TPRS vs. Traditional Assessment

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7 thoughts on “TPRS vs. Traditional Assessment”

  1. Stepping on soapbox to preach to the choir… The invalidity of the non-CI testing situation is a reason why I argued against testing Chinese 1s with “outside” tests like the HSK, STAMP, or APPLL: those tests are completely out of whack with what my students know on the one hand, and on the other, the tests expect massive memorization of low-frequency words and characters. In Chinese, no visual cues for beginners in reading to figure out words or guess; hardly any cognates in listening (none visually obvious). So this is a huge problem. I don’t want my students feeling dumb because of a test like that. Too much picky vocab and way too much of it in reading sections. Plus, you teach fewer structures in Chinese than you can with all those cognates in European languages. So a level 1 test has the biggest disparity between typical standardized test expectations and what they do in CI classes in level 1.
    So, thankfully this year I had a reprieve from admins. However, I’m working on getting something for next year that is not about lists of precise nouns with a dash of verbs, because I have to give them an “objective” test. I can’t not test them next year. But I can help ensure the test is of high-frequency, real language that they’ve had exposure to instead of lists of nouns. At least there’s that.
    Those who follow the moreTPRS listserv might have seen Haiyun Lu’s request a few months ago for story ideas. She wanted to teach her Chinese 1’s the names of shapes because that was going to be on their STAMP test in April. She protested about that test but admins vetoed her. Her need was very creatively addressed and showed the supportiveness of this community of teachers… but the whole situation made me upset. Her students have far more real language in their heads – I’ve seen videos – and that test expects school supplies, fruits and vegetables, and shapes? (Which reminds me of one cognate: mango. There, that’s it in those topics.)

  2. In Latin there is a similar frustrating situation, in that the big tests (AP, IB, SAT subject), basically reward memorization of translations of classic literature and grammar study. On the positive side, this is changing, slowly, from the ground level up. For example, the National Latin exam now focuses on comprehension of stories, features conversational Latin phrases, and advertises that it does not ask explicit grammar questions at the lower levels. This is in large part the result of the NLE creators hearing that Bob Patrick was not a fan of their test. Now, we also have the ALIRA exam, which places students on the ACTFL proficiency scale. As for AP, it is only a matter of time before the teachers who control it retire, or Latin teachers realize that they don’t need it. In the meantime, the more we connect with students, and find allies in school administration, we will be working toward this change.

  3. Traditional style exams are the culture over here in Scotland and it’s very difficult to convince anyone (parents, admins, kids, or colleagues) that CI is yielding any worthwhile results. I’ve been lucky in that the kids that have chosen Gaelic have mostly bought into CI and their exam results have been in the A-B range, which they need to get into university.
    However, this week my boss told me recently that my approach isn’t taken seriously because my kids are “jumping around the room” and not doing memorization/textbook work. A French colleague at my school who was exploring TPRS has dropped it completely. The nature of exams catering to kids who can memorize well is openly discussed here but there is intense resistance to any alternative route to scoring highly on the precious exams, ie: TPRS/CI.
    Scottish kids are meant to be taught with Scottish methods by Scottish teachers to go to Scottish universities. Argh!

    1. Matthew DuBroy

      Jason what your boss said to you reminds me of our conversation on here about this (gaining fluency in a language) is not academic work, i.e. it isn’t a logical/speculative activity – like math or most other subjects in school. It is a practical thing; it is about the ability to use the language. In this regard I wonder why admins are not opposed to physical education. That is not intellectual and aren’t they “jumping around the room” not memorizing the rules (to basketball or football for example)?
      Why can’t we just agree that gaining use of a language is a good for a human being to do just like physical health is good for him? This would be sufficient reason that it is done IN SCHOOL even if it isn’t intellectual. Even now not all things we do in school are intellectual.
      It is frustrating. Keep up the good fight Jason!

      1. ” In this regard I wonder why admins are not opposed to physical education.”
        Good point! Our kids are always out on softball, soccer, or rugby trips yet few people seem to challenge it. There’s no benefit towards their exam classes – it could be detrimental as they’re missing class time. I wonder what the admins would say to that.
        Many thanks for your support, Matthew.

    2. Michael Coxon

      Can your students speak Gaelic yet? Can you record students speaking and discuss with others that your approach yields tangible results? It is hard to argue against methods that obtain communicative competence in both writing and speaking.
      Hang in there roomie! 🙂

      1. Yes, my kids can. When I first came to this school, I asked my classes to chat with each other so I could assess their language level. None could say much more than “Hello, my name is ______. How are you?”, even the AP kids! Now a number of kids use Gaelic off the cuff with tons of confidence.
        When I sub for a 7th-8th grade colleague, the kids speak Gaelic and English. A kid was moving a table the other day and told me that he was “làidir” (strong). Do they do that with French/Spanish? It’s possible but I haven’t heard them.
        Aye, formal assessment results are what I need more of. I have some video evidence of storyasking/MTs with great speaking output from 6th graders. I need some hard writing evidence to balance it. I’ve been very cautious of using freewrites since my kids get so few language classes per week. Next year, I’ll be doing one every few months on very textbook/exam friendly topics. With any luck, they’ll make the kids’ gains more obvious.
        It’s a tricky situation because by the time they come to me with enough maturity to really do deep CI (9th grade), they have a mandatory exam at the end of the year. Having that pressure turns so many kids off my subject and I can understand why. That leaves the “smart girls” as my main consumer so to speak and they’re usually skeptical from day one because they don’t have a textbook. Still, exam results have been high so far and if my most recent group get the As they’re frantically revising for, I think everyone will relax a bit.
        Thanks for the support, Michael.

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