What am I Assessing?

A NAEP framework for performance assessment

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The graphic to the right was created for the Foreign Language National Assessment of Educational Progress (FLNAEP) by a committee of language educators from across the United States. It represents the assessment framework that will be used in the FLNAEP and reflects the interrelatedness of the Five Cs of the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning.

Communication is the focal point of the graphic and should be the focal point of assessments in the world language classroom. From the National Standards, we understand that there are three types, or “modes” of communication: Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational. These three modes are identified in the graphic as the sides and base of the communication triangle. The visual reminds us that the triangle, hence the assessment of communication, is incomplete without attention to all three modes.

The graphic “defines” the modes through the ring of terms that are familiar to both professionals and the general public. The Interpretive Mode involves one-way communication via reading and listening. The Interpersonal Mode is two-way, interactive communication via conversation (listening/speaking) and e-mail (reading/writing). The Presentational Mode is one-way communication via speaking and writing.

Perhaps the most important message from this graphic is that in today’s world language classroom reading, writing, speaking, and listening should not be treated as isolated skills. It is the interconnectedness of these skills that strengthens learning. Assessment then, should also reflect this interconnectedness. By striving to plan an integrated unit of instruction, the line between instruction and assessment fades. The ultimate goal is for the line to disappear. In other words, teachers would not stop to assess but integrate assessment into their instruction so that students, while demonstrating what they know and can do, are also learning while they perform the assessment task--assessment is not simply regurgitation of information, it is application of what was learned to an authentic (real life) communicative situation.

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