Nathan Black

Andrew reminded us in a comment here that Nathan wrote about Robert’s new assessment initiative on Michele’s blog yesterday. I put that link here so that I can categorize it under “Assessment/Robert Harrell” just to keep everything related to this topic clear and accessible. This is an important link:



1 thought on “Nathan Black”

  1. You know, I’m looking at the three modes of communication–interpersonal, interpretive and presentational–which are interpreted as replacements for the good old four modalities of reading, listening, speaking and writing and trying to read between the lines.
    (See point 3 on this page: )
    In many ways, presentational seems to be a pretty clear cut replacement for both speaking and writing, with the difference that people from one culture are apparently presenting to another culture.
    Again, interpretive slots well into the space vacated by reading and listening, with the difference that people from one culture are supposedly deciphering cultural clues from another culture.
    Notice the common thread? The description of these modes wants to emphasize the degree to which culture is embedded in all aspects of language learning, which is certainly vital. At the same time, much of the communication we will be assessing will be between members of the same culture (students talking to us, us talking to students, etc.). To a certain degree I think we might be able to use existing four modalities rubrics and add a line about cultural recognition and negotiation.
    This alone is of course an oversimplistic approach. I still want to better understand how to assess a student’s demonstrated understanding of a given text (written or spoken or visual) based on not simply classifying the component structures, but in how they personally relate to a text, imbue it with personal meaning, and modify it (through parallel stories, finding new endings, extending textual elements into new situations) to meet their own purposes. In short, I’d be interested in looking at classifying how students engage texts, not just break them down. Then I’d like to better learn how to bring myself to recognize how such a complex process is unfolding for each learner in a class of 25+.
    The interpersonal mode does seem to be a new duck in the water here as it highlights the degree to which meaning is negotiated and emphasizes how various negotiation strategies are enabled. I like this very much, and this is rightfully the focus of much of the conversation about how to develop rubrics to identify it. The interpersonal isn’t looking so much to classify with what degree of proficiency language is used (as do presentational and interpretive) but instead focuses on what language is used to accomplish and HOW it is used as a tool to negotiate understanding.
    As a result, in addition to the various things that have already been written to emphasize how students interact with us as teachers (following rules, doing their 50 percent) we should also emphasize linguistic compensation strategies (circumlocution, recycling language from interlocutor, etc.) and the ways in which students use language to interact with each other (show support, develop each other’s thoughts, etc.). I love the focus here on the “how” and “for what ends” of language use, but don’t know how to capture that in a rubric just yet.

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