Alternative Methods of Assessment


Who has not experienced it? The end of the semester draws near and the stress of the final exams begin: One exam follows another and you desperately try to find the class notes from previous months. And when you eventually find them, you cannot learn it all by heart and as if that is not already enough, translation exams are also coming up. Does this sound familiar? Thank goodness, by now there are new, somewhat revolutionary methods for assessing student's achievements.

Some of these will be presented on this page.

The authors D.W. Johnson, R.T. Johnson and E.J. Holubec describe a way of sensitizing the students for their own mistakes and the mistakes of others in their book "Cooperative learning in the classroom".

The translation exams will be copied twice, so that both the teacher and the students have a copy of the translation. While the teacher corrects the exam, the students discuss each translation in smaller groups. Eventually, each student's exam has been corrected twice, once by the teacher and once in a team effort with his fellow students. This method exclusively improves the ability to identify and correct mistakes. However, the exam is still graded by the teacher.

Maria Julia Sainz from the university of Uruguay went even one step further in developing an approach that includes the student in the grading process of the exam. Her method of assessment is not restricted to the final exams at the end of the semester but is also carried out throughout the semester.
Students repeatedly hand in translations in the course of the semester. The sheets needs to have a wide margin on the side, which will be divided into two columns, one for "major mistake" and one for "minor mistakes".
Correcting the exam, M.J. Sainz marks words, sentences or paragraphs that could be improved, indicating in the appropriate column whether it is a major or a minor mistake. However, she does not suggest a solution, the correction is done using the following table:


Possible Corrections
Type of mistake


The students fill in the passage of the text that had been marked by the teacher in the column for mistakes. Students then try to correct these passages themselves and write their suggested corrections in the second column. If they are unable to make corrections, they can ask their fellow students for help. If they cannot make any satisfactory suggestions, the students may use dictionaries, their own notes and eventually ask the teacher. The third column indicates the source of the suggested solution and the fourth shows the type of the mistake (grammar, spelling, omission, etc.). If the students continue to use this table regularly, the weaknesses of a particular student may soon be identified. With the aid of this table, both the teacher and the student get a general idea of the student's achievements. If the indicated source is frequently " myself ", the student possesses the necessary knowledge but works too carelessly. If "other students" are repeatedly the source, it shows that the student is below course average. Should all students name "the teacher" for most of the suggested solutions it indicates that the exam does not correspond with the current achievement level of the class. This information gives the teacher the opportunity to hold lessons more suitable for the student's abilities. It also enables the students to specifically focus on the improvement of the weaknesses.
With the aid of the table, each student gives himself a grade ranging from -3 to +3. The final grade is determined through self-assessment and the teacher's evaluation.

In order to keep the number of mistakes as small as possible it would be useful if students were taught, from the beginning, how to spell check their own texts. Unfortunately, this is largely neglected and just reading ones own translation is often insufficient. Most of the time we are reading too fast and our brain automatically corrects omissions and mistake at the same time, so we miss mistakes. In addition, our short-term memory can only handle seven things at once, resulting for example in the subject and the verb not fitting together if separated by more than seven words.

Therefore, Jan Madraso developed a schema to convey self-correction to his students.

1) Aloud reading of the text because the reading speed slows down and mistakes become more obvious

2) Read the text while following the words with a finger or a pen ;

3) Put the text aside as long as possible so you can search for mistakes at a later time

4) If the text isn't too long, read it backwards


Here are some stylistic problems you should pay attention to,

1) avoid the passive form in English

2) avoid nominal style, replace substantives with verbs if possible

Madraso also considers it useful to create a chart in which mistakes are recorded in order to recognise the own weaknesses and improve them as good as possible. An important thing is the active learning process because pupils/students learn better with practical experience and have a greater amount of motivation when they have to find their own mistakes.
To further increased motivation, Madraso also gives grades for proof-reading. In translation exams he only highlights the line containing the mistake. The pupil/student not only has to find out what's wrong but also has to suggest a correction. The final grade is given according to the number of mistakes corrected autonomously.

With this new methods students can prepare better for their future job life. After all, the slogan "Time is money" counts there, and assignments have to be translated and corrected as fast as possible. More often than not there is no time to apply different types of correction; one can only check the text itself for mistakes. Therefore it's important to develop the ability of self-criticism concerning the own translation already in the course of studies.
Another way to prepare for the job world is Real Life Projects. Here, a real assignment is presented in the classroom, so students are confronted with their actual future field of work. The combination of both methods provides students with a much better chance to prepare for their job-related future than the conventional teaching methods.