Assessing Language Learners' Communication Skills via Authentic Communicative Performance Tasks

July 19–23, 2021
Synchronous* 1-week summer institute

"Performance is effectively assessed within tasks that test learners' knowledge and skills in real-world situations, that is, in 'authentic' contexts in which students use the language in their lives both within and outside of the classroom. (Shrum & Glisan)

Donna Clementi

This institute opens with a discussion of the phrase "performance towards proficiency" to highlight the connection between classroom performance and proficiency in real world contexts. Working together, participants will create a list of characteristics of classroom activities and tasks that build learners' proficiency in the target language and will use the list to identify the purpose, effectiveness, and practicality of a variety of sample activities and tasks. With this background, participants will design receptive and productive communicative tasks for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency.

The institute will then focus on the evaluation of the learners' performance on the tasks they create. Drawing on the performance descriptors identified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), and the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA), participants will identify the domains (vocabulary, language control, text type, etc.) to evaluate learner performance on various tasks. Using model rubric scales and scoring guides, they will evaluate examples of learner performances on various tasks. Participants will then create rubrics for the tasks they designed earlier in the institute. The role and choice of formative assessments used in daily lessons to monitor learner progress towards greater proficiency will also be considered. As a capstone to the week, participants will apply their learning about task design and evaluation in the development of a standards-based Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) to share with colleagues within this institute and also with a broader audience via the CARLA Assessment website.

Program Schedule (9am-4pm)
Day 1
  • Performance Towards Proficiency
Day 2
  • Characteristics of High-Quality Performance Tasks
  • Evaluating Sample Performance Tasks
  • Creating Performance Tasks
Day 3
  • Performance Descriptors: ACTFL, CEFR, WIDA
  • Selecting Appropriate Domains for Evaluating Learner Performance
  • Designing/Adapting Rubrics and Formative Assessments for Various Tasks
Day 4
  • Designing a Standards-Based IPA and Accompanying Scoring Guides and Rubrics
Day 5
  • Completing the Design of an IPA
  • Sharing IPAs with Colleagues

After this institute, you will be able to:

  • Compare characteristics of performance and proficiency as they relate to the meaning of "performance towards proficiency" in the world language classroom;

  • Design receptive and productive communicative tasks for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency;

  • Identify commonalities among the ACTFL, CEFR, and WIDA performance descriptors for world language and ESL learning contexts;
  • Evaluate the quality of several performance assessment tasks and rubrics, making suggestions for improvement as appropriate;
  • Create formative assessments used in daily lessons to monitor learner progress in communication skills; and

  • Design a standards-based integrated performance assessment (IPA) with appropriate rubrics and scoring guides.


Donna Clementi is a well-known consultant and national speaker on curriculum and assessment development. With more than 30 years of experience teaching French grades K-12, Dr. Clementi is currently a world language methods instructor at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin.

Target Audience

This institute is designed for foreign language and ESL teachers at the late elementary through the postsecondary level, as well as teacher educators and preservice teachers. The institute is not intended for immersion teachers.


  • This synchronous online institute will run from 9 am-4 pm (Central Time). The schedule includes many synchronous presentations throughout the day as well as time for independent or partner/group work and a break for lunch.
  • You must be available to participate for the entire day MondayÐFriday.
  • Make sure you can meet the tech requirements for this institute.
  • While this institute will be offered online in 2021, we intend to offer it face-to-face in 2022. If you can only take it online, you are encouraged to enroll this summer.
Quote MarksRight quote marksI highly recommend this institute to anyone who is looking to improve their language program and their teaching skills. This institute has given me the tools to be a better teacher.
Monica Nichols, 2020 Participant
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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414