December 2007
Volume 11, Number 3

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Current Approaches to Assessment in Self-Access Language Learning

Hayo Reinders
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Noemí Lázaro
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain


Assessment is generally seen as one of the key challenges in the field of self-access learning (Gardner & Miller, 1999; Champagne et al., 2001; Lai, 2001; Kinoshita Thomson, 1996). Many researchers and practitioners point to difficulties with assessing language gains in an environment in which variables cannot comprehensively be controlled for. Furthermore, assessing the development of learning gains, such as the ability to plan and manage independent learning or to approach a learning task strategically (a key aim of self-access learning) relies on underdeveloped methodologies and assessment tools.

This article reports on a study of current approaches to assessment in self-access in 46 centres in 5 countries (Germany , Hong Kong , New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland). These centres were visited and extensive interviews were conducted with their managers. The interviews were based on a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of each centre. Data from the interviews were analysed to identify current assessment practice. It was found that more than half of all centres conducted no form of assessment at all. The remaining centres showed a wide range of assessment measures such as self-assessment, which was the most common type of assessment, collaborative assessment with advisor, external examinations and tests, teacher assessment, advisor assessment, peer evaluation and assessment through a panel. There was little evidence of a consistent approach to assessment in the centres, and its application seemed haphazard. There was no evidence that the instruments were checked for validity or reliability.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, asessment, self-access

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