Why Assess?


Think about the difference between recalling information and applying information. If students can recall information (a list of vocabulary words, the endings for regular verbs), it does not mean that they can apply the information to communicate their ideas and understand others’ ideas successfully. To gain a complete picture of what students know and are able to do, how must you design your assessments? How will this affect your instruction?

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Memorization is an important first step in learning to communicate in a world language. However, the teacher must carefully select what students should memorize with a clear vision of how the students will use what they memorize.

Putting the memorized items into active use is the critical second step. The items (vocabulary, grammatical structures, cultural information) should help students complete a real-world task in the target language.

Teachers can judge how well students use the language via a performance assessment. Remember, however, that a performance assessment is based on what students have learned in a unit or several units of instruction. It is another step towards proficiency.

For students to gain confidence in using the target language, they must have opportunities to speak and write the target language spontaneously, replicating situations outside the classroom where they will need to communicate with native speakers on unrehearsed topics. Teachers must facilitate a learner-centered environment providing multiple opportunities for students to use the target language in practiced as well as unrehearsed situations.


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