Instruments to Assess Authentic Tasks in ELL Classrooms

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  • 0:03 ELL Teachers
  • 1:33 Rubrics & Performance Criteria
  • 3:00 Nonverbal Assessments
  • 3:57 Portfolios
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kristilynn Turney

Kristilynn has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management. She has taught high school English, Public Speaking and Theater; served as instructional coach; consultant, assistant principal, principal, asst. director and college professor.

Traditional paper and pencil and computer-based assessments can be challenging for all students, especially English language learners. This lesson identifies assessment instruments that teachers can use to assess ELLs as they perform authentic and real-world tasks.

ELL Teachers

Ms. Jones is a first-year ELL teacher. She's eager and excited to work with English language learners but afraid of assessing them. Her fears about assessment come from the challenges that ELL students present. Ms. Jones doesn't know if she can determine if the students know the content but cannot express themselves because of the language barrier. Follow Ms. Jones as she identifies three instruments that can help her successfully assess her students.

Ms. Jones knows that assessing students is necessary to ensure learning and comprehension. The challenge comes when selecting the type of assessment, especially for English language learners. Parents, students, and even Ms. Jones and her colleagues are tired of traditional testing models. Whether it is a classroom assessment or an assessment for state graduation requirements or college admissions, many feel that today's students are tested to death. In many states, students are tested two to four times a year. Ms. Jones recognizes that paper and pencil or computer-based testing is an old-school/traditional method that oftentimes doesn't truly analyze a student's ability or higher level thinking skills.

In this lesson, we will identify three instruments that can be used to assess the abilities of ELLs. The instruments are:

  • Rubrics and performance criteria
  • Nonverbal assessments
  • Portfolios

These instruments provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate proficiency and can be used during authentic, contextualized, and real-world tasks.

Rubrics & Performance Criteria

One way for Ms. Jones to assess English language learners is through rubrics and performance criteria. Rubrics are guides used to score a certain assignment or assessment. Performance criteria are similar to rubrics and are a set of expectations based on performance tasks. Rubrics and performance criteria are often teacher-developed measurement tools.

Using rubrics and performance criteria for ELL students is a good way to assess them because not only do they break away from the traditional ways of assessment, but they also empower students to speak and present. This encourages language proficiency and builds confidence in speaking. These tools can measure one individual task or can be used to measure a variety of tasks. Additionally, rubrics and performance criteria can be repeatedly used to assess student growth over a set period of time.

Rubric categories can include text features or fluency in reading measures. An example of a rubric category for fluency of a new ESL student could be 30 correctly pronounced words in a passage equals proficiency, or 50 words per minute in a passage equals proficiency.

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