Assessment

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ED376695 1994-07-00 Alternative
Assessment and Second Language
Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest.
ERIC Development Team
www.eric.ed.gov

Table of Contents
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Alternative Assessment and Second Language Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest................................................................... 2 ASSESSMENT AND TESTING CONTRASTED.......................... 2 WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT AND WHY IS IT

NEEDED?.................................................................. 3 AND WHAT ABOUT AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT?..................... 4
WHAT IS PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT?................................... 4 WHAT GOES INTO A PORTFOLIO?....................................... 4 WHAT ARE SOME IMPLICATIONS OF INCORPORATING
ALTERNATIVE............................................................ 5 CONCLUSION.................................................................. 5 REFERENCES.................................................................. 5

ERIC Identifier: ED376695
Publication Date: 1994-07-00
Author: Hancock, Charles R.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.

Alternative Assessment and Second Language
ED376695 1994-07-00 Alternative Assessment and Second Language Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest.

Page 1 of 7

www.eric.ed.gov

ERIC Custom Transformations Team

Study: What and Why? ERIC Digest.
THIS DIGEST WAS CREATED BY ERIC, THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES
INFORMATION CENTER. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ERIC, CONTACT ACCESS ERIC 1-800-LET-ERIC
Alternative assessment, authentic assessment, portfolio assessment, self-assessment, self-monitoring, and the list goes on. Clearly, assessment is a popular topic these days. Frequently encountered in professional publications, workshops, inservice training, and college courses, assessment meets the criteria for being a cutting-edge topic. Why is there such an emphasis on assessment in the 1990's? What does an emphasis on assessment mean for language teachers, researchers, and students? This Digest looks at these questions and discusses some of the practical implications of assessing language students differently than we currently do.

ASSESSMENT AND TESTING CONTRASTED
One useful way to think about assessment is to contrast it with testing, an ever-present factor that confronts teachers and students in all disciplines. Tests have come to be an accepted component of instructional programs throughout the world. Sometimes tests are justified on the basis of accountability: are students learning what they are supposed to be learning? Decision-makers need this type of evidence in order to make judgments about how to spend resources, for example. Sometimes, tests are viewed as feedback for language students concerning their progress. Oller (1979, p. 401) stated that "the purpose of tests is to measure variance in performances of various sorts." In this sense, testing--typically achievement testing--serves as a monitoring device for learning. Tests are given at a particular point in time to "sample" student learning. Most of us are familiar with "paper and pencil" tests even if they take on a computerized format. Ordinarily, after the test is given, some type of reporting takes place, often in the form of a single score or grade. Sometimes, decisions are made based on test results (e.g., retake the test, pass the course, go on to the next unit of instruction, etc.). A final important aspect of testing is that the test is usually kept hidden from the students until it is administered, indicating a degree of secrecy in order to assure confidentiality. Let's assume that this simple characterization of tests and testing is correct. Assessment then can be shown to be very different. Some important differences between testing and assessment become obvious. In an instructional program, assessment is usually an ongoing...
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