Continuous Improvement


Checklists are good indicators of "can do–can't do" and "done–not done," but are less informative than scaled rubrics. In general, checklists are not used to indicate the relative quality of a product or performance. Checklists are used for the following:

To record observed performance.
While students work in small groups, you might note whether or not individuals demonstrate ability or knowledge in some predetermined categories aligned to course content and objectives. For example, in a unit on leisure-time activities for Novice-level learners, a simple checklist might look like this:

Activities Checklist
Yes No Can name five sports
Yes No Can name five activities other than sports
Yes No Can create simple sentences about likes & dislikes regarding activities & sports
Yes No Can ask a question about what others do in their free time

For self-assessment
Students can use the above checklist to evaluate their own progress. The statements would be changed to "can do" statements of the type: "I can name five sports in German."

To keep track of progress over time.
For example, a checklist could be used as an inventory of skills at the beginning and end of a course. This type of checklist might form part of a portfolio.

Receptive oral skills
Understands simple directions.
Understands simple sentences.
Understands simple yes/no questions.
Understands vocabulary appropriate to age.
Understands meaning of different intonation patterns.
Understands more complex directions.
Understands rapid speech.
Understands language in classroom situation.
Understands language of peers.

Adapted from Genesee, F. & Upshur, J.A. (1996). Classroom-based evaluation in second-language education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 88.

To specify the non-negotiables.
The non-negotiables (D. Clementi, personal communication, October 2002) are items or aspects which will not be included in your qualitative criteria. For example, if a report is to be typed rather than handwritten, include this requirement on the checklist. Handwritten submissions do not meet your minimal requirements for a report, so the product is not ready to be evaluated. Giving the checklist to students at the beginning of a project allows them to be aware of, and responsible for, the non-negotiables. The example below is intended for self-assessment by students who wrote an essay about a story they read:

Essay - Non-negotiables
Yes No My paper is typed, double-spaced.
Yes No I wrote at least 500 words.
Yes No My paper has an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Yes No I included examples from the story.
Yes No I proofread my paper.

To help students fulfill task requirements
. Giving learners a checklist of the steps to complete within a task can help them turn in a better performance. The example below illustrates a checklist that might be used with one draft of an essay in a multi-draft approach. This checklist focused on grammatical elements serves to: 1) allow the teacher to indicate to students where they need to direct attention at this point in the essay-writing process, and 2) remind students of what they are expected to verify before turning in their second draft. It would be difficult to give meaningful feedback about the content of the essay in a checklist, and it is assumed that students have other opportunities to receive comments from their teacher and/or peers.

Essay - Proofreading check - Draft 2
Length requirement
Subject-verb agreement
Noun-adjective agreement
Verb conjugations


Advantages of Checklists

  • Easy to construct and use.
  • Align closely with tasks.
  • Effective for self and peer assessment.
  • Make learners aware of task requirements, allowing them to self-monitor progress.
  • Useful for sharing information with parents and other stakeholders.

Disadvantages of Checklists

  • Provide limited information about how to improve performance.
  • Do not indicate relative quality of performance.

(Brindley, 1989; Genesee & Upshur, 1996; Tedick, 2002; Underhill, 1987)


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