PARIWAT IMSA-ARD (UNIVERSITY OF YORK)

WASHBACK OF THE ENGLISH O-NET ON THAI EFL TEACHERS€™ PERCEPTIONS AND CHOICES IN THEIR TEACHING FOCUS. : LANGUAGE TESTING AND ASSESSMENT

Annually in Thailand, students take the high-stakes O-NET as the national examination at the end of their secondary education which can be used as the gatekeeper for their university entry. Moreover, the O-NET scores can be used to enhance teachers’ academic standings. The influence a test has on teaching and learning is commonly known as the washback effect. This study aimed to investigate the washback effects of the English test in the O-NET on how EFL teachers teach English to students in the Thai context. There were 100 EFL teachers at the secondary school level selected equally from two groups: 50 from schools whose average scores are lower and 50 from schools with higher scores than the national average score. This study espoused a sequential mixed-methods approach. In a data collection, a questionnaire was first administered to 100 EFL teachers with a convenient sampling, and a semi-structured interview was then conducted purposively with 10 EFL teachers who had previously responded to the questionnaires. The findings revealed that the washback effect of the O-NET on teachers’ teaching practices was differently perceived but comparatively negative. The majority of teachers reported themselves heavily relying on test-wiseness strategies and what is likely to appear in the test to help students get high scores, which is considered as negative washback. However, over half of them indicated that the test had no impact on their teaching practices as their ultimate goal of teaching is to build communicative competence to students, which seemingly contradicts the former finding. In addressing this discrepancy through a follow-up interview, most teachers reported that they still lacked a clear concept of a Communicative Language Teaching approach and there were some factors, such as school policies and pressure from school principals, that led to the inconsistency of teachers’ stated beliefs and their actual practices. Taken together, these findings suggest that teachers should plan the course syllabus thoroughly which emphasizes on everyday communication including increasing linguistic knowledge and encourage students to use English through the authentic English learning environment. Moreover, school principals should support teachers by providing them with some effective training development courses on particular issues and encourage teachers to improve students’ learning towards the goal of English language teaching.

Pariwat Imsa-ard is currently an M.A. student in TESOL at the University of York, UK. He obtained her B.Ed. in Non-Formal Education and English Language Teaching from the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University. His areas of interests are language testing and assessment, teacher education, and teaching methodology.