Assessment: Lesson 3
Direct assessment of language allows teachers to see students using language in context, through tasks that require performance of language. Direct assessment is often used in measuring speaking or writing. Examples of direct assessment might include presentations, interviews, writing summaries, or portfolios. On the sample test, Part 8 “Timed Writing” is an example of direct assessment.
Advantages of Direct Assessment
Before watching the video, think about what the advantages are for direct assessment in language testing.
Language teachers talk about the advantages of using direct methods in assessing language.
Direct assessment is often preferred for assessing language for a number of reasons:
• increased potential for communicative interaction,
• better evidence for language use,
• more motivating for students, and
• more authenticity.
Disadvantages of Direct Assessment
Language teachers consider weaknesses in using direct assessment.
Some problems with direct assessment include:
• performance anxiety,
• some inauthenticity in interview structure,
• time-consuming to conduct and score, and
• difficulty in finding the best method for scoring.
Several challenges exist for teachers using direct assessment in language classrooms; however, given the popularity of this method, solutions have been proposed. Three challenges: language level, feedback, and score interpretation, will be discussed along with solutions to help teachers overcome them.
The first challenge is using direct assessment with low proficiency students. For these students, producing the language can be difficult and limited. Tasks in direct assessment may be complex and confusing to complete. The teachers’ feedback may not be clear if given in the first language, and as novice language learners, students may not know how to improve based on the teacher’s feedback.
Have you ever given a test where the students didn’t follow the instructions? Why do you think it happened? Think of some solutions to these potential problems.
Managing students’ low language levels when using direct assessment.
Some solutions to help beginning level students with direct assessment follow:
• use L1 in instructions and feedback,
• write clear or familiar tasks,
• prior to the assessment let student practice or model the task, and
• only ask for short performances.
Another challenge in direct assessment is scoring and giving meaningful feedback to students on their performance. Certainly, compared to grading multiple-choice questions, direct assessment takes more time to score. Also, the scoring and feedback needs to be considered carefully because it will be more subjective than selected-response questions. The teacher needs a clear idea of what they are measuring in the performance, and students should be given feedback that they can understand.
Making feedback clear and manageable in direct assessment.
Some ways to provide better feedback in direct assessment include:
• using a scoring rubric,
• sharing the rubric with students before the test,
• having students use the rubric to rate their own or peers performance,
• having students design the rubric, and
• rating selectively rather than providing feedback on everything.
Rubrics or scales are commonly used in direct assessment. Teachers may design their own rubrics, have students develop them, or adapt rubrics found elsewhere. It is important to be very conscious of the criteria and language features in a rubric. They should match what has been covered in the class and what you think language is. If points are given for each feature in the rubric, analytic scoring, this distribution should make sense.
The third challenge in direct assessment is more difficult to solve. Because this method requires language use, many factors can impact the learner’s performance that the teacher is not trying to measure. For example, creativity, nervousness, or personality traits can impact a performance.
Before watching the video, think of some ways to solve this problem.
How to lower anxiety in direct assessment in order to see students’ performance levels.
To help assure the scores from direct assessment are about language performance, teachers may try the following:
• allow students to practice or warm-up before the test,
• limit time pressure,
• give choices when possible,
• pilot tasks carefully,
• isolate skills if desired, and
• collect multiple measures.
[Module Instructor Dr. Lia Plakans]. 2010. [Assessment]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.