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by Erica Fischer on May 28, 2016

How and When Do We Integrate Students’ Input in the Assessment Process?

 
Last week, langchat participants joined in a lively conversation about student choice in the assessment process, and ways to integrate that into the world language classroom. Langchatters shared their thoughts on the pros and cons of giving students a choice in assessment prompts/tasks, as well as the types of assessment formats that work well with choice. Contributors also mulled over the question of how world language teachers can balance giving students a choice while still being able to measure the pre-determined performance targets. Participants also discussed formative and summative assessments, along with ways to integrate problem solving into assessments.

A big thanks to Wendy (@MmeFarab) for leading the Thursday night chat, and also to John (@CadenaSensei) for moderating the #SaturdaySequel. And as always, thanks to our entire group of regularly participating #langchat-ters, we wouldn’t be here without all of your fabulous input.

Question 1: What are the pros & cons of giving students choice in assessment prompts/tasks?

Opinions came flying rapid-fire right out of the gate this week when it came to discussing the pros & cons that teachers see when the decide to give students a choice in the assessment process.

Some teachers loved the idea of letting students play to their own strengths when it’s time for them to be evaluated – @MmeFarab pointed out that with a choice she sees the pros as, “… engagement, personalization, and gives [students] a chance to shine at something they’re interested in!” Others teachers felt that assessing students fairly is tough enough without throwing a wide variety of methods into the mix – @PiperKrupa said, “I use rubrics to grade language production (Presentation/Interpersonal mode) from students, but Interpretive varies too much for [student] choice.”

There were so many pros & cons thrown out in a short amount of time that a summative list of both kinds of ideas are listed below:
Pros:

  • Choice helps students take ownership of learning, and also (theoretically) lets them pick what’s best for their abilities
  • The teacher gets variety while grading.
  • Students can choose what best fits them and their own perspective, which might be different from the teachers so they learn too.
  • Gives students a sense of autonomy, which makes them more confident when being assessed.
  • Higher student engagement and a built-in differentiation.
  • More fun to grade when students choose what interests them.
  • More student buy in, which answers where they will perform better, and they have an increase in confidence.
  • Able to honor students’ abilities, strengths, & voice.
  • Students use their abilities to show their learning

Cons:

  • Worrying about assigning apples & oranges.
  • Sometimes makes it very difficult to evaluate/grade different types of projects.
  • Having to have different rubrics for different projects.
  • Students may only do what they know they can do and not challenge themselves.
  • Tough to grade, time consuming when all projects are so different.
  • Realizing AFTER you’ve give options that you’ve given two options that are too different from each other.
  • Hard to adapt to all student choices, potentially much harder to grade.
  • Trying to make assessments equitable in all choices, and decide if you’re measuring the same skills.
  • Not all students will choose to challenge themselves.
  • There’s nothing worse than grading and realizing something was more difficult (or way easier) than intended.

But even with some many pros & cons being tossed out, @ SraWienchold shared a very popular idea when she said, “Even w/ [giving students] choice in assessment, I [make sure to] have same performance rubric for all #showwhatyouknow”. Basically, it comes down to being able to balance letting students feel involved but making sure that you have standards in place so that you know what you are assessing for in any format.

Question 2: What assessment formats work well with choice?

Not all assessment formats are created equally when it comes to incorporating student choice into the mix. Ideas for what types of things easily allow for letting students choose their assessments included presentational writing/speaking, reading/listening/responding, graphic organizer, use of infographics, written responses/summaries, speaking on a topic that interests them (article, song, video, etc.), literature circles, reading poems/mini-stories, and many more.

For the most part, langchatters seemed to be in agreement that lettings students have a choice works most easily into the interpersonal and presentational assessment modes rather than the interpretive. As @MlleSulewski said, “It’s really hard for me to assign choice in Interpretive tasks. Level of difficulty in student-chosen resources can be off the charts.” Similarly, @SrtaSpathis said that she prefers to give students a choice when it comes to “Interpersonal and presentational writing/speaking [assessments].”

Overall, it’s up to you as a teacher to evaluate each class of students and decide what types of assignments they can handle, and when it’s appropriate to let them have a say in what they take on by themselves – you have to find the balance of making sure they’re succeeding, but also being challenged to grow and continue learning.

Question 3: How can we give students choice in assessment AND measure pre-determined performance targets?

World language teachers have to work hard to find the middle ground when it comes to trying to give students a choice in the assessment process, and still measure the required/pre-determined performance targets.

In order to do both, langchatters felt that you often have to do one of a few things in order to limit the students’ choice, and get them to focus their efforts on the desired outcome:

  • Be particular/semi-manipulative in the “choices” that you offer students to make sure that whatever they pick will be measurable against the pre-determined guidelines.
  • Tell them outright what the performance targets are and what has to be included in whichever “choice” of assessment they decide to pick.
  • Pre-align the choices you give students with “I can” statements, and give them a rubric to follow no matter what their choice of assessment (complete sentences, connecting words, etc.)

On the flip side, another popular viewpoint was to be less particular about the choices that you give students to meet a goal but rather, tell them exactly what the goal is and let them choose how they get there – as opposed to giving students a set list of “choices” as to how they could meet the performance target. A summary of that stance came from @profepj3 who shared that he “…get[s] more reliable results when my [students] develop their own tasks around the same [objective] so [students] choose HOW to meet [objective].”

Question 4: Is student choice best fostered in formative assessment, summative assessment, or both?

The overwhelming majority of #langchat participants agreed that student choice can be fostered in both formative and summative assessments, even though formative tends to lend itself to student choice much more easily. Depending on class structure, age of students, activity options, etc., students might have more ideas for summative assessments but that varies on a per classroom basis.

Several chatters shared variations of the feeling that it’s easier to work with student choice in formative assessment as it can vary so widely, but that they also want to establish a set summative to use as well. @la_sra_hinson summed up the overall feeling for this answer when she said, “The more you go to proficiency, the easier choice becomes. Also, can split up tests into mini summative assessments to ease grading.”
Question 5: How can we integrate problem solving into assessment?

Problem solving is a hard enough skill to have in one’s first language, let alone in a second language where students also need to be assessed on their ability to figure things out on the fly.

In order to integrate problem solving into the assessment process, langchatters shared a variety of ideas that included changing up the way you ask questions or asking students “What’s another way to say that?” when they’re asking for vocabulary. A few more of the most popular ideas included throwing in an unexpected twist or complication in interpersonal assessment, valuing/encouraging them to use/develop skills like circumlocution, using a word students don’t and ask them to figure it out by negotiating the meaning around it in the sentence, and several more.

Problem solving is in and of itself a hard thing to get world language students to do period, and @MmeFarabh shared a much-liked idea when she said that she tries to integrate problem solivng into the assessment process… “Interpersonally: I like OPI-style, where we “warm up” and then I push them to the next level! I try to personalize this part.”

Takeaways

Last week, langchatters had lots of great ideas to share about how and when to integrate student choice into the assessment process. Takeaways included the thoughts that it’s important to change things up for students and make sure to “throw them a curveball” every once in a while, giving students a choice in output is a good way to go, and even though incorporating student choice takes a lot of planning on the teacher’s part, it gives students a safe place to explore/grow/meet targets in a more effective way. @MlleSulewski summed up the overall takeaway from this chat when she said, “Students can get “standard” school experience anywhere. Let them choose something special even if just for 1 hr/day.” Because that’s what world language teachers really care the most about – helping students expend their worlds in a special and unique way!

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in #langchat and discussed student choice in assessments with us. We hope that you continue to join #langchat as often as you are able – if the regularly scheduled weekday chat time on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Our weekly #langchats are getting busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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