Experimenting with Alternative Assessments

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COTESOL 2013 presentation by Sara Bergerson and Kirby Stein. Presented on Friday November 8th, 2013 in Denver, CO.

COTESOL 2013 presentation by Sara Bergerson and Kirby Stein. Presented on Friday November 8th, 2013 in Denver, CO.

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  • Introduce selves, teaching context
  • Ask how many work in an adult IEP setting, and how many are K-12
  • Point is we all have to test, can’t avoid standardized testing for placement/diagnostics, but in classroom we can test learning objectives and progress in different ways
  • Elicit examples first
  • Grading: 10 points weekly, grading for completion, contributing to “Ongoing Assessment” score, which was 35% of final grade.
  • Student feedback: This student said he enjoyed getting to know his classmates, and writing about what he wanted. Many of these students continued blogging after the semester had finished, and even use their blogs to continue communicating with one another after moving to other states or countries.The commenting student said that this activity helped him to get more daily writing practice, and to get used to typing and using computers in English. He thought it was fun to write to other students casually.
  • I conducted this activity in an advanced (C2) reading class. The students had one class period (90 min) to choose their character and develop the profile. They were permitted to choose which elements of the profile they completed based on their assessment of the character, but completion and thoroughness was an aspect of the grade.
  • Student sample inspired by the character “Addie” from Eudora Welty’s “A Visit of Charity”. The student used information, dialogue, and inferences about Addie’s character from the story.
  • Score was part of the students’ “ongoing assessment” grade, which comprised 30% of their final grade.Feedback: This student enjoyed the activity. He felt that it helped him to think more carefully about the characters, and to dig into the material for more pertinent information. He said that it also helped him to translate the characters into today’s world. My reflection: This activity was fun, although if I were to do it again, I would allot more time – perhaps two class periods instead of one.Extension: Students could be asked to write on other characters’ walls in order to show key dialogue or events from specific reading assignments.
  • Was used in an advanced reading class to assess achievement or progress in reading skills, utilization of key vocab, and presentation skillsFeedback?
  • Was used as an ongoing assessment in an advanced listening and speaking class. Contributed to ongoing assessment grade (30%)Student feedback in video…challenging but manageable
  • Context of class, debate?
  • Context: C2 (advanced) speaking/listening class. Project spread out over 2 weeks. Contributed to “ongoing assessments,” which compiles 30% of final grade.
  • Used in all levels, mainly in reading classes. Students presented vocab cards to the class when they were finished. Word cards were placed on the wall, organized by unit. Can easily be used as an activity, with periodic quizzes.
  • *List resources*Rubrics*Fill in missing evidence/examples of work*Research in beginning*Formatting*Handout? – sets, rubrics, assignment descriptors


  • 1. Experimenting with Alternative Assessments Sara Bergerson Kirby Stein
  • 2. Presentation Objectives  To present ideas for progress and achievement assessments that can be used and modified to fit different classrooms.  To present ideas for assessments and activities that can support and work within existing testing structures.
  • 3. What comes to mind when you hear the word “assessment?” Why do we test? How can we effectively assess progressive and achievement?
  • 4. What does an alternative assessment look like? Possible Features       Usually requires rubric development Usually requires more student activity Can use a variety of formats Often formative Can be customized More authentic Examples        Surveys Critiques Blogs Interpretations Debates Panel discussions Student-led teaching
  • 5. Why Use Alternative Assessments?  Can fit the learning style, cultural/linguistic background, and demographics of any student (Tannenbaum, 1996).  Shows the students’ progress toward a learning objective (Huerta-Marcias, 1995).  Students can show their abilities, knowledge, and skills rather than imitating or repeating structures (Huerta-Marcias, 1995).  Focuses on what students know and can do rather than what they are lacking (Tannenbaum, 1996).
  • 6. Examples of Formal and Informal Alternative Assessments in action*  Blogs  Social Media Profiles  Student-led Teaching  Debate  Interviews  Vocabulary Cards *see handout for variations and more
  • 7. Blogs  Objective: To improve daily fluency, comfort, and interaction in writing.  Assignment: Students created an online blog to which they made one contribution each week about a topic of their choice. They were also required to comment on one other student’s blog each week.  Assessment: Informally assessed fluency. Graded for level of completion and amount of interaction.
  • 8. Social Media Profiles  Objective: To assess students’ knowledge, understanding, and analysis of characters in a short story through media role play.  Assignment: Students chose a character from a short story and created a Facebook profile for that character. They were able to fill out the character’s personal information and life events, select pictures to represent them, and post dialogue or appropriate comments on their own walls or on each others’ walls.  Assessment: Formally assessed character comprehension and analysis. Graded with rubric assessing level of completion, accuracy of information, use of pertinent language
  • 9. Social Media Profile Rubric Category Accuracy (40%) 1 Information was false, unsupported, or plagiarized. No inferences were made. 2 Student used obvious information from the text, but did not make inferences regarding the character’s persona, or made incorrect inferences. 3 Student used correct information from the text, and made good inferences regarding the character’s persona. 4 Student used explicit and correct information from the text, and make excellent inferences regarding the character’s persona. Completion (35%) Student left many components blank, and did not participate fully in the activity. Student completed some basic components, but did not elaborate or demonstrate knowledge of details. Student completed many elements of the profile, but may not have elaborated to demonstrate knowledge of details. Student completed as many components as possible, utilizing a variety of functions of the profile. Evidence of details and elaboration are present. Language Use (25%) Student used none of the target vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structures. Key words in the text are not used. Student shows many errors with the target vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structure. Key words in the text are rarely used correctly. Student shows a grasp of the target vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structure. Key words in the text are used, though sometimes incorrectly. Student shows a mastery of the target vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. Key words in the text are utilized appropriately and accurately.
  • 10. Student-Led Teaching (Article)  Objective: To assess students’ ability to identify and extrapolate key issues and vocabulary as well as main ideas and important points in an article.  Assignment: Students chose an article related to the themes that had been discussed in the class and presented it. They were required to provide discussion questions for the class and explain key vocabulary from the article.  Assessment: Formally assessed reading comprehension. Graded using a rubric assessing level of completion, accuracy of information presented, quality of content, and participation (in the presentations of others)
  • 11. Student- Led Teaching Rubric 100 - 90 Article is of proper length and academic quality. Activities are appropriate, excellently executed, and very effective. 89 - 80 Article is of proper length and academic quality. Activities and questions are mostly appropriate and reasonably effective. 79 - 70 Article is slightly short, and perhaps is lacking academic quality. Activities and questions are generally appropriate, though not always effective. 70> Article is too short, and components of the assignment are missing. Activities and questions are inappropriate and ineffective when present. Completion (30%) Lesson shows a great deal of planning, thought, and consideration. Activities and questions are well prepared and the lesson is smooth and coherent. Lesson shows planning, thought, and consideration. Activities and questions are preprepared, with only a few hiccups. Lesson shows little planning, thought, and consideration. Activities and questions are only somewhat prepared, and there may be missing or incomplete elements. Lesson shows little to no planning, thought, or consideration. Requirements are missing. Activities and questions seem improvised or very poorly planned. Accuracy (20%) A very high level of comprehension is demonstrated. Assertions regarding content, analysis, and vocabulary are correct and extremely well communicated. General comprehension is demonstrated. Assertions regarding content, analysis, and vocabulary are mostly correct and satisfactorily communicated. Comprehension appears to be incomplete only on the surface. Assertions regarding content, analysis, and vocabulary are frequently incorrect or poorly communicated. Participation (10%) Student very effectively leads the other students, and is an active participant in other presentations. A high level of comprehension is demonstrated. Assertions regarding content, analysis, and vocabulary are correct and reasonably well communicated. Student effectively leads the other students, and is a participant in other presentations. Student leads the other students, and is present but not active in other presentations. Student is absent for other presentations, and/or does not effectively lead the class. Content (40%)
  • 12. Debate  Objective: Students will practice and utilize argumentative language in a formal debate setting, thereby practicing presentation skills.  Assignment: Students were divided into two teams and assigned a side of an issue to research. Students were then required to prepare and deliver a statement of position, challenges to the opposing team’s arguments, and effective rebuttals.  Assessment: Formally assessed speaking and argumentative language use. Graded using rubric; self-assessment also used.
  • 13. Debate Example
  • 14. Interviews  Objective: To assess students’ abilities to synthesize vocabulary and themes presented across multiple units by designing and conducting interviews and then analyzing and evaluating results and data for a presentation  Assignment: Students worked in teams to select a subtopic relating to thematic units, develop 10 – 15 interview questions, interview multiple native speakers, compile data, create a graphic representation of data, and present their findings.  Assessment: Formally assessed Rubric, self assessment, team assessment
  • 15. Interview Rubric Category Organization (15 points) Description Assignment guidelines are followed Information is presented in a logical order Signal words are used to show transitions between parts of the presentation Introduction captures the audience’s attention and outlines the thesis or main point Content (40 points) Language Skills (20 points) Delivery (25 points) Score Points 5 5 5 10 Presentation contains accurate and relevant information Facts, statistics, and/or examples are relevant and used to support main ideas Conclusion summarizes main points and engages the audience Grammar and vocabulary are used correctly and appropriately Pronunciation, stress, and intonation are understandable Eye contact is appropriate and maintained throughout the presentation Body language is appropriate and animated 10 Speaker’s voice is clear and audible Visual aids are informative, effective, and are not distracting Length of presentation is within the assigned time limits. Total Points 5 5 10 10 10 10 5 5 5 100 Score
  • 16. Vocabulary Cards  Objective: To assess students’ comprehension and utilization of new vocabulary words.  Assignment: On a blank piece of construction paper, students will write the word, its definition, synonyms, an example sentence, and its part of speech, and will then create a visual representation of the word.  Assessment: Informally assessed vocabulary comprehension and utilization. Graded for completion and accuracy
  • 17. Vocabulary Card Example
  • 18. Now, it’s your turn!  What alternative assessments have you used?  How effective were they?  How did you grade them?  What were the pros and cons?
  • 19. Resources        Blogs: www.blogspot.com Social media in the classroom: http://www.educationnation.com/index.cfm?objectid= D25A95BE-6152-11E1-8D32000C296BA163 Student-led teaching: http://www.soundout.org/teaching.html http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Ogawa-StudentsTeach.html Debate: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesso n304b.shtml Interviews: www.ndfb.org/image/cache/Interview_planner.doc Vocabulary Cards: http://www.eslpartyland.com/teachers/skills/ideasvoca b.htm
  • 20. References  Huerta-Macias, A. (1995). Alternative assessment: Responses to commonly asked questions. TESOL Journal, 5, 8-10.  Tannenbaum, J. (1996). Practical ideas on alternative assessment for ESL students. CAL Digest Online.
  • 21. Thank you! Please email us with any questions! Sara: sbergerson@bridge.edu Kirby: kstein@bridge.edu