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Assessment methods used by grade four teachers in teaching English First Additional Language.

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Assessment is an integral component of recent curriculum changes in South Africa (Jansen & Christie, 1999). Each new curriculum introduced since 1994 included fresh assessment methods that teachers were expected to use in the teaching and learning process. However, the number of assessment tasks in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) curriculum poses a challenge to grade four English First Additional Language (EFAL) teachers. The CAPS states that EFAL should be assessed using formative and summative assessment methods and that language skills should be assessed every day using different formative methods. This study explored the assessment methods used by grade four EFAL teachers in teaching and assessing learners. The three research questions were:  What assessment methods are used by grade four teachers in teaching English First Additional Language?  How do grade four English First Additional Language teachers use assessment methods?  What influences grade four English First Additional Language teachers to use these assessment methods? This case study, which is located in the interpretive paradigm and employed a qualitative research method, was conducted in three primary schools in rural areas in the uMkhanyakude district in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Data was elicited through in-depth semi-structured interviews. Purposeful sampling was used to select one grade four EFAL teacher from each of the three schools with deep knowledge of the phenomenon. Thematic analysis and document analysis were used to analyse the data and Activity theory was employed to describe and interpret the findings in response to the research questions. The findings revealed that the grade four EFAL teachers selected very limited, traditional assessment methods rather than innovative ones that could enhance learners‟ English language proficiency. The findings revealed various factors influencing the selection of assessment methods by grade four EFAL teachers. These factors included considering: the transition of grade four learners from Home Language to EFAL; poor background knowledge of the English language, a lack of vocabulary by grade four learners, as well as the time allocated to assessment tasks and the problem of teaching and learning in overcrowded classrooms. Based on these findings, it is recommended that EFAL teachers, especially those assigned to grade four, should take into cognisance the significance of formative assessment methods in developing English language skills such as discussions, presentations, peer/self-assessment, practical demonstrations and projects. Policy makers need to consider learners‟ different levels of ability when prescribing the number of tasks to be completed in the EFAL CAPS curriculum. It is also recommended that the Department of Basic Education provide more in-service training, pre-service and support to develop skills and strategies for effective use of assessment methods in grade four EFAL. Finally, further studies should be conducted to close the identified research gap on the impact of the transition from Home Language to First Additional Language since grade four is regarded as the entry point to the Intermediate phase.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.