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Alternative Assessment and Second Language Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest.
Alternative assessment, authentic assessment, portfolio assessment, self- assessment, self-monitoring, and the list goes on. Clearly, assessment is a popular topic these days. Frequently encountered in professional publications, workshops, inservice training, and college courses, assessment meets the criteria for being a cutting-edge topic. Why is there such an emphasis on assessment in the 1990's? What does an emphasis on assessment mean for language teachers, researchers, and students? This Digest looks at these questions and discusses some of the practical implications of assessing language students differently than we currently do.
ASSESSMENT AND TESTING CONTRASTED
Let's assume that this simple characterization of tests and testing is correct. Assessment then can be shown to be very different. Some important differences between testing and assessment become obvious. In an instructional program, assessment is usually an ongoing strategy through which student learning is not only monitored--a trait shared with testing--but by which students are involved in making decisions about the degree to which their performance matches their ability. Spolsky (1992, p. 38) rightly argues that diagnostic or formative assessment is typically curriculum-driven. This type of assessment shadows the curriculum and provides feedback to student and teachers. He wisely argues, too, for a multilevel system that combines testing and assessment. A paraphrase of this model (p. 37) would go something like this:
* Students are provided opportunities before and after units of instruction to assess their own performance (self-assessment).
* Teachers periodically assess students' performance and both discuss their respective assessments (tests and measurements).
* Occasionally, some external monitor assesses the student's (and perhaps the teacher's) performance and discusses it with the teacher.
Assessment, then, should be viewed as an interactive process that engages both teacher and student in monitoring the student's performance. Criterion-referenced testing is clearly based on this way of relating teaching-testing-assessment for congruence. Interested readers will find the 1994 Northeast Conference Report (Hancock, 1994) a valuable resource on this topic.
WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT AND WHY IS IT NEEDED?
So, while the operative is "alternative," we must ask alternative to what? A case can be made in second languages for an alternative to conventional ways of monitoring students' language progress and performance. Alternative assessment is an ongoing process involving the student and teacher in making judgments about the student's progress in language using non-conventional strategies.
A new assessment initiative in foreign and second language study should acknowledge the effect of context on performance and provide the most appropriate contexts in which to assess competence, including ones that involve the individual in making self-assessments. Brecht and Walton (1993, p. 2) define competence as "the capacity to perform a range of occupationally or professionally relevant communicative tasks with members of another cultural and linguistic community using the language of that community, whether that community is domestic or abroad." They also call for a field-specific language learning framework designed to guide the defining of competencies and "how these competencies are best acquired so as to focus scarce resources in the most efficient manner possible on curricular design, the development of instructional materials, the application of new teaching methodologies, teacher training and assessment, and research related to language acquisition" (pp. 8-9).
AND WHAT ABOUT AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT?
WHAT IS PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT?
WHAT GOES INTO A PORTFOLIO?
WHAT ARE SOME IMPLICATIONS OF INCORPORATING ALTERNATIVE
Blanche, P. (1990). Using standardized achievement and oral proficiency tests for self-assessment purposes: The DLIFLC study. "Language Testing," 7, p202-229.
Brecht, R., & Walton, R. (1993). "National strategic planning in the less commonly taught languages. Occasional papers." Washington, DC: National Foreign Language Center.
Fodor, J. (1983). "The modularity of the mind." Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
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Hancock, C.R. (Ed.). (1994). "Teaching, testing, and assessing: Making the connection. Northeast Conference Reports." Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co.
Heilenmann, K.L. (1990). Self-assessment of second language ability: The role of response effects. "Language Testing," 7, p174-201.
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Peirce, B.N., Swain, M., & Hart, D. (1993). Self-assessment in two French immersion programs. "Applied Linguistics," 14, p25-42.
Perkins, D. (1981). "The mind's best work." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Spolsky, B. (1992). Diagnostic testing revisited. In Shohamy, E., & Walton, R.A., (Eds.), "Language assessment and feedback: Testing and other strategies" (p29-39). National Foreign Language Center. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.
Sternberg, R. (Ed.). "The nature of creativity." New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wiggins, G. (1994). Toward more authentic assessment of language performances. In Hancock, C. R. (Ed.), "Teaching, testing, and assessment: Making the connection. Northeast conference reports." Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co.
Yap, K.O. (1993). "Integrating assessment with instruction in ABE/ESL programs." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. (ED 359 210)
This report was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, under contract no. RR93002010. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or ED.
Title: Alternative Assessment and Second Language Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: Comparative Analysis; * Evaluation Methods; * Portfolio Assessment; Second Language Instruction; Second Language Learning; Second Language Programs; * Student Evaluation; * Testing
Identifiers: *Alternative Assessment; ERIC Digests
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