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BEYOND TESTS: ALTERNATIVES IN ASSESSMENT

Source: Brown, D. (2004) Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. New York: Pearson Longman.
Jenny C. Acevedo and Roco C. Oviedo Universidad Industrial de Santander Santander, Colombia

One of the disturbing things about tests is the extent to which many people accept the results uncritically, while others believe that all testing is invidious. But tests are simply measurement tools: It is the use to which we put their results that can be appropiate or inappropiate. Bailey (1998)

Introduction
In Chapter 1, an important distinction was made between testing and assessing:

Test

Tests are formal procedures, usually administered within strict time limitations, to sample the performance of a test-taker in a specified domain.

Assessment

Assessment connotes a much broader concept in that most of the time when teachers are teaching, they are also assessing. Assessment includes all occasions from informal impromptu observations and comments up to and including tests.

Alternative Assessment
A new proposal that emerged in the 1990s The proposal was to assemble additional measurement of students, in order to triangulate data.

Brown and Hudson(1998) proposed a new terminology: instead of Alternative assessment, they changed it to Alternatives in assessment.
All tests are assessments but, not all assessments are tests.

Characteristics of alternatives in assessment


1. They require students to perform, create, produce, or do something 2. They use real-world contexts or simulations 3. They are nonintrusive 4. They allow students to be assessed on what they normally do in class 5. They use tasks that represent meaningful instructional activities 6. They focus on processes as well as products 7. They tap into higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills 8. Provide information about both the strengths and weaknesses of students 9. They are multiculturally sensitive when properly administered 10. They ensure that people, not machines, do the scoring 11. Encourage open disclosure of standards and rating criteria 12. Call upon teachers to perform new instructional and assessment roles

Dilemma in standardized and alternatives in assessment


Formal standardized tests: Highly practical, reliable instruments. Designed to minimize time and money and to be accurate in their scoring. Alternatives such as portfolios or conferencing with students on drafts of written work, or observations of learners: All require considerable time and effort But the alternative techniques also offer greater washback, are superior formative measures, and, because of their authenticity, usually carry greater face validity.

Practicality/reliability and washback/authenticity relationship graph

Alternatives in Assessment

Performance-based assessment
Performance-based assessment implies productive, observable skills, such as speaking and writing, of content-valid tasks.
Characteristics
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Students make a constructed response They engage in higher- order thinking , with open ended tasks Tasks are meaningful , engaging, and authentic Tasks call for the integration of language skills Both process and product are assessed Depth of a students mastery is emphasized over breadth

Procedures for performance- based assessment Performance-based assessment procedures need to be treated with the same rigor as traditional tests. This implies that teachers should:

state the overall goal of the performance specify the objectives (criteria) of the performance in detai prepare students for performance in stepwise progressions use a reliable evaluation form, checklist, or rating sheet treat performances as opportunities for giving feedback and provide that feedback systematically utilize self- and peer-assessments

Portfolios
A portfolio is a purposeful collection of students work that demonstrates students efforts, progress, and achievements in given areas (Genesee and Upshur, 1996). Portfolios include materials such as: essays and compositions in draft and final forms; reports, project outlines; audio and/or video recordings of presentations, demonstrations, etc. journals, diaries, and other personal reflections; tests, test scores, and written homework exercises; self- and peer-assessments--comments, evaluations, and checklists.

Atributes of portfolios
Gottlieb (1995) suggested a developmental scheme for considering the nature and purpose of portfolios, using the acronym CRADLE to designate six possible attributes of a portfolio:
Collecting: an expression of students lives and identities. Reflecting: thinking about experiences and activities. Assessing: evaluating quality and development over time. Documenting: demonstrating student achievement. Linking: connecting student and teacher, parent, community, and peers. Evaluating: generating responsible outcomes.

Steps and guidelines


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. State objectives clearly Give guidelines on what materials to include Communicate assessment criteria to students Designate time within the curriculum for portfolio development. Establish periodic schedules for review and conferencing Designate an accessible place to keep portfolios. Provide positive washback when giving final assessments.

It is inappropriate to reduce the personalized and creative process of compiling a portfolio to a number or letter grade. Instead, teachers should offer a qualitative evaluation such a final appraisal of the work, with questions for self-assessment of a project, and a narrative evaluation of perceived strengths and weakness.

Activity
In groups you are going to implement , as a teacher, a portfolio on your class. Using the guidelines on pages (257-259), you are going to plan your portfolio following at least 5 out of the 7 steps. You will have 10 minutes.

Journals
A journal is a log of ones thought, feelings, reactions, assessments, ideas, or progress, toward goals, usually written with little attention to structure, form, or correctness.

Journals obviously serve important pedagogical purposes: practice in the mechanics of writing, using writing as a thinking process, individualization, and
communications with the teacher.

Steps for journals


1. Sensitively introduce students to the concept of journal writing. 2. State the objective(s) of the journal: Language-learning logs, Grammar journals, Responses to readings, strategies-based learning logs, Selfassessment reflections, etc. 3. Give guidelines on what kinds of topics to include. 4. Carefully specify the criteria for assessing or grading journals. 5. Provide optimal feedback in your responses: cheerleading feedback, instructional feedback, or reality-check feedback. McNamara, (1998, p.39)

6. Designate appropriate time frames and schedules for review.


7. Provide formative, washback-giving final comments.

Conferences and interviews


Conferences are not limited to drafts of written work. It must assume that the teacher plays the role of a facilitator and guide, not of an administrator, of a formal assessment.
Commenting on drafts of essays and reports Reviewing portfolios Responding journals Advising on a students plan for an oral presentation Giving feedback on the results of performance on a test Assessing general progress in a course.

Conferences goals

Interviews goals

Assess the students oral production Seeks to discover a students learning styles and preferences Asks a student to assess his or her own performance Requests an evaluation of a course

Guidelines for conferences and interviews


1. Offer an initial atmosphere of warmth and anxiety-lowering (warmup). 2. Begin with relatively simple questions. 3. Continue with level-check and probe questions, but adapt to the interviewee as needed. 4. Frame questions simply and directly. 5. Focus on only one factor for each question. Do not combine several objectives in the same question. 6. Be prepared to repeat or reframe questions that are not understood. 7. Wind down with friendly and reassuring dosing comments.

Observations
Observation is a systematic, planned procedure for real-time, almost furtive recording of student verbal and nonverbal behavior.

One of the objectives of such observation is to assess students without their awareness (and possible consequent anxiety) of the observation so that the naturalness of their linguistic performance is maximized.

Potential observations
Sentence-level oral production skills pronunciation of target sounds, intonation, etc.- grammatical features (verb tenses, question formation, etc.) Discourse-level skills (conversation rules, turn-taking, and other macroskills) Interaction with classmates (cooperation, frequency of oral production) Frequency of student-initiated responses (whole class, group work)

Steps for observations


Determine the specific objectives of the observations Decide how many students will be observed at one time

Set up the logistics for making unnoticed observations


Design a system for recording observed performances Do not overestimate the number of different elements you can observe at one time Plan how many observations you will make

Determine specifically how you will use the results

Self- And Peer-assessment


Do you think learners are able to monitor their own performance and use those conclusions for corrections?

Self-assessment derives from principles of second language acquisition


Autonomy Intrinsic Motivations Cooperative Learning (peer-assessment)

Drawbacks
Subjectivity
Being too harsh or too selfflattering
Not having the tools to make an accurate assessment

Not being able to discern their own errors

Types of self- and peer-assessment:


1. Assessment of (a specific) performance: Students monitors him/herself Give evaluation of performance Takes place immediately or very soon after the performance

2. Indirect assessment of (general) competence:

Assessing general ability or performance during a term, period, course.

3. Metacognitive assessment (for setting goals):

Personal goal settings: Fosters intrinsic motivation Provides extra-special impetus of having set and accomplished a goal

Journal entries

Goal card example:

The students self-assessment on the back of the card:

4. Socioaffective assessment:
When learners resolve to: Assess and improve motivation Lower their own anxiety Plan to overcome mental or emotional barriers to learning

Self-assessment of styles:

Self-assessment of multiple intelligences:

Self-assessment of learning preferences:

5. Student-generated test:

Engage the students in the process of constructing tests themselves

Guidelines for self- and peer-assessment


1. Tell students the purpose of the assessment 2. Define the task(s) clearly.

3. Encourage impartial evaluation of performance or ability.


4. Ensure beneficial washback through follow-up tasks.

Self- and peer-assessment tasks


Listening Tasks listening to TV or radio broadcasts and checking comprehension with a partner listening to an academic lecture and checking yourself on a "quiz" of the content Speaking Tasks using peer checklists and questionnaires rating someone's oral presentation (holistically) Reading Tasks reading passages with self-check comprehension questions following taking vocabulary quizzes Writing Tasks revising written work on your own or with a peer (peer editing) proofreading

To summarize
The six alternatives in assessment with regard to the fulfillment of the major assessment principles: