Thursday, May 16, 2013

LTMOOC 4: Assessing language skills using technology

This week in the LTMOOC we have been discussing about assessment in blended learning environments. Readings  have mentioned assessment techniques such as self-assessment (e.g., language passport) and language portfolios.
I would like to present a formative assessment task I used some years ago with my Spanish 101 Honor students at college level. I will present the formative assessment task and the rubric I used to assess the outcomes by answering the following questions proposed for discussion:

  1. What are the outcomes to be assessed?
  2. What are the capabilities/skills (implicit or explicit) in the outcomes?
  3. Is the method of assessment chosen consonant with the outcomes and skills?
  4. Is the method relatively efficient in terms of student time and staff time?
  5. What alternatives are there? What are their advantages and disadvantages?
  6. Does the specific assessment task match the outcomes and skills?
  7. Are the marking schemes or criteria appropriate?
  8. Who should make judgements about student learning – the teacher, the student, the student’s peers or others?
This task was used as a formative assessment because the main purpose was to provide students practice for the formal oral exam. The formative assessment task consisted on interviewing a native speaker via Tokbox (when it was free) to learn about him/her. Students had to take notes about the information provided by the native speaker to then create a Voki (speaking avatar) that introduced him/herself as if they were the native speaker. You can read about this formative assessment task in a previous post.

1.  I was targeting different skills here. By completing this assessment task, students would show they were able to use basic Spanish to: 
a) ask for personal information (name, age, nationality, likes and dislikes, description) in an interview with a native speaker.
b) understand personal information in an interaction with a native speaker and take notes.
c) present the main information learned about a native speaker in an oral form by using an avatar.

2. These learning outcomes assumes knowledge of vocabulary related to personal description, introductions, likes and dislikes, occupations, numbers, etc. Students should also be able to ask and answer personal questions using basic grammatical forms such as verb ser and estar, genre/number agreement, gustar-like expressions, verb-agreement. The task also assumes the ability to produce orally basic information with intelligible pronunciation and fluently. The task also requires the ability to negotiate meaning in case of communication breakdowns during the interview by the use of different strategies.

3. The task used was appropriate to measure the outcomes and skills in an integrated way and more motivating way than a traditional multiple-choice exam. As we practiced in class different role-plays simulating real-life interactions, the assessment task replicated such role-plays and real-life interactions with native speakers.

4. I wouldn't say the method was very efficient. I arranged to have pairs of students interviewing different native speakers. It was not that difficult to find enough native speakers for the class since I have many friends from different Spanish-speaking countries. However, it was challenging to find native speakers available at the same time of the class. We did  the interviews in the computer language lab. The  second part of the task was to create the Voki avatar using the information from the interview. This part was done at home individually. So the whole assessment tasks was not time efficient.

5. An alternative could be to have the whole class interview just one native speaker during a class session. All of them should take notes and record an oral message summarizing what they learned about the native speaker. This would be more time efficient, however it would minimize students participation during the interview and would eliminate the creative part of representing the description of the interviewee in the avatar. It could be less motivating. 

6-7. The marking scheme was as follows:
Instructor's formative assessment:

Students' self-assessment :

8. Both the instructor and the students assess the performance. The teacher assessed the linguistic aspects or skills and the students self-assessed what they were able to do with basic Spanish during the task.

In my experience, technology can bring more authenticity to assessment in blended environments, however the more authentic an assessment task is, the less time efficient or practical to administer and grade it would be. 

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