Foreign Language Classroom Assessment in Support of Teaching and Learning

Matthew E. Poehner, Penn State
Presentation Date: 
February 10, 2011

Foreign language teachers must balance their commitment to meeting learner needs and promoting learner language abilities with their responsibility to generate grades and document learner progress toward curricular objectives. Large-scale, formal testing practices lead many to view teaching and assessment as distinct or even competing activities that classroom practitioners must choose between. The focus of this webinar is how assessment may be conceived not as a separate undertaking but rather as a perspective on teaching and learning activities – that is, a way of looking at regular classroom activities as sources of information regarding forms of learner participation and contribution, difficulties they encounter, and forms of support they require to progress. This way of thinking about assessment’s relation to teaching resonates with recent calls for an Assessment-for-Learning framework, which underscores the relevance to instructional decisions of insights into learner abilities that are gained through informal assessments. It also draws heavily upon the recent innovation of Dynamic Assessment as a principled approach to integrating teaching and assessment as a single activity that supports learners to stretch beyond their current language abilities. Examples of classroom interactions intended to serve both instructional and evaluative purposes will be presented. Participants will be invited to critically examine these examples and, through discussion, to derive principles for teaching and assessing to promote language learning.