« Emilena, Julie, Erin, Alyssa Discussion 2 | Main | JoAnne, Robyn, Shen, Kristen Discussion 2 »

Erica, Richie, Alsu, Linda Discussion 2

Please post your second blog discussion here.

Comments

I would like to comment on the article titled “Assessing foreign language abilities of the early language learner� by Richard Donato. I found the article interesting and relevant to my teaching, as assessment is important in my field. What especially resonated with me was the statement by Donato (1997): “The picture to emerge was that assessing the young learner required multiple perspectives and that no single measure or test was capable of providing a profile of achievement and proficiency� (p. 170). In the ESL program in my school district that I am a part of, all the ESL teachers feel that one test alone can not necessarily determine the proficiency level of the student. We evaluate the student by teacher observation, class work, the MCA test score, the TEAE test score, the MTELL test score, and the IPT test scores.
I also thought it was intriguing in the article when the author described the process of assessing the young learner versus the adult learner. For example, when Donato (1997) asked “Do we have the knowledge to describe what novice, intermediate, and advanced child speakers can do, or are we committed to assessing children against adult performance by merely expanding descriptions of novice levels of foreign language proficiency?�(p. 173). It made me reflect on the differences between high school and elementary English language learners. The distinct developmental differences among these learners affect what tasks they are capable of doing and in effect what they can be assessed on. For example, high school ELLs can engage in higher level thinking and have more life experiences to bring to assignments than kindergarten or first grade ELLs. To address the distinctions there are specific standards for English language learners in different grades.

Erica,

I like your thoughts on how the assessment of young learners works. Being a kindergarten teacher, I can honestly say that it is tough to get a fair assessment of their actual language ability. This could be in an immersion setting, or a new immigrant that arrived last week. To test a young learner, there is so much that needs to be thought of before you can even begin to get a clear picture. In my opinion, it takes students of a younger age weeks to feel comfortable around adults. How do you expect an unfamiliar adult to get an accurate assessment of a student when the student is shy, nervious, or anxious around this new adult?

I think we touched on it a bit in class on Monday, but there were some references made to using non verbal assessments as a means of truly finding out what they understand. However, that takes a lot of time, money and resources that are probably limited. Our testing in the US focuses on output and what students are able to produce.

And that's probably the way it will stay.

Any ideas??

I think the article “Assessing foreign language abilities of the early language learner� by Richard Donato raises very important pedagogical questions. I agree that assessments in language classes should "reflect not only achievement of curricular goals, but also creative language ability, communicative confidence, and development of linguistic competence" (Donato, 1997, P.127). Being a language learner I can tell that mostly my language tests are focused on multiple choice and "choosing correct word/letter/form" type or True or False type of tasks. We have to produce the language during oral tests or home writing, which happens not as often as multiple choice tests. As far as I consider it would be more effective if my creative language abilities are assessed during the classes more often in order to reach communicative competence.

Erica, I have a question. How do you think, should language instructors “assess only the effects of instruction on children�, or should they “attempt to capture a range of creative linguistic abilities that go beyond locally specified learning outcomes and the contents of the curriculum� (P.128)?

I think the article “Assessing foreign language abilities of the early language learner� by Richard Donato raises very important pedagogical questions. I agree that assessments in language classes should "reflect not only achievement of curricular goals, but also creative language ability, communicative confidence, and development of linguistic competence" (Donato, 1997, P.127). Being a language learner I can tell that mostly my language tests are focused on multiple choice and "choosing correct word/letter/form" type or True or False type of tasks. We have to produce the language during oral tests or home writing, which happens not as often as multiple choice tests. As far as I consider it would be more effective if my creative language abilities are assessed during the classes more often in order to reach communicative competence.

Erica, I have a question. How do you think, should language instructors “assess only the effects of instruction on children�, or should they “attempt to capture a range of creative linguistic abilities that go beyond locally specified learning outcomes and the contents of the curriculum� (P.128)?

Richie,
That is an interesting point that you made about assessment and student anxiety. In my school district we don’t test students’ language proficiency until the second week of school, as we anticipate that students need time to adjust. Most of the time, I don’t have trouble assessing students on an individual basis for formal tests. I see most of my students in small groups. Students generally feel more comfortable speaking up and sharing in these smaller groups then in large groups. Of course, there are also exceptions, when students do not wish to speak at all. I had a student once who only spoke a minimal amount for a whole year, despite an intermediate level of English proficiency. She preferred to write rather than speak and only to verbalize while reading stories. She simply did not want to communicate orally with me or her classmates in the small group. This was also how she reacted in her homeroom classroom. She only wanted to write answers to questions. My response to assessing students that are shy in front of the group is to formally assess them individually and to get other assessments through their writing and reading in class. Sometimes it is also possible to get assessment if you put students in pairs with other students they feel comfortable with and assess them based on those conversations.

Alsu,
I agree with you that there should be more of a focus on productive language in the classroom. I do feel that instructors need to give both summative and formative assessments. In other words, both formal tests and informal checks of learning like dialogues in class and group work. I think it is interesting to look at the differences between foreign language teaching and English language learner education. If it is not an immersion foreign language program, students learning a foreign language are not given as many opportunities to speak in the language versus an children learning English in the United States, where they can use the language in a variety of settings throughout the day. It is a good point that you make where you note that multiple choice tests weren’t as helpful to you in learning English. I would agree with you, because when I was learning Spanish, the methods that helped me the most were practicing speaking and writing.

Richie, at what age are your kindergarten language learners? My mother works at kindergarten too (in Russia). There kids learn English. As far as I know kindergarten teachers don’t pay much attention to assessing them. You are right, it’s not easy to assess young kids accurately.

Erica,
I agree with you that sometimes it is best to put students in pairs or in small groups to assess their ability. In that way, the shy students or the students who are not as good as their ability can learn from others and can open up and speak. They may feel less threatened in pairs and in small groups.

Hi,
I enjoy in reading all of your comments on the language assessment. You all make good points. I also support that assessments in language classes should "reflect not only achievement of curricular goals, but also creative language ability, communicative confidence, and development of linguistic competence" (Donato, 1997, P.127).
I think that assessment can be fun and conduct in a natural fashion. In this situation, students' performance will be productive. Most of my students like to engage in speaking test, because they work with their peers during this test. They feel comfortable in practicing Chinese language with their classmates. They also do better in this small group practice. I also give my students high scores in this oral assessment as long as they can speak Chinese without great difficulty. Assessment should not be intimated by students. It should be a way for teachers to know students' learning progress. Based on this idea, I have tried to assess my students' language learning from the way that they feel confident and are willing to show their learning result. It is important that teachers and students work together in finding an apporpriate way of language assessment. After all, the goal of assessment is to know students' learning progress. If students are too anxious of taking an assessment, their learning cannot reflect on this testing. Then, assessment will become useless.
How is everyone thinking regarding my opinions?

Thanks, Linda

Hi,
I enjoy in reading all of your comments on the language assessment. You all make good points. I also support that assessments in language classes should "reflect not only achievement of curricular goals, but also creative language ability, communicative confidence, and development of linguistic competence" (Donato, 1997, P.127).
I think that assessment can be fun and conduct in a natural fashion. In this situation, students' performance will be productive. Most of my students like to enage in a speaking test, because they work with their peers. They feel comfortable in practicing Chinese language with their classmates. They also do better in this small group practice. I also give my students high scores in this oral assessment as long as they can speak Chinese without great difficulty. Assessment should not be intimated by students. It should be a way for teachers to know students' learning progress. Based on this idea, I have tried to assess my students' language learning from the way that they feel confident and are willing to show their learning result. It is important that teachers and students work together in finding an apporpriate way of language assessment. After all, the goal of assessment is to know students' learning progress. If students are too anxious of taking an assessment, their learning cannot reflect on this testing. Then, assessment will become useless.
How is everyone thinking regarding my opinions?

Thanks, Linda

Does anyone have any more comments about assessment or about the Donato article? I found it interesting to read about Richie's kindergarten teaching experience and Alsu's mom's teaching experience.

Linda,

I like what you said about your students not feeling intimidated by the testing. Have you ever tried using a type of self assessment for the students?? That could be a real way for them to actually try and evaluate themselves. It could even be a part of the test.

Has anyone else tried that with learners??

I know my school is really trying to find new and creative ways to do evals. I know they even tried the self evals with second graders last year. It was amazing how the students really took the time to think about their Spanish. It gave them a true sense of reflection and self motivation.

Linda,
I agree that “the goal of assessment is to know students' learning progress�. The main goals are to learn language and speak in that language. So a teacher should try to create comfortable atmosphere in the class to make students speak. I know some examples when students think only about their grades and they do well at tests, but still are not confident speaking in the target language.