BEYOND TEST : ALTERNATIVES IN ASSESSMENTSource:Brown, D. (2004). Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. New York: Pearson Longman.Yamith J. FandiñoLa Salle UniversityBogotá, Colombia
Introduction• In Chapter 1, an important distinction was made between testing and assessing.• Tests are formal procedures, usually administered within strict time limitations, to sample the performance of a test-taker in a specified domain.• 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 assessmentEarly in the decade of the 1990s, in a culture of rebellion against the notion that all people and all skills could be measured by traditional tests, a novel concept emerged that began to be labeled "alternative" assessment.That concept was to assemble additional measures of students—portfolios, journals, observations, self-assessments, peer-assessments, and the like —in an effort to triangulate data about students.Brown and Hudson (1998) noted that to speak of alternative assessments is counterproductive because the term implies something new and different that may be "exempt from the requirements of respon-sible test construction" (p. 657). So they proposed to refer to "alternatives" in assess-ment instead. Their term is a perfect fit within a model that considers tests as a subset of assessment.
The characteristics of alternatives in assessment1. They require students to perform, create, produce or do something2. They use real-word context or simulations3. They are noinstrusive in that they extend the day to day classroom activities4. They allow students to be asssesed on what they normally do in class5. They use tasks that represent meaningful instructional activities6. They focus on processes as well as products7. They tap into higher-level thinking and problem solving skills
Dilemma in standardized and alternatives in assessment• Formal standardized tests are almost by definition highly practical, reli-able instruments. They are designed to minimize time and money on the part of test designer and test-taker, and to be painstakingly accurate in their scoring.• Alternatives such as portfolios or conferencing with students on drafts of written work, or observations of learners over time all require considerable time and effort on the part of the teacher and the student.• But the alternative techniques also offer markedly greater washback, are superior formative measures, and, because of their authenticity, usually carry greater face validity.
Relationship of practicality / reliability to washback HighPracticality and reliability Washback low
Performance-based assessmentPerformance-based assessment implies productive, observable skills, such as speaking and writing, of content-valid tasks. Such performance usually, but not always, brings with it an air of authenticity—real-world tasks that students have had time to develop. It often implies an integration of language skills, perhaps all four skills in the case of project work.The characteristics of performance assesment :1. Students make a constructed response2. They engage in higher- order thinking , with open –ended tasks3. Tasks are meaningful , engaging, and authenthic4. Tasks call for the integration of language skills5. Both process and product are assesed6. Depth of a student’s mastery is emphasized over breadth
Procedures for performance- based assessmentPerformance-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 detail,• 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, and• if possible, utilize self- and peer-assessments judiciously.
PortofoliosA portopolio 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.
Attributes of portofolios• 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 peer• Evaluating: generating responsible outcomes.
Steps and guidelines• State objectives clearly• Give guidelines on what materials to include• Communicate assesment 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.
Journals• A journal is a log of one’s thought , feelings, reactions, assessments, ideas, or progress, toward goals, usually written with little attention to structure , form, o 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 journals1. 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, Self-assessment reflections, etc.3. Give guidelines on what kinds of topics to include.4. Carefully specify the criteria for assessing or grading journals. Effort as exhibited in the thoroughness of students entries will no doubt be important. Also, the extent to which entries reflect the processing of course content might be considered.5. Provide optimal feedback in your responses: cheerleading feedback, instructional feedback, or reality-check feedback.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 assesment.• A number of generic question that may be usefull to pose in conference are1. What did you like about this work?2. What do you think you did well?3. How does it show improvement from previous work? Can you show me the improvement?4. What did you do when you did not know a word that you want to write/say? (Genesee and Upshur, 1996).
Guidelines for conferences and interviews1. Offer an initial atmosphere of warmth and anxiety-lowering (warm-up).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 objec-tives 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 observation foci- 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
Alternatives in observationChecklists are a viable alternative for recording observation results.• The observer identifies an activity or episode and checks appropriate boxes along a grid. This grid refers to variables such as whole-class, group, and individual participation, linguistic competence (form, function, discourse, sociolinguistic), etc. Each variable has subcategories for better analysis.Rating scales have also been suggested for recording observations.• One type of rating scale asks teachers to indicate the frequency of occurrence of target performance on a separate frequency scale (always = 5; never = 1).• Another is a holistic assessment scale that requires an overall assessment within a number of categories (for example, vocabulary usage, grammatical correctness, fluency).
Self and peer assesment• Self –assesment derives its theoritical justification from a number of well established principles of second language acquisition. The principle of autonomy is vital. It consists of the ability to set ones own goals both within and beyond the structure of a classroom curriculum, to pursue them without the presence of an external push, and to independently monitor that pursuit. Developing intrinsic motivation that comes from a self-propelled desire to excel is at the top of the list of successful acquisition of any set of skills.• Peer-assesment appeals to similar principles , the most obvious of which is cooperative learning. Many people go through a whole regimen of education from kindergaten up through a graduate degree and never come to appreciate the value of collaboration in learning.• Peer assesment is simply one arm of a plethora of tasks and procedures within the domain of learner-centered and collaboration education.
Types of self and peer assessments1. Assessment of a specific performance2. Indirect assesment of general competence3. Metacognitive assesment for setting goals4. Socioaffective assesment5. Student generated test
Guidelines for self and peer assessments1. Tell students the purpose of the assessment.2. Define the task(s) clearly.3. Encourage impartial evaluation of performance or ability4. Ensure beneficial washback through follow-up tasks.
Self- and peer-assessment tasksListening 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 contentSpeaking Tasks• using peer checklists and questionnaires• rating someones 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