Developing Items - Tips for Teachers

Defining Levels

Samples found on the VIB are based on the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. Each modality and level provides a short description of level characteristics. For example,

        Novice level listening tasks require learners to demonstrate that they can:

            * Understand short utterances drawn from familiar material.
            * Identify types of authentic listening texts
            * Pick out main ideas and key words in familiar detail

It is important to note that while VIB items are presented using stimuli that are generally accepted as appropriate to specific levels, it is the task to be performed or question type to be answered that determines the level of a task.

Modes of Communication

Taken from the National Standards in Foreign Language Education, the three modes of communication focus on the purposes and contexts for communication. The Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational modes present a more complete and authentic model of communication (from Modes of Communication).

Teachers will recognize the incorporation of the four-skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) view of language proficiency in the Standards.

The three modes are explained below.

    1. Interpersonal: two-way, spontaneous oral and/or written communication with a negotiation of meaning. It is not rehearsed.

    2. Interpretive: one-way communication with authentic materials, such as in reading, listening, or viewing; understanding the factual meaning and interpreting meaning against background knowledge and experience.

    3. Presentational: includes one-way communication that is rehearsed and has a focus on form, and includes speaking and writing with an audience in mind.

Developing Assessments

Constructing assessments involves decisions about the objectives to be assessed and how to best design a task to assess that objective. In making decisions about assessment tasks, the questions below provide a useful guide.

    1. Does the assessment task align with instructional goals?

    2. Is the task the best assessment type for this objective: will it provide the evidence you are looking for?

    3. Is the task clear to the students and to the teacher?

    4. Will it provide meaningful feedback to students?

    5. Is it authentic; i.e., does it have real-life application and is it therefore a good use of class time?

    6. Is the task clear to the teacher and the student?

    7. Are student familiar with the task type? Have they had an opportunity to practice using this type of task?

    8. Does the rubric or scoring of the task reflect the goal to be assessed and does it convey expectations clearly to students?

    9. Are the item prompt and directions at the appropriate level? Tasks/items that are too difficult may negatively affect the learner's performance and result in an inaccurate picture of what the student can do in the language.

Information on assessment research an research nand item development can be found on the Virtual Assessment Center's Research and Theory modules.

About Speaking and Listening Assessments

Speaking Assessments

Some examples of ways to conduct classroom speaking assessments are:

In the sample items on this site, all text is in English. In real items, however, it is important that the item prompt (e.g., instructions) be either in the learner's native language or, if in the target language, at a level appropriate to the learner's understanding. If the item prompt is too difficult, it will negatively affect the learner's performance and result in an inaccurate picture of his abilities.

Listening Assessments

 Sound files for listening assessments can be created fairly easily, using:

  • a traditional cassette recorder or a digital audio recorder,
  • a sound recording studio
  • free ware such as Audacity, Goldwave or other comuter-based software.

Many of the listening items on this site were recorded using a digital voice recorder, which was then synced to a PC in order to upload the files to this site.

When recording sound files, it is best to record in a quiet location with minimal background noise and interruptions.

Although it not the most authentic data, scripts can be created ahead of time for the "recording artists" to follow. A preliminary run-through (before recording) can be beneficial in helping the participants become familiar with the material. They can then be asked to use the script as a guide. This ensures a more natural flow to the recorded speech and a more authentic sounding sample, with fewer hesitations and misspoken words.

After recording, digital audio files can be edited using Audacity, a free cross-platform sound editor, or other audio editing software (see Resources for more information).

Other options for obtaining sound files include recording radio or television programs or advertisements, or using a book-on-tape. However, when using such copyrighted material it is important that permission be obtained from the copyright holder beforehand.



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