Assessing in-class participation for EFL: considerations of effectiveness and fairness for different learning styles


Background: This study investigates the effectiveness and fairness of teacher-led assessment of students’ in-class participation and its effect on actual participation levels and language test scores, taking into account the diversity of second language learners’ learning styles. Methods: The level of participation was measured across ten criteria over a one-semester period in four classes of beginner/intermediate level adult Korean students of English as a foreign language (EFL). The classes were divided into two test groups who had their level of participation assessed as part of their overall grade (n = 76) and two control groups whose participation was measured covertly according to the same criteria (n = 65), alongside a pre- and post-course general English proficiency test (the Oxford Quick Placement Test), and a questionnaire designed to ascertain a learner’s general learning style orientation. Results: The results suggest a broad range of learning styles may be found even in mono-cultural language learning groups, dispelling the stereotype of the ‘quiet’, ‘rote-learning’ Asian student. There were only minor differences between test and control groups in terms of proficiency test scores and participation levels, suggesting that including participation as a measure of course achievement has little impact on performance. Learners with individualistic learning styles generally achieved lower proficiency test and participation scores than those with styles suited to in-class interaction. However, we also report partial evidence of improved proficiency test scores for learners with group-oriented learning styles at the expense of learners with individualistic learning styles in the test group (and vice-versa in the control group), an effect of pedagogy known as the ‘meshing hypothesis’ - a hypothesis that has often been criticised in the learning styles literature. Conclusion: The results suggest that including in-class participation as part of a measure of achievement for EFL courses may be both ineffective and unfair for those with certain learning styles, and greater care must be afforded to promote inclusivity of assessment practices given the diversity of learning styles that might be present within a given cohort.


© 2015, Crosthwaite et al. cc-by


Assessment, English as a Foreign Language, Korea, L2 proficiency, Learning styles, Participation, Second Language Acquisition


Crosthwaite, P.R., Bailey, D.R., & Meeker, A.. 2015. Assessing in-class participation for EFL: considerations of effectiveness and fairness for different learning styles. Language Testing in Asia, 5(1).