As my understanding about how languages are acquired continues to evolve, so does my vision of my role in the classroom. When I began teaching, I considered my prime responsibility to be that of providing vocabulary lists and explanations of grammatical rules followed by opportunities to practice them. A lot has changed over the past few years! I now see my primary role as that of creating contexts for my students to communicate using language suitable to their proficiency level and then providing feedback on their use of that language. Specifically, I provide language input via culturally-rich authentic resources (as well as my own language use) and create activities that require the students to interpret this language and use the vocabulary and structures they acquire to communicate with others. Of course, my work isn’t finished when these learning opportunities have been created! These students need feedback on their language use. They need to know whether their interpretation of a text is accurate and whether their own oral and written communication is comprehensible. More importantly, they need to know what they can do to increase their proficiency in the language.
In an ideal world, this means that the students would engage in communicative activities, I would provide immediate feedback on this communication, and the students would use this feedback to set goals enabling them to communicate more proficiently in the future. However, in the imperfect world of my classroom, this process has not been working they way it should. My feedback has not been timely enough and I have not provided adequate opportunities for the students to use this feedback in a way that would inform their subsequent communication. As a result, my feedback process looked like the image linked to this post rather than the loop it should have been. The feedback my students received from me often seemed to be a dead end–clearly I need to do much better at closing my feedback loop!
After careful reflection, I’ve come up with the following action plan for the upcoming school year.
My students read a lot of authentic materials in class, but I often fail to provide timely feedback on the accuracy of their interpretation for several reasons. First of all, I’ve been using the ACTFL IPA template to create comprehension guides for many of these texts. While I think it’s important that instruction mirror assessment, the use of English for these formative assessments (which I support) would impede my ability to stay in the target language. Furthermore, I worried that my students will be less likely to focus on interpretive tasks if they know that I would be providing the answers at the end of the class. As a result, I collected way too many papers, spent way too much time grading and recording them (and cajoling absent students to complete them) and wasted valuable class time passing them back to students who looked at the grade and threw them away. I plan to address these obstacles this year by 1) creating formative comprehension tasks that don’t require English, 2) letting go of the idea that grades can be used to control student behavior and 3) providing whole-class feedback directly after the formative interpretive task. As a result of these changes, I will spend less time grading and my students will receive immediate feedback on their interpretive communication.
Interpersonal and Presentational Communication
While whole-class feedback can be effective on interpretive tasks that often have right or wrong answers, students need specific, individualized feedback to improve their performance on this mode. While I am able to provide some feedback as I circulate among the students during these activities, I think I could provide more global feedback if each student had an opportunity to receive feedback on the entirety of their performance. Therefore, my plan is to provide each student an opportunity to be formatively assessed on the same prompt they will have on the IPA, although with a different partner in order to maintain spontaneity on the summative task. I will then use this document to provide feedback, an opportunity for goal-setting and a means of self-reflection for the students. As the document shows, the students will check the level of proficiency that their formative performance demonstrated (see note below). They will then check which steps they need to take to improve on their performance on the IPA, based on the feedback given on the rubric on the back of the page. In cases where I have suggested additional practice on vocabulary and grammatical structures, this document provides opportunities for individualized interactive practice. I will then assess their performance on the IPA using the rubric on the second (identical) rubric. After the IPA, the students will complete the reflection portion of the document which I will then file until the next round of IPA’s. (I might end up making the process digital, rather than paper and pencil.) I am hoping that the requiring the students to choose action steps, simplifying the rubrics and providing an opportunity for reflection will help close the feedback loop on interpersonal assessments.
I will follow this same process for the presentational task of the IPA. Using either the presentational speaking or presentational writing feedback form, the students will again record their formative proficiency level, create an action plan and then reflect on whether they were able to achieve their proficiency goal.
Note about the rubrics
One of my favorite aspects of the Ohio Department of Education rubrics that I had been using is the fact that they break down each proficiency level into 3 different sublevels. This has allowed me to track small changes, which helps my students see their progress and me to use proficiency-based grading. However, this specificity makes the rubrics very wordy. While this would not be especially problematic if I were using them as they were intended–to document proficiency growth from the beginning to the end of an academic year– I found that my students did not have the patience to read through the lengthily descriptors. Therefore, I created the simplified versions I have included in the documents. However, in order to document smaller increments of growth, I will add the following sublevels to their proficiency level.
|Sublevel 1||Meets all relevant criteria for previous level and at least 70% of the relevant criteria for the targeted level.|
|Sublevel 2||Meets all relevant criteria for the targeted level.|
|Sublevel 3||Meets all relevant criteria for the targeted level and at least 30% of the relevant criteria for the targeted level.|
While I may adjust the percentages, I think these sublevels will enable the students to see growth and allow me to continue to assign grades based on proficiency levels.
I’d love to hear suggestions on what procedures you’ve developed to create a successful feedback loop!