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June 2017 Volume 1, Issue 1

Editorial The CALT Group is a professional


community  of language teachers,
assessment coordinators, and other
Notes educators. It is a community of
Welcome to the first issue of the The CALT Report , the
practice for anybody interested in
newsletter of the Classroom Assessment for Language effective classroom assessment in
Teaching Group. This newsletter is aimed primarily at ESL/EFL programs. Visit our website
members of The CALT Group and is a venue to address
the group, discuss assessment issues, and share tips
at http://groupspaces.com/CALT. 
about doing classroom assessment better. It was also
include a few "personal slices" to enable group members
to get to know one another and our work contexts. . Classroom Assessment Tips: Advice and/or guidelines
from the literature.
In each issue of The CALT Report , you will find the
following types of articles: . Food for Thought: These assessment-related quotes
give members something to "chew over" and consider.
. Feature Article: This is a reflection or commentary on
classroom assessment with references to literature and . Photo Gallery: We will include photos of members in
includes personal views and experiences. the classroom!

. Teacher as Learner: In this short article, a teacher or . Announcements: Finally, the newsletter will run
administrator describes an experience or incident announcements and ads for upcoming conferences and
related to assessment (including students or colleagues) other events.
and explains why it was a learning experience for him or
her. The CALT Report welcomes submissions from members
for the Feature Article, Teacher as Learner, Member
. Member Spotlight: This interview with a CALT Group Spotlight, Photo Gallery, and Announcements. Please
member provides insight into their work, particularly contact us at CALT@groupspaces.com to suggest topics
related to assessment issues and responsibilities, as well for any of the articles.
as some personal interests.

1
On Engines, Engineering,
and Assessment
BY EDDY WHITE
Eddy is Assessment Coordinator at the Center for English as a Second Language at University of Arizona.
The world of English Language Teaching (ELT) seems far systems and instruments in place and make changes
removed from the profession of engineering and what there. That is, improving the assessment systems and
engineers get up to as they ply their trade on a daily tools can lead to improving student learning. Or, as
basis (indeed, I have little clue about what that actually Cowan might put it, tune up the engine(s) to better drive
may be). And yet when I do an online search for the verb student learning. 
to engineer , the English Oxford Living Dictionary provides
the following gloss: to skillfully arrange for something to Using a systems engineering reference and comparing the
occur . For language teachers, that something we wish to classroom to a black box in which certain inputs from the
occur in our classes is student language learning. And outside are fed in (i.e., students, teachers, tests, etc.) and
our challenge as teachers/assessors in both measuring outputs are later followed (e.g., student learning), forms
and promoting student learning is to "skillfully arrange" the basis of the hugely influential publication from Dylan
that learning. John Cowan, former Director of the Open and Wiliam (1998) called, Inside the Black Box: Raising
University in Scotland, famously described assessment Standards through Classroom Assessment . In this seminal
as the engine that drives learning. And so we have a publication, the authors focus on formative assessment
definition and reference to a famous quote to set up this (assessment for learning), and assert that it “is at the
analogy and comparison between teaching, assessing, heart of effective teaching” (Dylan & Wiliam, 1998, p. 2).
and engineering that I would like to riff on in this brief
article. Assessment literate teachers know full well the
distinction between summative and  formative
Taking this analogy further, we could assert that in assessment, and that summative assessment is intended
creating teacher-made assessments for the classroom, to summarize (and grade) what students have learned at
then part of what we do as language teachers may be the end of an instructional segment (unit, module,
considered engine-building. Echoing the Cowan course, etc.). On the other hand, formative assessment
assertion about assessment driving learning is the occurs concurrently with teaching, and such ongoing
following assertion from Boud (1986): assessments (typically non-graded) provide specific
feedback to teachers and students for the purpose of
       Assessment methods and requirements probably guiding teaching to improve learning. As learning is
       have a greater influence on how and what students driven by what teachers and students do in the classroom
        learn than any other single factor. This influence (Black & William, 1998), the assessment procedures,
       may well be of greater importance than the impact principles, and instruments that the teacher creates,
       of teaching materials (p. 50). adopts, adapts, and implements will have a huge impact
(for better or worse) on driving that learning.
Havnes (2004) reminds us that because the assessment
system in a course defines what is worth learning, it is as Depending on the context they work in, teachers will have
influential in directing student learning as teaching (if varying levels of control in setting up grading frameworks
not more so). I sometimes tell teachers that if they are for the courses they teach and in creating  assessment
not happy with a course they taught and the learning instruments to both measure and promote student
that occurred (or did not), then to look at the assessment achievement of course learning outcomes. We create
  
                                                                           continued on p. 3

2
"On engines, engineering, and assessment" continued...
these "leaning engines" for the courses that we teach – This is an example of a simple, but effective assessment that
hopefully ones that are powerful and work well in works well in the classroom (I’ll resist the temptation to go
promoting that deep learning (rather than surface learning) off on a tangent about the children’s book named The Little
that we want our students to engage in. To provide Engine that Could). Other engines we put together are more
contextualization to assessment in classroom practice, I’d complicated tools (e.g., research reports and projects),
like to mention a learning engine that has become a regular often with a summative assessment purpose, and effectively
part of my teaching repertoire and assessment for learning cause the kind of student learning we want to see our
practice. students engage in.

In Reading skills courses I teach, I typically use a target It is worth noting that people (including teachers
vocabulary review that I call the "Triple 5 quiz." My themselves) can have a limited view of what assessment
students know that when I write "5 x 5 x 5" on the entails, typically being comprised of the summative testing
whiteboard, they will have five minutes to write five that generates grades or scores that are aggregated into an
sentences with the five target words/phrases (which I write overall final course grade. While such summative
on the board). They have to write sentences demonstrating assessment is a critically important component of
they know the words meaning and usage. After five minutes classroom assessment, Leung & Mohan (2004) remind us of
students exchange sentences and engage in a peer the bigger picture:
assessment task (with a check mark if the writer's sentences
show they understood the meanings, or an x if they did not).       Much of what teachers and learners do in classrooms
The Triple 5 quiz (non-graded, of course) is the type of       can be described as assessment. That is, tasks and
formative assessment that can be used at any time, and any       questions prompt learners to demonstrate their
level, and provides an effective review of student target       knowledge, understanding and skills. What learners          
vocabulary learning (and informs me whether I can move on       say and do is then observed and interpreted and                
or need to re-teach). And we have some fun doing this type       improved. These assessment processes are an
of low stakes, feedback-focused assessment. (Yes, I realize       essential part of everyday classroom practice and
that having 'assessment' and 'fun’ in the same sentence is       involve both teachers and learners in reflection,
unusual).        dialogue and decision-making (p. 360).
                                                                               continued on p. 4

Written Communications class: Eddy White and students (from China, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, United Arab Emirates) at CESL, University of Arizona.

3
"On engines, engineering, and assessment" continued...
This is a useful reminder that we as teachers engage in
assessment in every class that we teach (Q & A with
students being perhaps the most common example),
though we may rarely consider it in that way. Indeed ‘these
assessment processes’, and the teacher decision-making
behind them, are critical in attempting to skillfully arrange
the learning we hope to see happen in our classes.

The French have a phrase, la chose bien faite - meaning, the


thing well made or the thing well done. Bringing skill and We know from experience that we cannot “make” or “force”
competence (i.e., assessment literacy) to the assessment our students to learn. But what we can do is provide those
instruments and procedures we make part of our courses, best conditions for learning to occur; that is, to effectively
classes, and lives of our students is a continuous engineer learning. Effective classroom assessment by
professional challenge. But meeting this challenge skillfully assessment literate educators plays a critical role in
goes a long way in helping us engineer the kinds of learning skillfully creating flourishing learning environments, and
environments we hope our students (and their English growing our student’s language proficiency.
language learning) flourish in.
Best wishes with your engine building and learning
I would like to conclude this piece with a story – a short engineering!
and simple one that I sometimes use in teacher training
talks and workshops about classroom assessment. I do not References
know where the story originates; it goes something like Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising
this:     standards through classroom assessment.  Phi Delta
   Kappan,   80(2), 139-148.
A grandfather planting seeds in his garden was asked by Boud, D. (1986). Implementing Student Self-Assessment.
his grandson, “How do you make the seeds grow?”    HERDSA Green Guides Vol.5. University of New South
   Wales, Australia.
The grandfather replied, “I can’t make the seeds grow, Cowan, J. (1998). On becoming an innovative university
but I can provide the best conditions for them to grow.”    teacher: Society for Research into Higher Education, RHE
   & Open University Press. Buckingham, UK.
Havnes, A. (2004). Examination and learning: An activity
   theoretical analysis of the relationship between
   assessment and educational practice.  Assessment and
   Evaluation in Higher Education:   29(2), 159-176.
Leung, C. and B. Mohan. (2004). Teacher formative
   assessment and talk in classroom contexts: Assessment
   as discourse and assessment of discourse.  Language
   Testing: 21(3): 360-389.

Food for Thought


There is a core set of knowledge and skills that all teachers should possess relative to
assessment. We refer to this as assessment literacy — the ability to create and use valid and
reliable assessments as a classroom teacher to facilitate and communicate student
learning. Source: Teacher-Made Assessments, Second Edition (Gareis & Grant 2015)

4
5. Acquaint students with techniques and

formats prior to testing.

Classroom Students should never be exposed to a new

format or technique in a testing situation. Doing

Assessment so could affect the reliability of your

test/assessment. Don’t avoid new formats; just

TIPS introduce them to your classes in a low-stress

1. Test what has been taught and how it has environment outside the testing situation.

been taught.

This is the basic concept of content validity. In 6. Administer the test in uniform, non-

achievement testing, it is important to only test distracting conditions.

students on what has been covered in class and Another threat to the reliability of your test is

to do this through formats and techniques they the way you administer the assessment. Make

are familiar with. sure your testing conditions and procedures are

consistent with different groups of students.

2. Set tasks in context wherever possible.

This is the basic concept of authenticity. 7. Employ multiple measures assessments in

Authenticity is just as important in language your classes.

testing as in language teaching. Whenever Use a variety of types of assessment to determine

possible, develop assessment tasks that mirror the language abilities of your students. No one

purposeful real-life situations. type of assessment can give you all the

information you need to actively assess your

3. Choose formats that are authentic for tasks students.

and skills. Source: A Practical Guide to Assessing Language Learners

Although challenging at times, it is better to (Coombe, Folse & Halsey, 2007, p.7).

select formats and techniques that are purposeful

and relevant to real-life contexts.

4. Specify the material to be tested.

This is the basic concept of transparency. It is

crucial that students have information about how

they will be assessed and have access to the

criteria on which they will be assessed. This

transparency will lower students test anxiety.

Whenever possible,

develop assessment tasks

that mirror purposeful

real-life situations. Angelina Serratos and Tahnee Bucher,


CESL, University of Arizona

5
BY NASRIN NAZEMI
Teacher as Learner Nasrin is the Assessment
Considering the teacher also as a learner in the classroom (and Coordinator at the University
workplace), in this section we ask a member to describe a memorable of Washington.
assessment experience and the learning that occurred.

Several years ago, I was teaching a cohort of Korean students who had received a bursary to attend a

language and culture program in Canada. It took only a few hours for me to identify one student as being

almost a native speaker, and a few days for the same student to start complaining about the level of material

in our course. Since this was a stand-alone course, meaning that students could not be moved to a higher-

level class, I offered her tougher homework and every two days, I checked on her.  

     In class, every time I assigned a collaborative task to assess students’ learning, she and her partners did

quite well. My dilemma was to determine who was doing the job, and whose work I was assessing. So, I

decided to wrap up every class assessment with a personalized oral or written reflection. This resulted in

individual students taking responsibility in completing the tasks, and the advanced student took on a

leadership role instead of doing the job all by herself.

     It was important that this student felt comfortable enough to bring up her problem and make herself be

heard. If I had left the student be and ignored her dominant role in group assessments, it would’ve looked

and felt bad for all. What I learned was that assigning more challenging homework was not enough. I needed

to engage this student. I'm glad that I took time to re-evaluate my assessment method and improve on it.

Consequently, we worked together to create a positive learning experience for everyone, not just her.

CALT 2017 Food for


Thought
2nd Annual Classroom Assessment
for Language Teaching Conference
November 3-4, 2017 Classroom assessment is an
ongoing process through which
Center for English as a Second Language teachers and students interact to
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA promote greater learning. The
Find out more at www.cesl.arizona.edu/calt. assessment process involves using

Come and join us!! a range of strategies to make


decisions regarding instruction and
gathering information about student
performance or behavior in order to
diagnose students’ problems,
monitor their progress, or give
feedback for improvement.
Source: A Teacher’s Guide to
Classroom Assessment (Butler &
McMunn 2006)

6
Member Spotlight

learning outcomes and aim towards achieving validity,

Tom Delaney reliability, and positive washback. The committee also

reviews the final assessments in each course once a year,

including doing item analyses on the assessments to make


Tom is Coordinator of
sure that things are functioning properly and to identify
the Academic English
anything that could be improved.

for International

Students program at the Q. In your context, with your students, what

assessment-related issues do you and your colleagues


University of Oregon,
have?
where he also teaches in
A. There is sometimes some tension between individual
the Linguistics Dept.
instructors' views/practices and what we, as a program,

have decided to do. There is a need to balance instructors'

Q. Describe your current position and teaching professional academic freedom with the need for a unified

situation. curriculum and assessments.

A. I am currently dividing time between two main

responsibilities. The bulk of my work is as the Coordinator Q. What specific assessment challenges do you or your

of the Academic English for International Students (AEIS) colleagues face in the classroom?

program at the University of Oregon. This program is a A. When and how much is it okay to intermingle assessing

suite of EAP courses for matriculated international receptive and productive skills? Some language testers

students, and I coordinate work on the curriculum and (Hughes, 2003) seem to favor not "contaminating" the

assessment, as well as working on nuts-and-bolts issues skills, so if you're going to assess reading, you should aim

like scheduling instructors. My other area of responsibility to only assess reading. However, others seem to be more

is teaching in UO's Linguistics Department. Twice a year, I okay with mixing skills in tasks like "read an article or

teach courses to students training to be language teachers. story and summarize it." The integrated writing tasks in the

I teach LT 4/535: Second Language Teaching Methods and iBT TOEFL, for example, require a mix of skills, so we are

LT 4/549: Language Testing and Assessment. left to try to decide when to mingle skills and when to try

to isolate them. The correct answer generally seems to be

Q. What assessment responsibilities do you have? "it depends" on what you are trying to assess, in what

A. Aside from what I mentioned above, if questions arise context, with what type of students, etc., etc.

around placement testing of new students, I tend to get

involved even though it is not always my responsibility. Q. What have you learned about assessment in the past

The reason for this is that I was here when the current year that you have tried to incorporate into your

placement testing system was being adopted and set up, so teaching practices?

I have relevant historical knowledge and experience with A. In the last year in my own teaching practice, I have

it. tried to incorporate more types of formative assessment.

We are all always assessing students, even if it's just

Q. Does your program have an Assessment Committee? looking out at their faces to see if they look confused or

A. Yes.  not, but I've been experimenting with some more

systematic techniques for ungraded assessment, like the

Q. If yes, how does the Assessment Committee ones listed at http://wvde.state.wv.us/teach21/

function? ExamplesofFormativeAssessment.html. 

A. The Assessment Committee provides guidance and acts

as quality control for the high-stakes end-of-term Q. What is an area of assessment that you want to learn

assessments (final exams) in the Intensive English more about?

Program. They work with instructors in the different levels A. I'm not that old, but technology develops so quickly

to develop and maintain test specifications for each course. now that I always feel like I'm playing catch up with new 

These specifications are like blueprints or recipes for

creating final assessments that align with the course                                                       Continued on p. 8

7
Member Spotlight continued...

apps, software, web-based tools, etc., so I'd like to keep learn about what professors expect in these discussion

learning about what's new and whether/how it can be used board posts and try to teach and assess this type of writing.

for assessment, or whether it affects what we need to be

teaching and assessing. For example, in a recent needs Q. When you want to forget about assessment, teaching,

analysis we did about the kinds of assignments and work, what do you like to do to relax?

undergraduates have to do at the UO, we discovered that A. I'm an avid cyclist. I love riding anywhere and

more and more professors are assigning and grading online everywhere, but especially mountain biking. We have a lot

discussion board posts. This type of writing is quite of great trails near Eugene, so I try to get out as often as

different from more traditional essays and papers and is a possible. I'm also happy just to hang out and read at home,

curious mix of formality and informality, so we had to or to take little local trips with my family. 

THE CALT REPORT


CONTRIBUTORS - JUNE 2017
Editor - Eddy White
Production & Design - 
Holly Wehmeyer
Contributors - Nasrin
Nazemi, Tom Delaney,
Angelina Serratos, Tahnee Bucher,
Abdulsamad Yahya Humaidan,
Lourdes Arey, Kathleen Corrales,
Erica Ferrera

Abdulsamad Yahya Humaidan, English Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Erica Ferrera, Lourdes Arey, Kathleen Corrales, and students; Universidad Del Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia