Asking The Right Questions

When I was in sixth grade, the teacher gave us one assignment that I’ll never forget. Each one of us had to create a poster to decorate the classroom. We had to find a quote that we liked, write it on poster board and illustrate the message. All the posters were displayed but the best ones got little star stickers on them. Some of those quotes still guide me positively yet there’s one that I never forgot because I didn’t quite comprehend it. The quote read in Spanish: “Cuando supe todas las respuestas, me cambiaron todas las preguntas.” I haven’t come across the English version but it would translate into something like “When I finally got all the answers, all my questions changed.” Today, I fully understood the quote.

I was very fortunate to attend a two-day training session with Paul Sandrock, ACTFL Associate Director of Professional Development, as part of the NJ Model Curriculum project. I was looking forward to get first hand information about assessments in the world language classroom as well as feedback on whether what I’ve been doing is right. As Mr. Sandrock exposed the different ideas and strategies I realized that I had been asking myself all the wrong questions. I consider myself a reflective practitioner always looking for ways to improve instruction and assessment. However, I have been making changes at a superficial level and somehow underestimating the ability of my students based on the fact that they are at the novice level. Interestingly enough (at least to me) there were no specific answers to my questions but I now understand what needs to be done. That is, to facilitate the learning process and help students improve their proficiency by allowing them to achieve to their highest potential instead of limiting them (inadvertently) with assessment criteria that was meant to be used as a guide.

Below I share my new assessment “to do” list, based on the ideas discussed:

– Think of what the real life purpose of the assessment is.

– Choose an interpretive text that consists of something that the students have never seen before.

– Allow students to be themselves on interpersonal assessments.

– Encourage storytelling through presentational tasks.

– Make sure that rubrics are aligned with tasks and evaluate what’s being measured.

– When in doubt go to “The Keys to Assessing Language Performance”, Sandrock’s new book.

I’m so looking forward to FLENJ’s Spring Conference and Mr. Sandrock’s keynote address!

Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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