Continuous Improvement

Feedback to Improve Performance

“Continuous Improvement” is critical in the development of proficiency in a world language. Students improve their communication skills when they have clear criteria and models of what those skills look and sound like, and when they have helpful feedback on how they can change or modify their current performance. The desire for continuous improvement, continuous learning, is a significant reason why educators focus on “assessment” of student performance. Wiggins and McTighe (2005) give an excellent explanation of “assessment” in Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition:

By assessment we mean the act of determining the extent to which the desired results are on the way to being achieved and to what extent they have been achieved. Assessment is the umbrella term for the deliberate use of many methods of gathering evidence of meeting desired results, whether those results are state content standards or local curricular objectives. The collected evidence we seek may well include observations and dialogues, traditional quizzes and tests, performance tasks and projects, as well as students’ self-assessments gathered over time. Assessment is thus a more learning focused term than evaluation, and the two should not be viewed as synonymous. Assessment is the giving and using of feedback against standards to enable improvement and the meeting of goals. Evaluation, by contrast, is more summative and credential-related. In other words, we need not give a grade—an evaluation—to everything we give feedback to. In fact, a central premise of our argument is that understanding can be developed and evoked only through multiple methods of ongoing assessment, with far greater attention paid to formative (and performance) assessment than is typical.

By desired results we mean what has often been termed intended outcomes, achievement targets, or performance standards. All four terms are meant to shift our focus away from the inputs to the output: what the student should be able to know, do, and understand upon leaving, expressed in performance and product terms. Desired result reminds us also that, as “coaches,” we will likely have to adjust our design and performance en route, if feedback shows that we are in danger of not achieving the successes sought (p.6).

With this understanding of assessment in mind, we will examine several topics all designed to give students helpful feedback as they work towards greater proficiency in a world language:

  • Objectivity vs subjectivity
  • Formative assessments
  • Checklists
  • Rubrics



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