Module 4: Measuring Heritage Speakers' Progress

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Go to Course Introduction Adapting Curriculum to Heritage Speakers

Module Overview

HLL Module 4.jpg

During this week, you will learn how to assess the language acquisition progress made by Heritage speakers as a result of using a differentiated curriculum.

After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Measure Heritage speakers language acquisition progress.
  • Develop a collaborative approach to set learning goals in collaboration with Heritage students
  • Create personalized learning goals at the beginning of term and assess results at key points during the course


Summative v. Formative Assessment - Power Point PDF (Summary of key ideas for this module)

Journal Article: Classroom and Formative Assessment in Second/Foreign Language Teaching and Learning


1) Animated Video: Formative v. Assessment v. Diagnostic Assessment

2) Interview with Guadalupe Valdéz about Formative Assessment

3) Mini-Lecture: Assessment in the classroom


Write Journal Entry # 7

Case Study: Jose


Jose was born in a small town in Paraguay, called Ipacarai. He is the youngest of six siblings. Jose’s birth mother couldn’t afford to feed her children so she decided to put them up for adoption. She loved her children very much and asked the adoptive parents to keep in touch with her and send her pictures of the kids every year.

She also asked that the kids be taught about their birth country so they could have an appreciation for their heritage. Anne has lived in Ohio all her life and adopted Jose when he was two years old.

Anne doesn’t speak Spanish but has made an effort to teach Jose songs in Spanish and has decorated his bedroom with traditional art from Paraguay.

She also cooks dishes from Paraguay for him and talks to his birth mother once a year. Since Anne works full time, growing up Jose was cared for by a Spanish speaking nanny who used to pick up Jose from school and stayed with him every afternoon for four hours. Jose is now in 9th grade.

Imagine that you teach Spanish in grades 9-12 and that Jose has already been assessed as a HLL. You have decided that using a project-based approach is the best way to offer him a differentiated curriculum.

Now is time to create a plan for the year for Jose to be assessed on his language acquisition progress. You are wondering how to approach the challenge of evaluating Jose's learning in ways that go beyond traditional quizzes and exams.

This module will provide you with the tools you need to create a system for assessing academic progress in a way that is effective and enjoyable.

Types of Assessment

In this module, we will focus on how to use assessment tools to monitor the progress of your HLLs so that you can collect relevant feedback to quickly change your instruction as needed. Since your students will be learning Spanish using individualized learning plans, it is very important to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the instruction you designed.

Click on the link below to go over a quick introduction to the main differences between formative and summative assessment:

File:HLL Module 4 Intro.pdf

For extended details on how to incorporate formative assessment to your curriculum design, you can visit the Eberly Center, at Carnegie Mellon University

Before we move into analyzing in more details the applications of formative and summative assessment, it might be good to take a moment to quickly review the elements of the assessment tools we examined in Module 2 and note the differences with the tools we will study in this module. In Module 2 we examined different approaches to evaluate our students and create an accurate picture of their Spanish language skills. This is what some educators call "Diagnostic Assessment". The goal of this kind of evaluation is very different than the goals of the assessment tools we will examine today. For a quick review of the differences among diagnostic, formative and summative assessments, please watch the short clip below.

Formative Assessment

Application in HLLs Programs

Read: Classroom and Formative Assessment in Second/Foreign Language Teaching and Learning, Somaye Ketabi and Saeed Ketabi, 2014.

As explained in this article, formative assessment theories have been around for more than fifty years but studies focusing on formative assessment in foreign language acquisition have only started around the year 2000. The authors' go on to discuss how second language students "should use the language in order to learn it, and if they are graded all the time, they do not have the opportunity to do so. They should receive feedback, analyze it, and have the chance to test their hypotheses based on the feedback received" (Ketabi and Ketabi, 2014).

To download the article click here File:Formative Assessment foreign language.pdf

Examples of Formative Assessment in the Foreign Language Classroom

In the article below you will find a variety of examples of how to use formative assessment in the foreign language classroom. You can take these ideas and apply them to the individualized learning plan that you designed for your HLLs. Among the type of activities you will find:

Spontaneous speaking assessments

Having students explain their opinion about certain topics that are part of their projects

Planned speaking assessments using online platforms and other technology tools

Peer Assessments

File:Formative assessmentHLLexamples.pdf

Assessing for Learning

In the article published by the Center for Educational Research and Innovation, you can explore in more detail the elements of formative assessment including:

Establishment of a classroom culture that encourages interaction and the use of assessment tools.

Establishment of learning goals, and tracking of individual student progress toward those goals.

Use of varied instruction methods to meet diverse student needs.

Use of varied approaches to assessing student understanding.

Feedback on student performance and adaptation of instruction to meet identified needs.

Active involvement of students in the learning process.

File:AE Assessment for Learning.pdf

Summative Assessment

Application in HLLs Programs

Summative Assesment is a useful tool to measure the Spanish skills that your HLLs have been able to acquire through the individualized learning plan that you designed for them at the beginning of the term.

It is important that you only assess what you included in the instruction you designed for your HLLs. You shouldn't use the assessments provided by the regular Spanish textbook that you use with your second language learners in the class if at the beginning of the academic term you agreed with your HLLs that they will follow their own learning plan.


Some of the types of summative assessment you can use with your HLLs at the end of the term are:


Student Projects


Tests (Mid-term and Finals)

Class Presentations

Involving Students in their Assessment

Student Agency

Van Lier (2010) explains that there are three features of agency that are relevant to foreign language acquisition in the classroom. The first one is self-regulation or what we would generally call initiative. The second is interdependency which relates to the connections to other students and teacher in the classroom. The last one is a sense of awareness that the learners are responsible for their own actions.

Another key idea in Van Lier's article is that learners who study a second language just because it is required by their schools will most likely manage to pass the tests and do generally well. However, he states that this is very different than making significant progress. He adds that "to make enduring strides in terms of setting objectives, pursuing goals and moving towards lifelong learning, learners need to make choices and employ agency in more self-directed ways".

For a full explanation of the connection between language learning and student agency, you can read the article linked below:

File:The ecology of language learning.pdf

Teacher Support

Assessing students in the foreign language classroom is a very complex process that involves taking into account several elements and questions, including:

Why assess: What I am assessing? The modes of communication Creating a standards-based performance assessment unit Continuous improvement Research and theory

The Carla Virtual Assessment Center at the University of Minnesota is a series of web-based learning modules that provides teachers with background information, step-by-step guidance, and many practical resources on developing proficiency-based second language assessments for the classroom.

You can visit the link below to connect to the Carla Center and take a deeper look at assessing students in your Spanish classroom.

Carla Center Virtual Assessment Center

Journal Entry 7

Hsdigital journal.png

Write a journal entry reflecting on the following points:

1 - In this module, you were introduced to Jose. If he was a student in your class, what kind of assessment tools would you use to monitor his language acquisition progress?

2 - What do you think will be the biggest advantage and disadvantage of using formative assessment tools to monitor the effectiveness of Jose's PBL plan?

3 - What kind of support would you need from your department to allocate the time and resources necessary to incorporate formative assessment tools to your HLLs teaching?

Expand your Learning

Language assessment and classroom practices

This mini-lecture reviews Language assessment in the classroom. It is loosely based on Brown, H.D. & Priyanvada, A. (2010). Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. If you are interested in getting more detail into the types of assessments that are used in the foreign language classroom and the rationale behind using them at certain points in the instruction, you will find this video very relevant.

Next Steps

To continue to the last section of your training go to: Module 5: Case Studies and Final Project

To go back to the previous section of your training go to: Module 3: Creating Individualized Curriculum