Foreign Language Classroom Assessment in Support of Teaching and Learning
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.
How many of us have studied a language and then found ourselves unable to perform even the most basic daily tasks in the language? Integrating performance assessment into world language curricula is one way to minimize the likelihood of such an outcome. This webinar explores the purposes and uses for performance assessment in world language classrooms. Many language instructors and learners want to know the extent to which an assessment can capture how well a student will be able to complete real-life tasks when using the target language (Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Stoynoff & Chapelle, 2005). The webinar will begin with a description of performance assessment, how it aligns with learning and teaching purposes, and its uses for the classroom. Next, we will explore how to integrate performance assessment into language classrooms, including developing tasks and rubrics that will support such activities (Norris et al, 2008). During this part, we will examine one or more typical performance assessment tasks, and we will discuss how to adapt them to your needs. Finally, we will discuss the logistics of performance assessment and brainstorm ways to integrate meaningful performance assessment within the constraints of available resources.
Beyond Accountability: Using Formative Assessment to Improve Learning
In the era of No Child Left Behind, assessment is often associated with standardized testing. While there is an appropriate role for testing, it is important to develop balanced assessment systems that support, rather than just audit, learning (Stiggins, 2008). Timely and relevant feedback to students can significantly improve learning outcomes (Black and Wiliam, 1998) as well as informing instruction. This webinar will introduce an approach to language teaching and assessment built around CanDo statements and supported by an online formative assessment tool called LinguaFolio Online. This online tool allows learners to set goals, monitor progress towards those goals, and upload evidence to demonstrate that goals have been met. The result is a rich record of student work organized according to nationally recognized outcomes. The webinar will also include input from LinguaFolio users who will share their practical experiences and strategies for successful use in the classroom.
The assessment of student writing is an essential task for language teachers, and yet many graduate programs do not require students to take a course in assessment or evaluation, and courses on teaching writing often devote only a limited amount of time to the discussion of assessment. Furthermore, teachers frequently need to prepare their students for externally mandated large-scale writing assessments, and thus they need to have an understanding of the uses and misuses of such tests. In this webinar we will explore the essential considerations in classroom and large-scale writing assessments. Topics to be discussed include designing tasks for writing assessment, scoring rubrics, computer scoring of writing, and portfolio assessment.
Assessing L2 Listening
The word assessment comes from the Latin assidere, meaning to sit beside. This notion evokes the image of learner and teacher working together to improve learning and teaching. Involving learners in assessment helps them reflect on their learning, set goals, monitor progress, and regularly evaluate their goals. In the case of listening, learners become aware of the cognitive processes and develop greater metacognitive awareness of listening to help them better regulate their comprehension processes. This leads to greater learner investment and motivation and, ultimately, autonomous language learners. Comprehension, the product of listening, can be assessed by a variety of informal and formal methods. In this webinar, we will examine and discuss a number of examples of formative assessment of listening. We will then discuss some issues related to these examples, as well as some well-known examples of summative assessment, in light of five important criteria: 1) validity; 2) reliability; 3) authenticity; 4) washback; and 5) practicality.
Assessing Speaking: Putting the Pieces Together
This webinar is about assessing second language speaking. At the start of the webinar I’ll talk a little bit about why we assess speaking – because it hasn’t always been the case – and cover some history of assessing speaking in the United States. Even though I’m from the other side of the pond, I’ve dug around quite a bit in developments in the US. We’ll quickly move on to talk about what we assess, particularly looking at “constructs” and “skills”. Clearly we can’t assess everything in one assessment or test, so we have to select what is most important for our students. Next we’ll look at how we can elicit the evidence we need to make judgments about the quality of learner talk, and this will involve looking at task types that we can use, and there are a small number of samples on a hand-out that we can discuss. When learners talk during a task, we have to be able to summarize the quality of the speech. To do that, we need to be able to “rate” or “score” the performance, using rubrics or rating scales – depending which side of the Atlantic you’re on! So we’ll look at different ways of doing that, and you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate and vote on the kind of rubrics you prefer. We’ll finish up by looking at the processes involved in designing assessment systems, and putting them into practice.
Who’s it For? – There is no assumption of prior knowledge of assessing speaking, although classroom experience would make the webinar much more useful! Nor is it aimed at people who design large-scale summative tests, as the ideas are as relevant to local formative assessment practices as well as summative assessment. At some points we’ll also be questioning some current practice that we find in standardized testing that just isn’t relevant to classroom learning. So it’s definitely for teachers, although people who work for assessment agencies would also find the overview interesting. It’s also for students studying for MA or PhD degrees, and I will be mentioning research that informs practice; but clearly, in just one hour it is impossible to get into research in detail.
Diagnosing Strength and Weaknesses of Foreign/Second Language Readers
Foreign/Second language (FL) reading is an outward manifestation of an inward process that cannot be observed, and it is also an ability that some language programs take for granted. This presentation will begin with a brief review of models that treat FL reading, and it will highlight the research that determines specific cognitive, linguistic, and affective contributions to FL reading capabilities. With this foundation, the presentation will move to a discussion about the assessment of FL reading. To date, research has not revealed the perfect test to measure reading comprehension, and consequently a variety of assessment tasks (recall, sentence completion, multiple choice, etc.) are utilized in order to capture a true depiction of the reading process. An explanation of the research on the merits and shortcomings of different assessment tests frequently used to measure reading skills and comprehension will be offered with corresponding suggestions for instructional practice. The presentation will conclude with findings and practical implications of two different studies that utilize self-assessment inventories and metacognitive questionnaires to diagnose strengths and weaknesses of individual readers.
Pathways to Excellence: Using Backward Design Principles for Instruction and Assessment
Backward Design principles require that teachers begin unit planning by describing what they want students to know and be able to do by the end of the instructional unit. Teachers must describe how students will demonstrate that they can apply the grammar and vocabulary and cultural knowledge presented in the unit to real life situations. This webinar will outline a step-by-step process to create a standards-based performance assessment unit.
Developing Rubrics for Language Assessment
What is a Rubric? According to Brown (2012): “The term rubric has existed in English for more than 600 years and, during some of that time, it has meant a set of “printed rules or instructions” (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2004). However, more recently, rubric has come to be “used widely in education. In the classroom, rubric may mean a set of categories, criteria for assessment, and the gradients for presenting and evaluating learning. When grading a student’s essay, for example, a teacher may apply a rubric for its quality of organization, giving a 3 for Advanced Proficient, 2 for Proficient, and a 1 for Partially Proficient” (Cooper and Gargan, 2009, p.54)”
This webinar focuses on:
What sorts of assessment benefit most from rubrics?
How can we create an anayltic rubric?
How can we create a holistic rubric?
Are there useful online tools that can be used to develop rubrics?
Are there other examples of rubrics in literature for say group assessment, other types of writing assessment, reading fluency, etc.?
What are some useful references for further reading? and more.
Assessing Language Using Computer Technology
While the use technology in language teaching classrooms has become increasingly more common, fewer teachers are comfortable using technology as they assess leaner progress. In this webinar on assessing language using computer technology, I will outline ways in which technology can be used to help inform the assessment of language learners.
Designing Writing Assessments and Rubrics
In their quest for accountability in assessment, teachers might forget those to whom we should first be accountable: our students. Providing students with clear, accessible, and understandable assessment materials promotes accountability. Unfortunately, assessment of student writing is one of the tasks teachers worry about and, at times, nearly dread.
During this presentation, participants will learn procedures for developing tools for writing assessment that are transparent and understandable to students and that act as both teaching and assessment tools. We will first consider assignment criteria – what is it that we want our students to do? We will then consider the rubric, a grading instrument, which offers objectivity, consistency, clarity in assessing writing and concentrate on holistic, analytic, and to a lesser degree, primary trait assessment. We will also consider when and for what kinds of writing assignments each of these rubrics are most appropriate. Additionally, we will examine the components of rubrics (the criteria, the weight, the description) and the steps in creating a good rubric and how assignment criteria informs rubric creation.
Designing Writing Assessments and Rubrics will consider the issue of accountability in classroom assessment of writing. The absence of fair and transparent assessment often leads to student confusion, slows progress, assumptions of professorial arbitrariness, and quite possibly lack of trust in teacher-student relationships.
Learners of second languages are very conscious that one of the key problems they face in becoming proficient users of the language is how to acquire an adequate knowledge of vocabulary. Thus, teachers need to be able to monitor their students’ vocabulary development and set realistic targets for learning the words that they need to know. At one level, this may simply mean giving regular progress tests on the vocabulary presented in the textbook or specified by the curriculum. But vocabulary tests can serve a variety of purposes in a language teaching program, such as placing students in the appropriate class, diagnosing difficulties with reading and other skills, and assessing the adequacy of the learners’ vocabulary knowledge for particular functional uses, especially when they need the second language for employment or higher education.
A key construct here is vocabulary size, and in this webinar we will look at how it can be defined and measured, considering several test formats that have been designed for this purpose. Vocabulary size tests typically focus on knowledge of word meanings (the so-called “breadth” dimension), but learners also need to add “depth” to their understanding of how particular words are used. Measures of depth are less well established but we will discuss various ways of conceptualizing this dimension, as well as some practical tools. This will include some consideration of how to assess knowledge of collocations and other multi-word lexical units, which is an area of rapid growth in second language vocabulary studies at present.
How Do we Assess Task-based Performance?
Tasks have captured the attention of testers and educators for some time (e.g., Cureton, 1951, Wiggins, 1994), because they present goal-oriented, contextualized challenges that prompt examinees to deploy cognitive skills and domain-related knowledge in authentic performance rather than merely displaying what they know in selected-response and other discrete forms of tests (Kane, 2001; Wiggins, 1998). For language testing, in particular, interest in task-based performance assessment reflects the need to incorporate language use into assessments, such that interpretations about learners’ abilities to communicate are warranted (Brindley, 1994; Norris et al., 1998). Over the past several decades, tasks have come to play a crucial role in language assessments on a variety of levels, from classroom-based tests to large-scale language proficiency exams to research on second language acquisition. In this webinar, I will provide an overview of the incorporation of tasks into contemporary language assessment practice across diverse contexts, with a particular emphasis on examples of tasks used for distinct (formative and summative) assessment purposes in language classrooms and programs. Participants will encounter the basic steps in developing task-based assessments, including needs analysis, task selection, performance elicitation, rubric creation, scoring, and score reporting/feedback. We will also address the benefits of task-based assessment for language learners, teachers, and programs, and we will consider the potential that emerging technologies hold for enabling authentic assessments of language use. Finally, we will consider both research-based and educator-relevant insights into some of the challenges in doing task-based language assessment, and I will suggest a variety of solutions.