Reflections: Ready, set, assess!

A few weeks back  I attended a Saturday workshop hosted by the AFMLTA as part of their ‘Ready, Set…” program of Australian Curriculum: Languages professional learning. The focus of this session was on assessment. I enjoyed working with fellow languages educators to dive deeper into assessment and the day provided me with a number of points to reflect on. I haven’t fully unpacked these thoughts myself yet but I thought I would share some of my notes here so you may also reflect on the significance of assessment in your own context.

  • Would you do assessment with your students if you didn’t have to? What is gained by assessing student learning? At the end of the day we cannot ignore the accountability agenda – it is a legal requirement of our job to provide feedback on student learning. How do the results of assessment reflect on us as teachers? Does it indeed reflect on us at all?
  • Does the assessment cycle start and end with reporting? Where is the learner in the assessment cycle? What role does assessment have in feeding back and feeding forward – What are the missed opportunities? What else could have been done? Where are the gaps? How do we close those gaps before the next assessment (language learning is cumulative in nature).
  • What is different about Languages compared to other learning areas.
  • Language acquisition needs to be measured in progress over time, not just episodic learning.
  • Language learning is bilingual. Both the target language and first (or indeed second if the student has English as an additional language) have a role in learning. Students need to think about their responses in the target language not their first language – if you are thinking in English your response will be too difficult to translate as it is too sophisticated for your level in your acquired language.
  • Assessment doesn’t have to mean – silent, closed book, individual. What is considered ‘cheating’ might be considered collaboration in a different context. How do we balance a range of means for students to demonstrate learning? Tasks vs tests. Productive vs receptive. Fun vs Interesting.
  • How do we prepare for unfamiliar tasks? How do we prepare for unfamiliar futures?

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