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Authentic Assessment of Language Teaching and Learning as a Component of Whole-School Language Policy


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Title: Authentic Assessment of Language Teaching and Learning as a Component of Whole-School Language Policy

Authentic Assessment of Language Teaching and
Learning as a Component of Whole-School Language
  • Jim Cummins
  • The University of Toronto

Why Do We Need a Whole-School Approach? What
options do we have to reinforce plurilingualism
and language awareness across the curriculum?
  • Traditional approaches to language teaching where
    the target language (TL) is taught as a subject
    and isolated from the rest of the curriculum have
    frequently not been very successful for a large
    number of students (e.g., FSL in Canada Irish in
    Ireland) Better results are obtained in
    situations where there is extremely high
    motivation to learn the language and/or
    significant exposure outside school (e.g., these
    conditions are often met in bilingual contexts or
    when English is the target language).
  • Content-based language teaching approaches (e.g.,
    bilingual education, CLIL, L2 immersion) tend to
    achieve better outcomes
  • Contexts for language teaching have become much
    more complexincreasing diversity means that
    there may be many L1s in the classroomdo
    students multilingual skills have any relevance
    for TL teaching?
  • Changes in technology are having major effects on
    all forms of learningwhat are the possibilities
    for TL teaching/learning?

Issues for Formative/Authentic Assessment
  • What is being assessed? What assumptions are
    being made about what constitutes language
    proficiency? How are these assumptions reflected
    in the emphasis placed on different language
    skills (e.g., speaking, listening, reading, and
    writing) in the curriculum and in the sequence in
    which these skills are taught?
  • What is the impact of summative assessment on
    formative assessment? If the final test or
    examination for a particular course focuses on
    written language (e.g., paper and pencil tests of
    vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing), to what
    extent will formative assessment pay attention to
    the development of speaking and listening skills?
  • Who is doing the assessing? Obviously the
    classroom teacher will play a dominant role in
    most forms of formative assessment, but should
    students also be involved actively as partners in
    the assessment process? How can self-assessment
    by students be integrated into a broader
    pedagogical philosophy of self-regulated
  • How does the pedagogical orientation operating in
    the language teaching classroom affect the
    possibilities for formative assessment?
  • Formative assessment in transmission-oriented
    classrooms can only assess the effectiveness with
    which students have learned the transmitted
    content however, in classrooms oriented to
    social constructivist or transformative
    pedagogies, formative assessment can focus on
    performance assessmentfor example, the quality
    of inquiry in student projects using the target
    language, etc.

Nested Pedagogical Orientations
Nested Pedagogical Orientations
  • Transmission-oriented pedagogy is represented in
    the inner circle with the narrowest focus. The
    goal is to transmit information and skills
    articulated in the curriculum directly to
  • Social constructivist pedagogy, occupying the
    middle pedagogical space, incorporates the
    curriculum focus of transmitting information and
    skills but broadens it to include the development
    among students of higher-order thinking abilities
    based on teachers and students co-constructing
    knowledge and understanding.
  • Finally, transformative approaches to pedagogy
    broaden the focus still further by emphasizing
    the relevance not only of transmitting the
    curriculum and constructing knowledge but also of
    enabling students to gain insight into how
    knowledge intersects with social realities and
    power relations. The goal is to promote critical
    literacy among students

New Contexts New Reserch and Theory
  • Growth of bilingual/CLIL approachesshould we be
    teaching explicitly for L1-L2 transfer or keeping
    the two (or more) languages completely separate?
  • Increasing diversity of student
    populationsbilingual/multilingual students no
    longer the exception in many contexts
  • What do content teachers and administrators need
    to know and do in order to implement effective
    content-based teaching and assessment?
  • How can technology be harnessed effectively for
    instruction and assessment in plurilingual

Enabling Literacy Engagement across the
  • L1 and L2 Literacy Attainment
  • ?
  • Literacy Engagement
  • ?

Scaffold Meaning (input and output)
Affirm identity
Extend language
Activate prior knowledge/Build background
Competencies for Content-based Language Teaching
  • TL Attainment
  • ?
  • Active Engagement with the TL
  • (input and output listening, viewing, reading
    speaking, emailing, texting, and writing)
  • ?

Scaffold Meaning (input and output)
Affirm identity
Extend language
Activate prior knowledge/Build background
Scaffold Language
  • Graphic organizers
  • Visuals in texts
  • Demonstrations
  • Gestures
  • L1 transfer
  • Hands-on experiences
  • Collaborative group work
  • Learning strategies (planning tasks,
    visualisation, grouping/classifying,
    note-taking/summarising, questioning for
    clarification, making use of multiple resources
    fortask completion)
  • Language clarification (explanation, dictionary
    use, etc.)

Prior Knowledge and L2 Learning
  • Nowhere is the role of prior knowledge more
    important than in second language educational
    contexts. Students who can access their prior
    knowledge through the language and culture most
    familiar to them can call on a rich array of
    schemata, whereas students who believe they can
    only use that knowledge they have explicitly
    learned in the second language are limited in
    their access (Chamot, 1998, p. 197).

Beyond Transmission Opening Up the Classroom
Space for Student Creativity
  • Tomer arrived from Israel in Grade 6 with no
  • Madiha arrived from Pakistan in Grade 7 with no
  • In a normal classroom their English oral and
    written production would be severely limited for
    1-2 years while they are acquiring basic English
    skills. Their literacy engagement (in English)
    would also be very restricted because of the gap
    between their English language skills and both
    the curriculum and books in English that they
    might want to read.

Classroom Consequences of Shifting from
Monolingual to Bilingual Instructional Strategies
Tomers Identity Text
  • I think using your first language is so helpful
    because when you dont understand something after
    youve just come here it is like beginning as a
    baby. You dont know English and you need to
    learn it all from the beginning but if you
    already have it in another language then it is
    easier, you can translate it, and you can do it
    in your language too, then it is easier to
    understand the second language.
  • The first time I couldnt understand what she
    Lisa was saying except the word Hebrew, but I
    think its very smart that she said for us to do
    it in our language because we cant just sit on
    our hands doing nothing.

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Kantas Perspective
  • And how it helped me was when I came here in
    grade 4 the teachers didnt know what I was
    capable of.
  • I was given a pack of crayons and a coloring book
    and told to get on coloring with it. And after I
    felt so bad about that--Im capable of doing much
    more than just that. I have my own inner skills
    to show the world than just coloring and I felt
    that those skills of mine are important also. So
    when we started writing the book The New
    Country, I could actually show the world that I
    am something instead of just coloring.
  • And that's how it helped me and it made me so
    proud of myself that I am actually capable of
    doing something, and here today at the Ontario
    TESL conference I am actually doing something.
    Im not just a coloring personI can show you
    that I am something.

Lisa Leoni
What I love about using identity texts as a
teaching strategy is that it validates students
cultural and linguistic identities. They also
help connect what students are learning in the
class to their prior lived experiences and when
these connections happen, learning becomes real
for them because they are using their language
and culture for purposes that have relevance for
them. Most importantly, they end up owning the
work that they produce. The book The New Country
was written by Kanta, Sulmana and Madiha when we
were studying a unit on migration. It represents
the immigration story of all three girls.
Bilingual Instructional Strategies
  • If cross-lingual transfer is occurring naturally,
    then it makes sense to give it a helping hand and
    teach explicitly for transfer
  • A bilingual instructional approach might include
    the following strategies
  • --where cognates exist, draw students
    attention to them
  • --encourage students to create and web-publish
    bilingual books and projects
  • --engage in sister-class projects where both
    languages might be used for knowledge generation
    (e.g. Chinese L1 might be used to carry out
    Internet research on a topic but output would be
    in English TL).

The Cognate Connection
speed velocidad velocity sick enfermo infirm
meet encontrar encounter
Sister Class Projects
  • Pre-cursors The work of Celestin Freinet in
    France and Mario Lodi in Italy Both Freinet and
    Lodi used the printing press to create texts and
    newsletters for sharing with sister classes (and
    community members) while Lodi also used
    audiotapes (spoken letters) that resulted in
    students becoming aware of and analysing regional
    varieties of Italian
  • The DiaLogos Project Grades 5/6 students in
    Rhodes/Kassos (Greece) and Toronto (Canada)
    (Kourtis-Kazoullis, 2001).

DiaLogos Focus on Meaning
  • Greek students carried out extensive research in
    both English (e.g. on the web) and Greek (e.g.
    local museums) on topics such as ancient Greece
  • As a result of this research, students wrote to
    the editors of Dr. Dig magazine (a web-based
    archaeological magazine intended for students) to
    complain about their use of the term Elgin
    Marbles (marble statues taken from the Parthenon
    by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s whose ownership
    is currently under dispute between Greece and the

DiaLogos Focus on Language
Student from Canada Katerina I didnt have
much of a Christmas this year because I was
moviong and we didnt put up a tree and stuff
like that but it was fun moving and stuff. On
Christmas eve we went to my aunts house and had
a big feast and me and cousin Maria were
chilling out. On New Years eve we went to my
moms friends house and clebrated it there and we
brought in 1999 we with a really big
bang!! BYE FOR NOW KATERINA!!!!!!!!! E
xpressions in the letters from Canadian students
such as stuff like that, and stuff, chilling
out, with a really big bang, we had a blast and
whaz up, fueled the students curiosity and
resulted in critical analysis of language forms.

DiaLogos Focus on Use
  • Students collaboratively completed a short story
    begun by Evgenios Trivizas (a well-known Greek
    childrens writer) called The Dance of the
  • 80 different stories were written. 59 stories
    were written by the students in Greece (35
    stories in Greek and 24 in English) and 21
    stories were written by students in Canada (9 in
    Greek and 12 in English). Some texts included
    both languages, reflecting students attempt to
    use the target language.

Pedagogies of Choice School-based Auditing and Improvement of L2 Teaching and Plurilingual Development Pedagogies of Choice School-based Auditing and Improvement of L2 Teaching and Plurilingual Development Pedagogies of Choice School-based Auditing and Improvement of L2 Teaching and Plurilingual Development Pedagogies of Choice School-based Auditing and Improvement of L2 Teaching and Plurilingual Development
Instructional Options Current Realities Where Are We? Vision for the Future Where Do We Want To Be? Getting it Done How Do We Get There?
Content How do we adapt curriculum materials to link with students prior knowledge and cultural background (e.g. purchase dual language books) and also to promote critical thinking about texts and issues (e.g. whose perspectives are represented in a text)?
Cognition How can we modify instruction to evoke higher levels of literacy engagement and critical thinking?
Tools How can we use tools such as computers, digital cameras, camcorders, web pages, etc?
Assessment How can we complement mandated standardized assessments in order to present to students, parents, and administrators a more valid account of student progress? (e.g. a role for portfolio assessment?)
Language/Culture What messages are we giving students and parents about home language and culture? How can we enable students to use their L1 as a powerful tool for learning? Can we increase students identity investment by means of bilingual instructional strategies (teaching for transfer)?
Parental Involvement How can we engage parents as co-educators in such a way that their linguistic and cultural expertise is harnessed as fuel for their childrens academic progress?
Types of Cross-Lingual Transfer
  • Transfer of concepts (e.g. understanding the
    concept of photosynthesis)
  • Transfer of cognitive and linguistic strategies
    (e.g. strategies of visualizing, use of graphic
    organizers, mnemonic devices, vocabulary
    acquisition strategies, etc.)
  • Transfer of specific linguistic elements
    (knowledge of the meaning of photo in
  • Transfer of phonological awareness

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Rethinking Traditional Language Teaching
  • Teaching L2 as a subject typically yields
    disappointing results for a large majority of
    students except in situations where there is
    extremely high motivation to learn the language
    and/or significant exposure outside school (e.g.,
    these conditions are often met when English is
    the target language).
  • Committee on Irish Language Attitudes Research
  • Those who received Irish-medium instruction in
    their school years were ten times more likely to
    be now using Irish intensively than those who had
    studied Irish as a subject only.
  • Evans (1976) on Welsh
  • To state the matter bluntly, this policy, at
    least until quite recently, has been a disastrous
    failure. Even minority Welsh speaking elements in
    these second language schools i.e.,
    English-medium with Welsh taught for 30 minutes
    per day frequently failed to retain their
    natural bilingualism and lapsed into becoming
    monoglot English-speakers. (pp. 54-55)
  • The major problematic assumption in teaching
    languages as subjects is the misconception that
    we first have to learn the language and only then
    can we think about using it. Under these
    circumstances students frequently never cross the
    threshold to using the target language in a way
    that is identity-affirming.

The Potential of Bilingual/Trilingual Programmes
  • L2 immersion and bilingual education can
    contribute very significantly to revitalization
    of threatened languages.
  • Basque Autonomous Community (Cenoz, 2008)
  • Steady increase in Basque proficiency (over
    16-year olds) from 24.1 in 1991 to 30.1 in
  • gt90 of primary students are now in bilingual
    (30) or full Basque-medium (60) programmes.
    Less than 9 are in Spanish-medium programmes
    with Basque taught as a subject at the secondary
    level, more than 80 of students are in bilingual
    or Basque-medium programmes
  • Evaluations have consistently shown over the past
    20 years that students in Basque-medium (Model D)
    schools are more proficient in Basque than
    students in bilingual (Model B) schools who, in
    turn, are more proficient than students in
    Spanish-medium (Model A) schools Minimal, if any
    differences exist in Spanish between the three

What Is English Language Proficiency?Conversatio
nal Fluency
  • The ability to carry on a conversation in
    familiar face-to-face situations
  • Developed by the vast majority of native speakers
    by the time they enter school at age 5
  • Involves use of high frequency words and simple
    grammatical constructions
  • ELL students typically require 1-2 years to
    attain peer-appropriate levels.

What Is English Language Proficiency?Discrete
Language Skills
  • Refers to the rule-governed aspects of language
    (e.g., phonics, spelling, grammar, punctuation,
  • Can be developed in two independent ways
  • (a) by explicit instruction, and
  • (b) through active and extended engagement with
  • ELL students can learn these specific language
    skills concurrently with their development of
    basic vocabulary and conversational fluency.
    However, there is little direct transference to
    academic language proficiency (e.g., vocabulary
    knowledge, reading comprehension).

What Is English Language Proficiency?Academic
Language Proficiency
  • Includes knowledge of the less frequent
    vocabulary of English as well as the ability to
    interpret and produce increasingly complex
    written language
  • ELL students typically require at least 5 years
    to attain grade expectations in language and
    literacy skills
  • In order to catch up to grade norms within 6
    years, ELL students must make 15 months gain in
    every 10-month school year
  • Because academic language is found primarily in
    books, extensive reading is crucial in enabling
    students to catch up
  • Frequent writing, across genres, is also crucial
    in developing academic writing skills.

Sample of Most Frequent 150 Academic Words
accelerate achieve adjacent contribute convert create fluctuate focus formulate notion obtain obvious
sequence series shift affect alternative analyze criterion crucial data function generate guarantee
occur passive period signify similar simultaneous approach approximate arbitrary define definite demonstrate
Impressive Evidence for the Effects of Extensive
Reading in L2 Acquisition
  • From Krashen The Power of Reading (2nd edition,
    2004, pp. 4-5)
  • Elley (1991) also showed that free reading had
    a profound effect on second language acquirers in
    Singapore. In three studies involving a total of
    approximately 3,000 children, ages six through
    nine, and lasting from one to three years,
    children who followed the Reading and English
    Acquisition Program, a combination of shared
    book experience, language experience, and free
    reading (book flood), outperformed
    traditionally taught students on tests of reading
    comprehension, vocabulary, oral language,
    grammar, listening comprehension, and writing.

The Centrality of Literacy Engagement
  • Amount and range of reading and writing
  • Use of effective strategies for deep
    understanding of text
  • Positive affect and identity investment in
    reading and writing
  • Guthrie notes that in all spheres of life (e.g.
    driving a car, doing surgery, playing golf,
    gourmet cooking, etc.) participation is key to
    the development of proficiency. He notes that
    certainly some initial lessons are valuable for
    driving a car or typing on a keyboard, but
    expertise spirals upward mainly with engaged
    participation (2004, p. 8).

PISA Reading Engagement
  • For example, data on the reading attainment of
    15-year olds in almost 30 countries showed that
    the level of a students reading engagement is a
    better predictor of literacy performance than his
    or her socioeconomic background, indicating that
    cultivating a students interest in reading can
    help overcome home disadvantages (OECD, 2004, p.

Empirical Support for the Role of Engaged Reading
  • Drawing on both the 1998 NAEP data from the
    United States and the results of the PISA study
    of reading achievement in international contexts,
    Guthrie (2004, p. 5) notes that students
  • whose family background was characterized by
    low income and low education, but who were highly
    engaged readers, substantially outscored students
    who came from backgrounds with higher education
    and higher income, but who themselves were less
    engaged readers. Based on a massive sample, this
    finding suggests the stunning conclusion that
    engaged reading can overcome traditional barriers
    to reading achievement, including gender,
    parental education, and income.

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Rethinking Language Teaching Methods and
AssumptionsHistorical Trends
  • Exposure and input are clearly important (e.g.,
    John Carrolls work on time-on-task in the 1960s)
    necessary but not sufficient condition for L2
    learning counter-evidence of a linear
    relationship is provided by Clare Burstalls
    research in the UK in the 1970s, early vs. late
    French immersion comparisons, and bilingual
    education evaluations
  • Grammar-translation method replaced by the direct
    method in late 19th century. The direct method
    embodied the monolingual principle (Howatt,
    1984). Later audiolingual and audiovisual
    approaches also emphasized instructional use of
    the TL to the exclusion of students L1, with the
    goal of enabling learners to think in the TL with
    minimal interference from L1. The monolingual
    principle is also incorporated explicitly or
    implicitly in many communicative language
    teaching (CLT) programs.

Current Assumptions in CLT
  • Policy and practice operate as though the
    monolingual principle had been established as
    axiomatic and essentially common sense.
  • Cook (2001), for example, points out that most
    teaching manuals consider the avoidance of L1 as
    so obvious that no classroom use of the L1 is
    ever mentioned (p. 404).
  • Recent methods do not so much forbid the L1 as
    ignore its existence altogether. Communicative
    language teaching and task-based learning methods
    have no necessary relationship with the L1, yet
    ... the only times the L1 is mentioned is when
    advice is given on how to minimize its use. The
    main theoretical treatments of task-based
    learning do not, for example, have any locatable
    mentions of the classroom use of the L1. ... Most
    descriptions of methods portray the ideal
    classroom as having as little of the L1 as
    possible, essentially by omitting reference to
  • (p. 404)

Three Monolingual Instructional Assumptions
  • In second or foreign language teaching,
    instruction should be carried out exclusively in
    the target language without recourse to students
  • All recourse to L1 by teachers or students
    (e.g., bilingual dictionary use) is discouraged
  • ( direct method assumption)
  • Translation between L1 and L2 has no place in the
    teaching of language or literacy
  • In L2 teaching, use of translation by teachers
    or students represents a regression to the
    discredited grammar/translation method
  • In bilingual programs, use of translation is
    assumed to equal the discredited concurrent
    translation method
  • Within bilingual and dual language programs, the
    two languages should be kept rigidly separate (
    two solitudes assumption)

Teacher Student Interactions
Maximum Cognitive Engagement
Maximum Identity Investment
  • Focus on Use
  • Using language to
  • Generate new knowledge
  • Create literature and art
  • Act on social realities
  • Focus on Meaning
  • Making input comprehensible
  • Developing critical literacy
  • Focus on Language
  • Awareness of language forms and uses
  • Critical analysis of language forms and uses
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