Alternative assessment is a way to directly evaluate learners’ language skills. A paper-pencil test shows knowledge about the language. Alternative assessment shows learners’ ability to use the language.
There are many reasons for using alternative assessment techniques. With alternative assessment:
- Learners make real use of the target language—in this case English–for an actual purpose.
- Learners demonstrate the things that they have learned in class.
- Learners take responsibility for and self-direct some of their own learning.
- Learners’ motivation to learn and use the target language may increase.
- And, alternative assessment provides students with an opportunity to directly display their progress to others in their school and community, and to family members.
Module Focus: Introduction
The focus in Module 10 is on four different kinds of alternative assessment:
- Self-record keeping.
- Peer feedback and assessment.
- Performance assessment.
Some other common forms of alternative assessment are:
- And, dialogue or learning journals.
Here you see two examples of teachers working with small subsets of students while the rest of the class completes tasks on their own.
Note that nearly anything that you use for a task in class can also be used as an authentic assessment, so long as it’s accompanied by appropriate assessment criteria.
#1 Viewing Points: Self-record Keeping
Video segment #1. One form of alternative assessment is to have students keep track of their own work. For example, students can track progress on charts similar to these. Students mark the chart when they have finished their work and turned in an assignment.
Guidelines for student work can also be posted on the wall. Such guidelines set clear expectations for assignments and for the tracking process.
#2 Viewing Points: Peer Feedback and Assessment
Learners can also correct each other’s work. They can read each other’s writing assignments and listen to each other’s oral assignments. They can give feedback on content, on work that is in-process, and on the end product. A more proficient student can help correct the work of a student with less proficiency. Older students can help correct the work of younger students.
Video segment #2. For peer feedback to be effective, the teacher must give clear guidelines to the students. They must know exactly what they are looking for and how to give feedback on it. Look for…
- The teacher’s instructions and expectations.
- The types of materials students are using.
- The atmosphere in the classroom.
- And, the ways in which students work together.
Also ask yourself, “What is the “job” (or role) of the teacher in this activity? And, what is each student’s job?”
RIGHT NOW I’D LIKE YOU GUYS — THANK YOU –TO TELL YOUR PARTNER, SO MICHELLE, CAN YOU MOVE UP HERE WITH MARIA?
KEEP YOUR PENCILS DOWN. RAQUEL, PUT YOUR PENCIL DOWN RIGHT NOW.
YOU’RE JUST TELLING THE STORY TO YOUR PARTNER.
NEXT. [speaking indistinctly ] THEY RENTED…A LARGE —
THEY RENTED A LITTLE HOUSE.
THEY RENTED A LITTLE HOUSE.
IF YOU’RE READY…
THEY RENTED A LITTLE HOUSE AND A LARGE CANOE.
WHOA, WHOA, WHOA,SLOW DOWN.
SUNNY. WAIT, WAIT, NO.
DON’T JUST SAY SUNNY. GIVE ME A SENTENCE.
THE DAY. THE DAY WAS SUNNY.
SO WHAT DID THEY DO BECAUSE THE DAY WAS SUNNY? WHAT DID THEY DO?
THEY RIDE –RIDE…
YEAH, WERE IN A CAR.
WITH THIS –AH! — BOAT.
WHAT’S THE BOAT CALLED?
[speaking indistinctly ]
CANOE. OH, CANOE.
THEY WENT FOR A RIDE IN THE CANOE.
OKAY, NOW, TRY IT AGAIN, RAQUEL? [speaking Spanish ]
SO YOU’RE JUST GOING TO LISTEN.
YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO HER AND HELP HER.
YOU GUYS READY TO WRITE? [speaking indistinctly ]
…RENTED A LITTLE HOUSE, A LITTLE — A LARGE CANOE.
YEAH. [ laughs ]
A BIG CANOE. RIGHT. [speaking indistinctly ]
In this class, the teacher gave clear instructions for grouping, for the work she expected them to do together, and the amount of time they would have for it. The teacher’s job was to…
- Set parameters.
- To act as timekeeper.
- And, to serve as a resource expert, when needed.
She circulated quietly around the room as students worked.
Each student’s job was to…
- Stay on task with his or her partner.
- To work quietly and courteously.
- And, to ask for help from the teacher or from other students nearby as needed.
#3 Viewing Points: Portfolios
A portfolio is a collection of student work. Portfolios can be an effective way for students to bring some or all of their work together in one place. The students themselves are responsible for putting items in their portfolios. With portfolios, students, teachers, and parents can see students’ work and progress. Portfolios can be used for classes of any size, age, or language level.
Video segment #3. Portfolios can stay in simple bins or boxes. Or, as in this high school classroom, students can use large notebooks or binders to keep all their work in one place. The binders can stay in the classroom, or students can take them home. Students know to have their binders with them at the beginning of every class. Most of the students’ written work stays in the binders. By the end of the term, the binders are complete portfolio collections of the students’ work for that period of time.
THEIR HOMEWORK IS TO TAKE THEIR BINDERS AND REVIEW THEIR VOCABULARY. AND ON OCCASION, IF THERE’S NOT TIME TO WRITE THE STORY IN CLASS, THE HOMEWORK IS TO WRITE THE STORY.
AND THAT’S THE NICE THING ABOUT SETTING UP THE BINDER IS THAT IT BECOMES SORT OF THIS ONE AWESOME REFERENCE BECAUSE THEY CAN GO BACK INTO THEIR VOCABULARY SECTION, LOOK FOR A WORD, AND THEN PLUG IT INTO THE STORY.
With portfolios, students can see their own progress. Teachers can use them to give formative feedback and assign summative grades. And, parents and school officials can access them to see evidence of students’ progress.For portfolios to be effective, it is important that students know the criteria or guidelines for creating and maintaining a good portfolio. Models can be helpful. See the manual for examples of portfolio management resources.
#4 Viewing Points: Performance Assessment
Video segment #4. With performance assessment, the teacher assigns the task (often one that involves the use of multiple language skills). At the same time, the teacher gives the criteria for a good performance. When students perform, the teacher and other students evaluate and, then afterwards, give constructive feedback on strengths and on areas that need improvement. As you watch the following two performances, decide what criteria you and/or your students might use to evaluate the work. Also ask yourself…
- What is the “job” (or the role) of the teacher in this activity?
- What responsibilities do the performers have?
- And, what responsibilities do students in the audience have?
A STEP FORWARD FOR SCIENCE, NEW ERA FOR MEDICAL SCIENCE, IMPROVING HEALTH CARE, SAVING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR EMPLOYERS IN INSURANCE, I CAN FIND INAN INDIVIDUAL’S LIFETIME RISK OF DANGEROUS DISEASES.
I HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT NUMBER THREE. WHAT DO YOU THINK… POINT NUMBER THREE, SAVING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR EMPLOYERS IN INSURANCE WAS A STEP FORWARD FOR SCIENCE OR BACKWARD FOR CIVIL RIGHTS?
OKAY, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY? [all talking at once ]
MAYA HAS IT IN THE WRONG COLUMN, SO YOU CAN HELP HIM EXPLAIN WHY? WHY SHOULD IT BE ON THE OTHER SIDE?
IT WAS GIVEN AS AN EXAMPLE FOR WHAT?
BECAUSE THE APPLICANTS MAY BE REJECTED…
EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, BECAUSE APPLICANTS MAY BE REJECTED, THIS POINT BELONGS TO BACKWARD FOR CIVIL RIGHTS. OKAY, GO ON THEN.
STEP BACKWARD FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, NEW FRONTIER FOR POTENTIAL DISCRIMINATION, DISCRIMINATION AGAINST EMPLOYEES IN HIRING AND PROMOTION, UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR JOBS, DIRECT INFORMATION CAN BE USED AGAINST PEOPLE, AND DENYING ONE’S RIGHT TO COMPETITION WORK.
DEAR DAUGHTERS, I’M… I’M MORE THAN 80 YEARS OLD WITH AGE, SO I’VE DECIDED TO… FOR SUPPORT IN THIS GOVERNMENT OF THIS COUNTRY. I’M GOING TO DIVIDE MY KINGDOM AMONG YOU ACCORDING TO YOUR LOVE FOR ME.
DEAR FATHER, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN WORDS COULD TELL. YOU ARE DEARER TO ME THAN THE LIGHT OF MY OWN EYES, DEARER THAN LIFE ITSELF.
SUCH TALK IS EASY TO PRETEND WHERE THERE IS NO REAL LOVE, BUT THE KING WAS DELIGHTED TO HEAR IT, SO HE GAVE GONERIL ONE-THIRD OF HIS KINGDOM.
…I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY…THE LOVE OF YOUR FATHER, THE GOOD IS WORTH MORE THAN A KINGDOM.
SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR SISTERS AND TO YOUR FATHER. SHE’LL GO WITH ME AND BE MY QUEEN AND RULE OVER ALL…
The first example showed an advanced level class with representative members from a giving academic oral reports on their findings. The second was an intermediate level class performing an act from an abridged version of Shakespeare’s play King Lear.
Teacher and student roles, along with evaluation criteria will differ depending on the task, students’ age, language level, and so on. However, some criteria for evaluation might include…
- How well the students prepared for the task or performance.
- Feedback on specific language skills (for example, pronunciation, fluency, writing of the notes or script, and so on).
- How well the performers delivered the report or play in terms of clarity, loudness, speed, eye contact, body language, and opening and closing statements.
See the manual for sample checklists, scales, and scoring guides for performance assessment.
Module Focus: Summary
The focus of Module 10 has been on four kinds of alternative assessment…
- Self-record keeping.
- Peer feedback and assessment.
- And, performance assessment.
It takes practice to learn to do alternative assessment effectively. However, success can lead to more actual student use of the target language, more motivated students taking more responsibility for their own learning, and the ability to show others direct evidence of student progress.
See the manual for readings and more information on this and other topics related to Alternative Assessment.