intelligibility, 2 marks for stress, 2 marks for intonation and 4 marks for sounds that you have identified as being difficult. Think carefully about how you would do it because it could become cumbersome. In any case, it is not a good idea to ask students to read something and to grade their pronunciation; pronunciation almost always sounds worse when reading aloud.

As for different accents (UK, US, NZ etc), that shouldn’t be an issue; you can mark everything as being right no matter what accent the students use.

All the best,


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