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by Erica Fischer on Apr 9, 2013

Clipboards and Cell Phones: Valid Assessments that Save Time

‘Honestly, how can we have ‘valid’ second language courses if we don’t also have ‘valid’ assessments?!’ asked @dr_dmd. This hypothetical question summed up the core discussion of last Thursday’s #langchat: What are valid assessments and how can teachers make time for them?

What is “Valid Assessment”?

The first thought that moderator @dr_dmd presented was that many teachers think of something different when they think of a “valid” assessment. ‘I think we need to first define what we mean by “valid assessment”.’

There was some confusion with this topic. The terms “authentic” and “valid” seemed to have slightly different meanings in the world language forum. Some teachers didn’t seem to see any distinction between the two at all. @yeager85 said, ‘I think we have more of a semantic issue than a pedagogical one. What is “valid”? Good? Authentic? Consistent? Performance-based?’

As a result of the conversation, a few specific terms were defined for #langchat purposes:

Valid Assessment: A valid assessment is an assessment that accurately depicts or describes a student’s skill. This is usually done by creating solid, student-centered rubrics that help to identify students’ abilities. @tmsaue1 added: ‘For an assessment to be valid multiple teachers should be able to rate the student performance the same.’ @hawleylaterza added, ‘I think of validity as measuring what it is intended to. Authentic is the really the key in my opinion.’

Authentic Assessment: An authentic assessment is an assessment that incorporates authentic situations and knowledge that a world language student would need to have in order to communicate with someone in the target language. @KGallsEduSvcs defined it as, ‘…real situations, real responses, real communication. Conversations during class. Jokes and stories! Read read read!’ @tmsaue1 said, ‘In the new version of TELL Project, the assessment domain was replaced with “Performance and Feedback.” A powerful message in my opinion.’

An Authentic, Valid Assessment: For the purposes of the #langchat, @dr_dmd proposed that they agree on a definition that included both elements of validity and authenticity. ‘The most ‘valid’ assessment is authentic, ie, it has a communicative purpose.’ A number of teachers shared that this is the best type of assessment. @SenoraMcLellan said, ‘[It should assess] how well they can communicate with what they have newly acquired.’

A Moving Target

Many teachers shared that the concept of validity seems to be constantly shifting. @km_york shared that sometimes inexperienced teachers see a valid assessment differently than more experienced teachers. She said, ‘I assess much more performance than grammar details than I did when I started #langchat, but it’s harder!’

Other teachers mentioned that the target for valid assessment changed as new teaching skills and professional development is acquired. @SrtaLisa said, ‘I feel like ‘valid’ changes after every really good conversation or conference.’ @hawleylaterza also added that classroom size has also influenced how teachers view a valid assessment. ‘It has also shifted over time because of classroom size. My current school uses all multiple choice tests and grade cams to score.’

Other Ideas About Creating Valid Assessments:

Have Reasonable Expectations. @tmsaue1 said, ‘it will surprise no one if I remind us that assessments should be based on the three modes of communication.’ While accuracy in these modes is important, @soccermom2013 also reminded us that, ‘…Assessment should also give students feedback on where to go from where they currently are on standards.’@SrtaLisa said, ‘We can model accuracy and hope for clear communication, but for many early learners the bar for perfection is too high.’ @dr_dmd responded, ‘Yes agreed – therefore we do not expect perfection, but comprehension.’

Integrate Assessments. While some teachers advocated for assessments that targeted skills like reading and writing, others thought a more integrated approach was better. @kvisconti said, ‘Assessments should be well integrated into class time. Students don’t need to know they are being assessed.’ @CoLeeSensei said, ‘Like the reminder of the #actfl modes of communication – and that the 4 skills are embedded in those.’ @kvisconti responded: ‘Then there is no need for “extra” assessments. Performing in class is your assessment.’

Use Student-Centered Rubrics. Almost all of the #langchat teachers said that student-centered rubrics were the biggest time saver on both summative and formative valid assessments. @Spanish231 shared the DELF/DALF rubrics, saying, ‘…they are adaptable to almost anything I’m doing.’ @soccermom2013 has a clipboard system where a rubric is at hand. She said, ‘I can quickly document formative assessments that way.’

Set Communication Goals. @tiesamgraf said, ‘Set communicative goals for assessment – proficiency guidelines give us a common language to work with.’ @dr_dmd said, ‘The materials we have leaned on have all too often been about L2 accuracy only, not communicative purposes! I think for too long we have been content with, or had to use, materials which were aimed at L2 learning, not acquisition.’

Summative or Formative?

@soccermom2013 said, ‘Yes, performance is an assessment BUT when do you call them summative and formative and how do you grade them?’ @tiesamgraf responded with Robert Stake’s definition of summative and formative assessment: ‘When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative: When the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.’ While teachers know that both are necessary for students to gain proficiency in the second language, it is hard to find time to do both on a regular basis.

Valid Assessments – Summative
When many #langchat teachers think of assessments, many of them think of summative tests that are done after large chunks of new information is presented. These types of valid assessments can be a large burden on teachers’ time and still may not test the authenticity of student language acquisition. @tiesamgraf said, ‘I think summative assessments are over valued and used – we are addicted to traditional quizzes and tests.’

Time seems to be the biggest reason for this over-reliance on traditional assessments. @hawleylaterza lamented, ‘I am sad to say we use multiple choice exams. The department does it so I follow suit. Grade cams score scantrons. Grades in 5 mins.’ Some teachers, like @soccermom2013, have to sacrifice in order to make time for summative assessment. She said, ‘Currently, I only find time by cutting out my personal time and that is not fair to me or my family.’

But this does not need to be the case. #langchat participants came up with some best practices for doing valid summative assessments that take less time.

Break Up Assessments. @SrtaLisa shared her school’s idea of breaking up large summative assessments into smaller, more manageable parts. She said, ‘Our department shifted to shorter, more frequent common assessments. Sometimes a good summative can be accomplished in 5 minutes.’

Change Your Timeline. @CoLeeSensei shared the idea that summative tests should be done on the students’ timeline, not the teachers. She said, ‘For summatives I’m moving more to a ‘date range’ of when they are ready and not a specific ‘date’ for when I am.’

Be Creative with Valid Assessments. @CatherineKU72 said, ‘Not a short or quick assessment, but have you seen the I-imagine project? Storytelling can be a great way to meet all 3 communication modes.’ @AudreyMisiano said, ‘@tiesamgraf #langchat I used Socrative for summative for my SLOs. No one else had to grade my exams. The computer did all the work!’

Valid Assessments – Formative
Formative valid assessments, on the other hand, can be done in less time as they are usually incorporated into the class period. @ColleeSensei asked, ‘How do you find time in class for your valid authentic, not always summative, assessment?’@CatherineKU72 responded, ‘I try to remind students that every minute in class is assessment. Partner work, activities and personal time. Does that seem fair?’

These smaller, formative assessments can easily be done in a few minutes and are able to give an accurate depiction of student learning over time. While these will not entirely replace the large-scale summative assessments that most districts require, #langchat participants came up with some great ideas on how to use daily formative assessments to create a body of assessment data for students.

Use a clipboard. @dr_dmd, @soccermom2013 and @SenoraMcLellan all said that a clipboard is an easy way to do formative assessments on the run. @soccermom2013 suggests putting a rubric for performance on the clipboard and checking it off as teacher’s watch their students interact in class and with each other in the target language.

Ticket out the door. This is a short writing assessment that is great for immediately finding out what students have learned during the day. @hawleylaterza shared, ‘[My students did a] 3 min quick write today assessing present progressive tense as [an] exit ticket. Took me 20 mins to give feedback on all 44 students.’ @tiesamgraf said, ‘recently using Socrative for formative and exit tickets – I like the data collection feature.’

Incorporate Technology. A number of quick and creative speaking assessments were shared, along with some great ways to use technology. @SrtaLisa shared Fotobabble for speaking and InfuseLearning to test comprehension through pictures. @CoLeeSensei shared a fantastic idea: have students get in pairs and discuss for five minutes in the target language while recording on their cell phones. She said, ‘They discuss a topic in pairs and email me the file. I prefer it to just talking to me individually. [I would] rather hear them talk to another.’

Paying for Valid Assessments?

A few teachers discussed the pros and cons of going outside of the school or district to purchase outside assessments. @tiesamgraf said, ‘I advocate for departments/districts to move towards external assessments for validation of movement toward proficiency. Some teachers agreed with this idea, but cited problems with cost and accuracy.

Among the tests mentioned were the AP exam, SAT2, AAPPL, Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), National Exams and HSK 4 Chinese. Although each teacher had their own perspective, @TerryWaltz_TPRS made an excellent point: ‘I like really outside tests of proficiency. The examples I have seen and tried are a great step towards a better assessment tool.’

Making the Most of the Moment

Finally, @dr_dmd helped to clarify the most important elements of the night through a series of “wrap-up” tweets. #langchat teachers decided that performance is the most authentic and valid way of assessing students, but that it was important for teachers to focus more on communication goals than grades.

@SrtaTeresa gave a great definition of a valid assessment: ‘A valid assessment engages students on some level. As a result, they are able to connect and perform.’ In addition, @kvisconti reminded participants that we don’t need to spend all our time on assessing: ‘Too much assessment puts too much focus on doing work for grades.’

Thank you!

Thank you again to our moderators @dr_dmd and @CoLeeSensei for allowing for some great discussion and clarification on the topic of valid assessment. Also, thanks to everyone who came out and actively participated. It is great to share struggles and successes with you!

Please help us be a better professional learning community by sharing with us what you would like to chat about during #langchat. Visit us online to share you topic ideas for upcoming chats. You can also find a complete transcript of last Thursday’s chat in our archives.

Valid Assessment Ideas and Resources:

  • @CatherineKU72 said, ‘My first year assessment: students draw unusual animals based on my description. Label body parts and verbs on their own. Quick to look over.’
  • @km_york said, ‘All students have computers this year. I share a presentation on drive and send them to record a screencast for oral assessment.’
  • @RonieWebster said, ‘My language lab allows me to assess often and give feedback Love it!’
  • @CatherineKU72 said, ‘Read a tweet today that said the more assessment is linked to a “grade” the more learning equals a number and not true progress.’
  • For All Rubrics
  • French Apps for Kids (@sylviaduckworth)
  • French ABCs (@AudreyMisiano)
  • CAPS Rubrics – Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey

Voice Recording Resources

  • @hawleylaterza said, ‘croak.it. You just push button to begin recording, then a url is automatically generated.’
  • @CatherineKU72 said, ‘Here are some apps for iOS that allow sharing/e-mail/etc.’
  • @dr_dmd said, ‘I love using Today’s Meet to do a class chat, and save a transcript – easy to check!’
  • @SrtaLisa said, ‘An easy app is Say it Mail it Lite. Very easy for students and teachers.’
  • @CatherineKU72 and @dr_dmd encouraged using Evernote to allow students to share a recording together. @CatherineKU72 said, ‘Here is a very basic example of Evernote and assessment. I sent students out for 20minuts with a mission. Find Spring.’
  • @SenoraMcLellan said, ‘I use QuickVoice app on iPads to have them answer a question or give an opinion.’
  • @Spanish231 said, ‘I have a Google Voice phone number set up for class. Students call and leave me a message, it goes to my email box. All they need is a phone.’
  • @CatherineKU72 said, ‘The Voice Memos app on iPods/phones (not pad) is easily read by most programs. iTunes/QuickTime/WMP.’
  • @dr_dmd said, ‘If you use Edmodo students can upload a file or link to turn in the recorded conversation a great way to get them all in one place.’
  • @SunnyEarth1 said, ‘Change your language on iPad to check apps language availability.’
  • @profesorM said, ‘Vocaroo is another great online recording device that comes with a URL.’
  • @km_york said, ‘@TerryWaltz_TPRS Love your STARTALK talk on vimeo btw.’
  • @CatherineKU72 said, ‘Here is our 4th year SoundCloud page. We are dabbling, but it is fun/easy/engaging.’
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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