What am I Assessing?

Matching assessment to your goals

When thinking about matching assessments to the goals of instruction, we must keep the end in mind. The endpoint is the standards-based integrated performance assessment (IPA)—the application of learning to a real-life or authentic communication situation. With this endpoint clearly in mind, we then need to ask ourselves what other assessments will be useful along the way to monitor our students’ progress. These assessments, called formative assessments, should be viewed as opportunities to provide meaningful feedback to the students concerning their learning. The better the feedback to the student, the better their final performance will be.

The assessment tools we use to check on student progress during a unit of instruction will vary with the goal or objective we want to assess. We might use a quiz, a journal entry, a pairwork activity, an essay, a test, a class discussion, or an oral question/answer activity to see how well the students have learned the concepts. Remember, these assessments are all part of the process or practice needed in order to complete the final performance. These assessments will tell if the students understand a concept or how to use a particular structure correctly. They might indicate how many vocabulary words the students know or if they can formulate questions correctly. They can provide evidence that the Standards for Cultures, Comparisons, Connections, and Communities are being addressed in the class. But if we stop assessing here, we haven’t reached our endpoint: the final standards-based IPA.

The final standards-based IPA is the application of what the students learned in the unit to a real-life or authentic communication situation. Shrum and Glisan (2010, p. 410) describe assessments tasks as authentic if they:

  • Are realistic reflecting real-world situation;
  • Require judgment and innovation;
  • Ask the students to complete the task using the target language in a meaningful way;
  • Simulate work, civic life, or personal life with an audience beyond the teacher;
  • Ask students to use a variety of skills and knowledge successfully to complete a complex task;
  • Include opportunities to rehearse, get feedback in order to refine performances.

We understand from the Standards that there are three aspects to communication: an Interpretive mode, an Interpersonal mode, and a Presentational mode. Our final IPA must reflect those three modes. And when we look back at our unit plans, the instructional strategies and formative assessments should provide meaningful practice in all three modes. Following the principles of backward design, the final IPA is based on the goals of instruction for the unit. After determining the final IPA, we can create an instructional plan for the unit.


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