Perspectives on Assessment in the Language Learning Classroom

December 2022

This month we resume our dive into learning more about assessment. We explore the different kinds of assessment we can use to measure student understanding and mastery of our class content, as well as different ways of grading (or not) student work. Of course, we also do our best to link everything back to the mind and brain! 

Our cover: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” – Mark Twain

Cover photo by Ylanite on Pixabay; others from Pexels & Unsplash  

Watch before you read...

Expanding on our November issue, we’re digger deeper into assessment this month. Our videos feature assessment expert Dylan Wiliam. In the Main video, he goes over the basics of assessment and urges teachers to design assessments with care. In the More video, he gives teachers some general strategies and practical tips for integrating formative assessment in the classroom. Then, Heather Kretschmer introduces this issue.

In the Think Tank, Laura Gibbs tells us what ungrading is and how she implemented it in her classes. Next, André Hedlund examines different kinds of assessment, focusing in particular on formative assessment. Tony Gallucci explains why he started using integrated testing in his classes after many years of assessing the four skills separately.

Finishing this issue up, Martin Friel revisits metacognition to share with us how he tried out ideas from our September issue with his classes.

Our Thoughts on Assessment

Assessment: Seeing the Forest Despite the Trees Heather Kretschmer

In my last year as an undergraduate, I was an exchange student at a German university. One of the first courses I took was a German literature survey course. The course gave a broad overview of German literature from the Middle Ages to the present. It was targeted at German Studies students who were just beginning their university journey. I used all the study strategies that had worked at my home university in the United States: I went to every lecture, prepared for the weekly topics on the syllabus by doing background reading, and learned everything in my notes. Since German is not my native language, I asked the professor for his permission to tape record his lectures. I used the recordings to listen to the lectures a second time to confirm I had understood everything and make sure my notes were complete. From my perspective, I had gone the extra mile to learn as much as possible and pass the class.

Think Tank Articles

Ungrading: It’s Easier than You Think Laura Gibbs

Both teachers and students are very aware of how harmful grades can be. Just ask students, and they will tell you: grades are stressful, grades are unfair, etc. Teachers also suffer from the stress of grading and its inherent unfairness. Nobody really likes grades, but we’ve always done it that way, right?

What are We Assessing and How Does it Impact Our Students? Shifting to Assessment as Learning André Hedlund

Assessing learning is something I constantly think of when I’m teaching my students. It can be a rather complex endeavor and we might not have the right instruments or the best timing to be able to assess it properly. However, if we truly want to assess learning, we need to assume two things:

    1. There are certain outcomes students must achieve in their learning experience.
    2. These outcomes can be measured/ascertained based on certain criteria.

So, Why Integrated Testing? Tony Gallucci

I started teaching English as a Foreign Language at Wolfson College, Cambridge, in 1995, with my Japanese students teaching me more about the realities of teaching than any subsequent training ever could. They were challenging, talented, studious, and hilarious. The group presented a wide range of language abilities, and were culturally so phenomenally different from anything I had experienced before that I soon realized I was learning as much as they were. As I juggled a wide range of didactic, pedagogic, linguistic, and social issues in my classes, all to try and steer them towards their desired aim, I slowly realized that aim was not an exam.

Think Tank Plus

Metacognition in the Classroom Martin Friel

I believe metacognition has a valuable place in the classroom. It encourages students to become more active in their own education and provides a constant source of feedback for the teachers to reflect on and help keep us flush with new ideas. As a response to September’s issue, I’d like to share some of my thoughts and experiences of metacognition in the classroom, and how we as language teachers might capitalise on it to pro-actively improve the classroom experience for all involved. To provide a little background context, I work at an English conversation school catering to a wide variety of students of all age groups. Of these students my focus will be on two in particular which I’ll refer to as class A and class B.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

Grades are stopping us from learning.

Or so Ruby Granger tells us in a rather convincing way.

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

             Heather Kretschmer          Curtis H. Kelly            Skye Playsted               

    Jason Walters                               Mohammad Khari




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