CI Friendly Common Assessments – 1

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23 thoughts on “CI Friendly Common Assessments – 1”

  1. With district-wide and state-wide common assessments becoming more popular for foreign language departments, perhaps the best way to help make these common assessments be CI friendly would be to promote what Diane Noonan has authorized in DPS. I look forward to helping get the word out on what Diane Noonen, Ben, and others have done with their common assessments and eager to explore how I can do so.

    Perhaps it’s ACTFL that has the most clout in the foreign language world? If so, I’d like to explore how I can help influence them…

    “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Non-CI teaching’s got to go!”

    Yeah, I’ll bust out my Chicago Teacher’s Union chants if I have to 🙂

    1. “Perhaps it’s ACTFL that has the most clout in the foreign language world? If so, I’d like to explore how I can help influence them… ”

      I took Robert Harrell’s advice on this point, and offered to present at ACTFL in November. I was accepted! And I plan to attend all the CI-based presentations that I can while there, and if we have any evaluation forms I will note that I sought such presentations and how they benefited me. Showing that teachers are interested in CI might be helpful, I figure.

    2. By showing up as Diane has chosen to do, we reach ACTFL. There is no other way to do it. In my opinion there has always been a chasm between what ACTFL was thinking (pro-CI) but year after year after year their annual meetings were full of old guard teachers, because no one was walking the walk, as Diane will do next year. The concept of language proficiency was largely ignored. Nobody knew or seemed to want to learn how to get what ACTFL was pointing at.

      Since such a very small percentage of teachers were walking the walk in their classrooms, let alone presenting at national conferences, ACTFL had to build its yearly conference for decades (and may for decades more unless more Dianas take a risk) around the teachers that came to the conference. Otherwise they wouldn’t have one. But their statements about communication and proficiency and using the language in the classroom and all that stuff were just straight up ignored. The conference became a corporate showcase for textbooks and technology.

      ACTFL is not going to change soon because the attendees are not going to change soon. In Philadelphia the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year, Noah Geisel, was a language learning-via-technology person, even though he was from DPS. He talked the CI talk but didn’t walk the walk. I know because my classroom was next to his.

      In Denver some years back Bryce Hedstrom and I gave up finding sessions that interested us and started walking around the Denver Convention Center looking for segways to maybe steal and ride around on. Carol Gaab did present to an overflow audience of very serious looking teachers, who looked as if they had finally found water in a desert and were going to scribble every single thing she said into their notebooks.

      So there is interest. I challenge members of this group to emulate Diana’s decision. Many people in our group should consider it. That would be cool. We’ve got the people, certainly. We have the talent.

      1. Perhaps a group presentation, perhaps also presentations with titles that address the concerns many non-CI teachers and CI-teachers share alike. How about “How CI Gets Students High Scores on the AP test” or “How CI Addresses the Common Core”?

        1. I’m going somewhat more ‘stealth’ than that… I called my presentation something like “Listen & Draw, Look & Discuss, & Read & Discuss” and described them as ways to maximize use of the target language while maintaining student comprehension and interest. Something like that. I’m even going to sell it as a way to bring in authentic culture – use a picture from the culture!

      2. I think the Old Guard of grammar based teachers is pretty much on the way out. They don’t hold the power and clout that they used to. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve won yet, instead we have a new “enemy”: the people pushing for “communicative”, output-based, output-forced teaching, coupled with immersion, and also coupled with “authentic resources”, or as I call it “incomprehensible input”. These people, especially those in the ODE here in Ohio, prefer “authentic resources”. Sorry, but I sometimes struggle understanding songs, books, stories, tv shows, etc. that are made for natives, by natives. I’m not a native, nor are my students

  2. Robert Harrell

    I had intended to submit a proposal for this year but missed the deadline. This is my commitment to submit a proposal for 2015. San Diego isn’t very far from me, after all.

    I’m also planning to submit a proposal for SWCOLT 2015. I had a conflict this year, but Denver at the end of February should be pretty. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get to see Ben teach a class. And Hawaii in 2016 should be wonderful.

    I am planning to go to ACTFL in San Antonio this year and am looking forward to meeting Diane and any other PLC members who attend.

  3. Hi, I wasn’t sure exactly where to file this comment…
    I just went to a workshop on Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAS) for teachers in my district. I am new to teaching, but have been using this website to guide me and basing my classes on stories from my self-taught TPRS methods. There seems to be a lot of energy around this idea of IPAs and designing curriculums around them, and I am wondering if anyone uses this model along with TPRS/CI, and if so, how do you accomplish both at the same time? Do you think it’s necessary? How are your students performing on assessments in general?

    1. The AAPPL mentioned in the above article is an IPA. I like the idea as an end of the term proficiency evaluation. I don’t think it would change how I teach (TCI) or what I teach (high frequency and compelling structures). If our kids get the foundation for fluency, then they should be successful on other types of tasks. I fear that the IPA, in that half of what it tests is output and the input utilizes authentic materials, will be misinterpreted by FL teachers to mean that we have to teach with output and authentic materials.

  4. Hmm… yes I see what you’re saying that they could still be tested at the end of the year in an IPA format. I am also just curious how these teachers using authentic texts and teaching toward IPAs get enough repetitions of structures for kids to get to that fluency. I feel like I do so many repetitions with the stories and still they don’t always get it.

  5. …I am also just curious how these teachers using authentic texts and teaching toward IPAs get enough repetitions of structures for kids….

    They don’t. Great point, Kwane. We don’t either. Nobody does. But we get more than they do, I would suspect, without really knowing the IPA format because I don’t care, because, as Eric infers, who gets more reps than we do? If someone gets more reps than we do, I want in on that method!

    The only people getting enough reps are kids between the age of -2 months or so and five years old. Any format that assumes that their approach gets enough reps is wrong, including us.

    Languages cannot be taught for actual imitated or near-fluency in classrooms unless, perhaps, the program stretches from K-12 and then through college and beyond. Not even then, really.

    We can only get as many reps as we can get in our two to four year programs, and those reps must be comprehensible and interesting and hopefully compelling, and for us to be disappointed when our students aren’t “better” at the language after we have driven ourselves to exhaustion at the end of another year is just stupid. We may as well be upset that we can’t fly to the moon by flapping our arms real fast.

    And our targeting of structures will always be in conflict with our students’ brains’ own ordering of input, which we cannot know, and even if we did know we could never devise a curriculum for.

    So well said, Kwane – nobody gets enough reps but we get the most by far. And we don’t waste time messing with output. Would we mess with a two year old’s output? Then we shouldn’t mess with our students’ output, because in our first and second year programs especially and really all the way through they are not ready to output.

    I have planted some annual flowers in my garden right now. Trust me, I’m not going to pull those seeds out of the grown to get them to grow faster. So it is with speech and writing output. I’m not going to mess with those seeds in any way. I will only water them and give them a liquid nourishment product called “Age Old Kelp”, which would compare to massive amounts of rich reps in our work.

    The design on the really important things of life like forming a baby or forming true speech is out of our reach for a reason, yet every day teachers go into their classrooms trying to force speech from kids, to pull it like taffy out of their mouths, and they can’t see that the unformed speech (the taffy) is simply not ready to come out and all it does is cause kids to want to throw up in our classrooms and retreat emotionally.

    And then when that happens the output hungry teachers think that they are bad teachers or, worse, that their kids are stupid, even though their students are already fluent in one language.

    And using authentic texts. Yes, we should use them in the higher levels but they should be simple authentic texts. If the kids don’t have an authentic vocabulary they can’t read an authentic text and the game shifts from enjoyment of reading to reading as an intellectual left brain activity. No language can be acquired in the left hemisphere of the brain. I give my upper level TPRS/CI trained students SIMPLE authentic texts that they can handle.

    OK ramble over. Mes apologies.


    1. Or, long (and poetic)-story short, Sra. Wane, any kind of performance assessment in the FL threatens students to give forced output. Since we know forced output does not help students acquire a language, we avoid doing it. However, many members of this PLC do an output activity we call Free Writes, which we have discussed have many benefits (one being that students become very aware of their gaps in communication and therefore, hopefully, want to learn more). Some others do Free Speaks.

      Now, Eric is the guru, it seems, on this PLC on working towards creating quality input-based performance, or really, proficiency, assessments. I kinda hope we bring that topic up again over the summer.

        1. Agreed. It’s an area that I don’t think has been as thoroughly done in training, books, etc and yet is required of us in schools. So new teachers struggle to figure out what to do. I’ve tried to design assessments that draw on student comprehension and not forced output, but I’m not fully satisfied with what I have so far.

  6. I liken this discussion on performance outcomes, only in languages and not in other fields, to asking a fourth year violin student to see how well they can play the Paganini Violin Concerto, for a grade. Would a violin teacher do that? First, he wouldn’t want to hear that cat scratching. Second, he wouldn’t want his student to hear that cat scratching so that they don’t lose confidence and hopefully one day will actually be able to play it because they didn’t try it before they were ready. Yes, they will be able to play it but not after only a few years of exposure to the language. My brother Richard teaches cello at the University of Denver. He told me on a hike one day that after teaching cello for over 30 years he has concluded that the only factor in getting better at the cello is how much time the student has spent playing the cello. He told me that he now sees that all the “Do this” talk and all the talk about “Hold the bow this way” and all that is, past a certain early point, a waste of time and the person just needs to play, play, play. But we work in schools and I guess it is just too much to ask that what we know from the research be followed in favor of applying general rules of educational institutions to the quite different processes involved in learning a foreign language.

    1. And Ben, the scary thing is that the IPA-pushing people argue that they ARE motivating. The ACTFL’s Feb 2014 Language Educator edition was full of supposed quotes from children saying things like “the tests were fun” and “can we do it again.”

      Now, if that proficiency assessment were “graded” in that it starts by testing Novice-Low, then N-M, then N-H, etc. until the student breaks down and then returning to the students’ highest level of competence, which is I think how it is loosely done, then the student can feel successful. It would be motivating to students when they can handle real-life situations, but that means using “graded” materials (it would be hard to find such graded authentic materials for lower proficiency levels) and “graded” real-life tasks.

      I do think that every school year should conclude with some type of reliable, valid, and practical proficiency exam. Our CI-taught students would do better relative to students taught via other methods. Rereading Krashen’s 1982 P&P, I found Krashen 30+ years ago already gave us some important insights into the “instructional value” of a test (see pages 176-182):

      “Tests have a huge impact on classroom behavior, and need to be selected to encourage students to engage in activities that will help them acquire more language.” [backwash effect]

      “There is no evidence, for example, that practicing cloze tests in class helps the student acquire more of the language, or improves performance on cloze tests. There is very good evidence, on the other hand, that participating in conversation, and reading for content or pleasure, do help the student acquire language.”

      “Achievement tests, I am suggesting, should meet this requirement: preparation for the test, or studying for the test, should obviously encourage the student to do things that will provide more comprehensible input and the tools to gain even more input when the class is over.”

      “if we allow grammar testing, it will grow and soon dominate the testing program, and hence the curriculum. While limited grammar testing is consistent with the limited role of the grammar, there is a real danger that teachers and administrators will revert to their old ways and gradually return to testing grammar exclusively!”

      Krashen proposes only 2 types of tests: reading comprehension and conversational management.

      “The conversational management test promises to be very difficult to grade reliably, and thanks to this unreliability, it may fail to meet acceptable standards of validity. It will be hard to train raters and hard to invent topics to discuss.” [a trained, 3rd party, should administer]

      Side note: I have to admit, by rereading Krashen I am feeling overwhelmed by an urge to forward research excerpts to non-CI colleagues, asking them the “big” questions (e.g. “Why do we teach grammar?”, “Does practice make perfect?”, etc.). Not sure I have the extra time, but I’d like to open a blog where I can briefly sum up 1 research article and conclude with some insights and critical thinking questions. Then, I can share that with colleagues, much like Krashen does with his comments on the CC over on moreTPRS.

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