Assessing EAL learners in the context of the Australian curriculum implies not only providing them with extensive feedback on their progress but also retrieving further instructions for designing the curriculum for the target students and, therefore, covering the areas that have been left blank (Farris, 2015). Therefore, the process of assessment of the identified group of students will incorporate the elements that the evaluation of other students’ progress typically does not include (see Appendix A: Proforma).
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Challenges in Evaluating EAL Students’ Progress: Roles and Importance of Assessment
It should be noted that the Australian curriculum already has an assessment framework for EAL students in store for the teachers that are to work in diverse settings (Conteh, 2015). Typically defined as the EAL Companion to AusVELS (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2016a), the identified strategy endorses the idea of enhancing literacy through allowing the learners to immerse in the environment of the Australian English language:
The English as an Additional Language (EAL) Companion to AusVELS (the EAL Standards) provides a framework for assessing student achievement and developing effective learning programs for the many students in Victorian schools who are learning English as an additional language. (Victoria State Government, 2016a, par. 1)
It should be noted, though, that the specified framework has a range of dents in it, which typically slip under the radar of the Australian educators (Hammond, 2012). Despite the generally positive effect that it leaves in terms of stating the current level of language proficiency among EAL students, it fails to address the needs of EAL learners dully (Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority, 2016).
The role of the assessment to be designed, therefore, is twofold. On the one hand, it will have to serve as the primary source of instructions for teachers as far as the further course of the learning process is concerned (Sasson, 2014). In other words, the teachers will have to retrieve essential information regarding the current level of proficiency among learners and their command of English so that the steps for their further language skills development should be identified (Rivera & Collum, 2014).
Another essential role of the tool selected, in its turn, concerns the information that it will provide to the learners. Because of the challenges that the latter may face in the course of the accommodation process, their motivation rates may drop; herein lies the necessity to boost their confidence by showcasing the efficacy of their efforts. The assessment, thus, will serve as the primary means of encouraging learners for even greater advances in the English language acquisition (Flippo, 2014).
The current curriculum does not imply that specific assessment tools should be applied to evaluate the progress of the EAL students. However, the identified approach does not seem reasonable as EAL learners face a range of obstacles that other learners do not (Ng & Boucher-Yip, 2014). For instance, the fact that the change in the environment is likely to be very stressful for them needs to be brought up. Therefore, there is a significant need for the target population to engage into the communication process with their peers actively. However, the identified group of EAL students also has a tangible advantage. Seeing that the learners’ native languages fall under the category of Roman and German ones (Trask, 2013), they have a range of similarities that the students can use to acquire the English speaking skills in a fast and efficient manner.
Strategies for Addressing the Current Issues: Assessment Framework and the Course Objectives
Several approaches for evaluating the progress of the students under analysis have been identified. The one currently chosen as the basis aligns with the primary objectives of the course, which are to provide the learners with the basic knowledge of the English language and encourage its further acquisition (Butler, 2015).
TEAL as the Foundation for EAL Students’ Preliminary Assessment: Determining the Diagnostic Tool
Locating the current level of language proficiency among learners is an essential step in identifying the course for their further learning process. Therefore, an assessment of their current competencies and skills is imperative.
For this purpose, one should consider the ideas proposed by TEAL as the foundation for the further development of the assessment framework. Created for students with diverse backgrounds by the Australian teachers and aimed at promoting diversity in classroom, the specified approach might be considered somewhat too specific to be applied to any EAL environment: “TEAL is designed to support the assessment of all EAL learners in Victorian schools including those from a refugee background, EAL learners born in Australia or overseas and fee paying international students” (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2016b, par. 1).
However, TEAL serves as a good example of how the needs of learners with diverse backgrounds should be addressed and what needs to be done in order to meet their requirements. Particularly, the framework suggests that the assessment should be based on a bank of specific reading and writing resources and be calibrated in accordance with the specific needs of the target audience.
Therefore, the TEAL approach should be considered a primary tool for developing a diagnostic assessment tool for detecting the current rates of language proficiency among EAL students and the issues that will have to be addressed in the process. When designing the assessment tool, one will have to bear in mind that the EAL students in question come from rather diverse backgrounds yet have mostly Roman and Germanic languages as their native ones (i.e., French, Spanish, German, and Italian).
Seeing that there are a variety of similarities between the identified languages and the English one, it is expected that the learners may develop an intrinsic understanding of the target one. Therefore, the test should address the similarities between the languages in question to prompt the idea of linking their current communication experience with the learning process that they are to start soon (Forman, 2015).
The assessment, therefore, will follow the TEAL framework. To be more accurate, the toolkit to be used for the assessment will consist of two key elements, i.e., the resource bank and the tests. The resources will include a bank of reading resources, as well as vocabulary and grammatical exercises that cover the issues that the learners are expected to know. To be more accurate, the learners will be tested for their knowledge of the vocabulary items such as personal pronouns, basic verbs, essential vocabulary that will help them spell out their needs and requirements (e.g., asking for directions, indicating that they are hungry or thirsty, etc.).
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In addition, a separate set of exercises will help indicate whether the students are capable of using the identified word stock in a context. The exercises will also include tests aimed at detecting the learners’ ability to follow basic grammatical rules. First and foremost, the tests will help identify whether the students have any concept of a grammatical tense in the English language, as well as are capable of using personal pronouns (e.g., “I,” “my,” “mine,” etc.) correctly. Afterward, the students will be provided with an opportunity to show their proficiency in other domains, such as the identification of the noun number (e.g., singular or plural). Finally, the EAL participants’ reading skills will be assessed as they will be offered a set of tests requiring them to identify the essential messages of the text (Coursy et al., 2012).
The second part of the assessment will incorporate the actual prototype of a practitioner-based evaluation system that will help assess the students’ performance. To be more accurate, the prototype will incorporate a set of samples of answers to the test tasks, which will serve as the foundation for evaluation the performance of the target EAL group. The system in question will help collect and evaluate the answers that the students will have provided by the end of the testing process. As a result, diagnostic information can be retrieved from the responses submitted by the EAL group in question (Read, 2015).
As far as the design and the creation of the corresponding prototypes are concerned, the sample responses will be designed based on the expectations set for the learners in question. As it has been stressed above there is a variety of similarities between the English language and the native languages of the learners to be included in the group (i.e., French, Italian, German, etc.) (Korkmaz, 2013). Therefore, the performance standards are going to be set rather high (Kibler & Roman, 2013).
However, when assessing the test results, one will have to bear in mind that the students above have a range of unique properties that may either encourage the learning process or hamper it (Haag, Heppt, Roppelt, & Stanat, 2013). Therefore, the assessment tool should not be viewed as the means of labelling students as low- or high-achieving; instead, it should be considered the means of locating the emergent issues (Miller, Keary, & Windle, 2012).
Constructive Quizzes and Peer Assessment as the Primary Formative Assessment Tool: Defining the Learners’ Progress
Assessing the recent progress made by the students and identifying the stage that they are currently on is an essential element of the teaching process (Schon, Yang, Klinger, Kopf, & Effelsberg, 2015). Therefore, it is crucial to design the tool that will help both students and teachers retrieve the necessary information that will prompt the learners’ enthusiasm and at the same time inform instructors about the further steps to be taken. Herein lies the necessity to design a combined approach that will incorporate two elements.
By definition, a quiz as a tool for assessment is rather efficient for testing the students’ current progress as well as indicating the problem areas that they will have to work on. The fact that quizzes provide learners with an opportunity to identify the dents in their knowledge at a comparatively early stage must also be mentioned. As a result, the emergent misunderstandings do not grow into larger problems that could later on grow into major roadblocks on the learners’ way to retrieving the necessary information and practicing the corresponding skills.
It would be wrong to claim that the identified tool is flawless. On the contrary, there is a considerable problem that may prevent the teacher from introducing the quiz into the target learning environment successfully: “It is also important to note that since the pop quizzes were not a graded component of the course, students may have had less of an incentive to have a serious attempt at the quizzes” (Sulas, Liem, & Kark, 2015, p. 3674).
There is a grain of truth in the statement provided above; quizzes tend to leave a rather light impact on learners as the grades do not typically have any effect on the GPA.The identified issue, however, can be resolved comparatively easily by introducing a flexible system of evaluation that will promote competition among the learners. For instance, public appraisals of the students’ success could be viewed as a possible way of addressing the issue mentioned above.
Quizzes will serve as the tools for checking whether the learners have a good understanding of the topics covered previously. The reason for choosing quizzes as the primary device for carrying out formative assessment of the students’ progress is rather basic; the test type in question can embrace a variety of topics and aspects simultaneously, also taking a rather insignificant amount of time.
Despite being rather brief, quizzes serve as the means of pinpointing the problem areas in the learners’ knowledge, thus, informing the instructor and the students about the further course of the educational process. As a result, the teachers can hear the students’ voice (Mahmud & Bretag, 2014), which is essential for the further improvement of the quality of learning. Since a quiz returns accurate and measurable results, the validity and reliability of the tool can be justified.
Since the learners will have an opportunity to receive the answers to the quiz questions and analyze their responses, the use of peer assessment should be viewed as an integral part of the quiz (Musa, 2014). The combination of the tools mentioned above, in its turn, will create the assessment device that will serve as the primary tool for retrieving informative instructions for not only the teacher but also learners.
As mentioned above, it is crucial that the learners should be aware of the fact that the evaluation process is not a formality but a part and parcel of their learning process. In other words, it is crucial that the students should not cheat or consult with each other during the completion of the quiz (Majdi & Graaf, 2015). The introduction of peer assessment as an integral part of the evaluation process, in its turn, is likely to create premises for an increase in competition rates among the learners (Crosthwaite, Bailey, & Meeker, 2015), therefore, reducing the possibility of cheating in class (Boon, 2015).
Providing learners with an opportunity to assess each other’s skills is important for them to develop a better understanding of English. Although peer assessment is typically viewed as a separate type of assessment, it is planned that the process of mutual assessment carried out among learners should be a part of the daily quiz. Particularly, the learners will have to swap their answers to the questions and evaluate the correctness of their responses.
More importantly, by incorporating the element of peer assessment into the evaluation process, the instructor will have an opportunity to prompt learner autonomy in the classroom: “Peer revision fosters communicative behaviour because it provides a chance for students to explain, defend and clarify their points of view while peer feedback has a significant effect on the quality of writing and leads to more learner autonomy” (Chin, Gong, & Tay, 2015).
The identified effect of peer assessment is especially important for EAL students as the latter typically suffer from the lack of autonomy due to poor knowledge of the English language (Hick, Pandey, & Fraser, 2014). The instructions provided by peers, in their turn, will serve as the means of creating a more relaxed environment for the EAL learners and, therefore, contribute to their immersion into the English-language environment successfully.
Summative Assessment Tool: Designing a Combination of Oral and Written Tasks
The concept of group projects has been applied in the learning environment for ages due to its efficacy. A closer look at the subject matter will show that it helps not only prompt learners for an independent academic effort but also encourage communication between the members of the group. As a result, the premises for a successful cross-cultural communication can be created. There is no secret that applying their newly acquired language skills to solving practical communicative tasks is essential for EAL students.
Therefore, the promotion of group projects as the summative assessment tools is fully justified not only from the perspective of evaluating the learners’ progress but also from the perspective of providing learners with an opportunity for training their communication skills and gaining independence and confidence as learners. Group projects will involve splitting students into groups of 3-4 learners and providing them with a specific project topic based on the readings covered in the course of the learning process. It will be up to students to choose particular roles and responsibilities.
While, as a tool, a project is used very often, especially in the EAL setting, providing an accurate description of the identified concept is rather complicated. In fact, elements of peer-assessment will have to be incorporated into the project presentation so that the evaluation of the students’ progress could be complete. As stated above, peer assessment is a very powerful tool that can inform not only the teacher but also the students about the issues that will have to be addressed in the future so that the students could excel in their language acquisition skills.
Moreover, it is essential that the learners should be able to come up with an oral presentation of the outcomes of their project. Particularly, it will be necessary to allow EAL students to participate actively in the description of the project, its processes, and key outcomes. Thus, premises for their further development of English speaking skills can be created. By taking active part in the discussion of the project results, answering the questions of teachers and peers, etc., EAL students will be able to develop the confidence that they need to acquire the corresponding speaking skills.
It could be argued that the learners might feel insecure when being addressed by their peers and especially the teacher concerning the details of the project. Having admittedly fewer speaking skills than their project partners, the EAL learners may become easily confused and, thus, acquire a negative English speaking experience. To avoid the identified scenario, the teacher will have to assume an active role of a project supervisor, guiding the participants so that they could succeed in their presentation (Fazel, 2015).
In light of the fact that the students will have to showcase their ability to use the English language correctly, suggesting a group project might seem a good idea for carrying out a summative assessment. Although the specified evaluation tool cannot be viewed as overlooked and is, in fact, rather common in most schools, its power as a summative assessment is often underrated (Coates, 2016).
Even though the tool in question has been in existence for ages and was not designed specifically for the purposes of evaluating the progress of the particular EAL students, it can still be deemed as fairly efficient because of the opportunities that it provides in terms of embracing every single domain of the learning process and assessing the students’ skills. In fact, the identified assessment can be customised and tailored to the needs of the EAL students in question easily. Therefore, the validity of the tool in question can be considered rather high.
At this point, the importance of scaffolding as one of the tools for sustaining students’ enthusiasm and making sure that the learners are capable of delivering appropriate results should be mentioned. According to the existing definition, the subject matter is typically rendered as the means of promoting engagement and active learning among students in class (Mello, 2016). For instance, a recent study has shown that scaffolding serves as an efficient tool in encouraging students’ academic independence: “face-to-face explicit scaffolding provided by his supervisor strengthened his awareness of diversifying his common lexical choices in his own writing.
In other words, LZ gained specific linguistic expertise through his sound and interactive relationship with his supervisor” (Jin, 2015, p. 24). However, the concept of scaffolding could also be applied in the form of consultations, including in-class and online discussions of the group project, asking questions, retrieving feedback, etc. As a result, it is expected that the reliability and practicality of the tool in question is also going to be very high. As a result, both the learners and the teacher are expected to retrieve the feedback sufficient to identify further learning (for EAL students) and teaching (for the instructor) goals that will improve the educational environment and contribute to the learners’ quick progress.
Similarly, since the project will require collaboration between at least two students, it will be necessary to assign each with a corresponding task to evaluate the contribution made by each of them. Therefore, the practicality of the tool used to assess the students’ skills can be considered rather impressive.
The assessment mentioned above can be deemed as fairly efficient as it addresses both the oral and writing skills that the learners will have developed by the identified time. As stressed above, the design and further completion of a project require both substantial writing skills as it needs a clear description of goals, a detailed analysis of the information, and the further list of results, and the oral skills, especially in representing the findings and describing the process of developing the project.
Seeing that the learners in question demand practicing the newly acquired grammatical and vocabulary skills, it is imperative that they should be provided with an opportunity to participate in the assignment that incorporates active training of both (Kwan & Junus, 2015).
More importantly, the creation of a project addresses one of the crucial needs of the target learners, which include increasing their academic independence and self-reliance. Seeing that the lack of English speaking skills may serve as the impediment to their communication with the rest of learners, EAL students in question may feel isolated and, therefore, fail to develop academic confidence. As soon as they are provided with an opportunity to practice their communication abilities, though, the target audience will be capable of integrating into the academic environment successfully.
Conclusion: The Goals to Be Accomplished. Meeting Learners’ Needs
Although encouraging EAL students to acquire relevant speaking, reading, and writing skills and assessing their progress in the setting of an Australian school is a rather challenging task, a combination of formative and summative assessments aimed at prompting the learners’ academic self-sufficiency and self-reliance will serve as a perfect means of carrying out a detailed evaluation.
The tools chosen for the assessment process can be deemed as rather valid; they serve a very specific point, which can be viewed as twofold. Going into details, one should mention that the assessment in question is aimed at both informing the teacher about the progress of the learners and encouraging the latter to consider their success, locating the current problems and learning about their advantages.
Thus, apart from helping the instructor design the tools that will be even more efficient in providing the EAL learners under analysis with the necessary skills, it will convince the students to become academically independent and self-sufficient in their learning process. In fact, the approaches chosen to carry out the assessment process provide the teacher with the role of a coordinator and a supervisor for the most part, allowing the students to distribute the rest of responsibilities among their group and, therefore, perform a detailed analysis of the project and their roles in it.
Moreover, the suggested tools are likely to reinforce the process of communication between the learners, therefore, enhancing the significance of collaboration for them and creating the environment, in which they will be capable of sharing experience and conversing successfully. As stressed above, it is crucial that the EAL students should immerse in the academic environment of the Australian school.
However, to perform the process of accommodation, they will also have to learn to communicate efficiently with teachers and, most importantly, with their peers. Participating in group projects and performing the assessment of their peers’ works, the learners will be able to not only receive feedback from the identified members of the school environment but also be invited to express their opinions. As a result, the communicative skills will be developed at an increasingly fast pace, the teacher serving primarily the role of a coordinator, a supervisor, and, occasionally, a negotiator.
It is expected that the students will have acquired essential reading and writing skills as well as the ability to communicate their ideas accurately in English by the end of the curriculum. It would be wrong to assume that the EAL members of the classroom will communicate in English without making any errors; however, the students are expected to develop a general intrinsic understanding of how the English language works, including its grammar (singular and plural, Simple and Continuous Tenses, etc.) and vocabulary (word-building).
Moreover, because of the emphasis on the communication process, it is assumed that the learners will be able to acquire basic listening skills, thus, displaying the ability to understand spoken English as well as written one. Encouraging young EAL learners to acquire the necessary skills and participate in classroom activities is a challenging task, yet, by identifying their needs with the help of the assessment tools mentioned above, a teacher is expected to design the framework that will meet their needs.
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Appendix A: Proforma
Table 1. Description of the learners.
As stressed above, the target learners can be described as a rather diverse group with unique backgrounds, including cultural, social, and economic ones. Herein the primary problem lies; the group is not homogenous, which means that adopting a uniform approach will not be a possibility. In other words, each learner will have to be approached individually so that they could acquire the necessary information and skills within the required amount of time.
|Target learners and language||The students are represented by a group aged 8-10 and including the students of French, German, and Italian descent. The students are going to enroll in an Australian public school in order to acquire the basic skills according to the current 3rdgrade curriculum.|
|Educational /Linguistic background||The students have little to no previous experience in the English language and will have to start from scratch in order to acquire the necessary English language communication skills.|
|Target language and proficiency level(s)||The students will enter the classes with a general score of approximately 1.0 IELTS. It would be wrong to assume that the students will have no basic awareness of the English language due to the similarities between their native languages and the target one (Nelson, 2013), as well as the impact of the media, which currently uses the English langue actively. Nevertheless, it is expected that the learners will have to acquire basic phonic, grammatical, and morphological information about the target language (Park, 2015).|
|Learners’ goals or motivation||It is assumed that the learners will have little to no primary motivation. However, the students will presumably be encouraged by the appraisals that the teacher will provide to them. In addition, the opportunities for communication with peers and the support of the family members will be used as the primary motivation tools (Birch, 2014).|
|Other relevant factors||It is essential to bar in mind that the students may feel discouraged by the lack of communication with their peers. Therefore, group assignments should be viewed as one of the current priorities.|
Table 2. Description of the Environment.
As stressed above, the fact that the learners will be placed immediately into the environment of a typical Australian public school is the primary challenge for both EAL learners and the teacher. Particularly, it will be required to motivate students to acquire the necessary English skills along with teaching them the rest of the subjects. However, the problems identified above open a plethora of possibilities, including for a cross-disciplinary process that will help the learners to gain the necessary knowledge while studying other subjects. More importantly, by using the program wisely, the teacher will be able to make sure that the learners have the chance at meeting the requirements set for other subjects as well.
|Setting||A typical Australian public school should be viewed as the primary setting for the learning process to occur in.|
|Course aims||The curriculum is aimed at helping students develop primary English language skills, including the ability to communicate their needs and ideas, as well as understand basic written and spoken information.|
|Duration/Contact time||10 weeks (1 hour per day)|
Table 3. Curriculum Overview.
The table provided below shows that the diagnostic analysis will be carried out within the first two weeks. One might argue that the process is far too important to stretch it to two weeks instead of one; however, it will be necessary to provide learners with an opportunity to get accustomed to the new environment, therefore, creating a chance for them to develop the coping mechanisms that will help them get used to the change. Moreover, the analysis of the students’ scores will be carried out during Week 1, which means that some parts of the assessment will have to be transferred to Week 2.
For the same reasons, the summative assessment will be stretched from Week 8 to Week 10. If provided with a set of tests on the same week, EAL students I question may panic and, therefore, deliver poor results. More importantly, they may fail to develop the required academic skills mentioned above. Thus, it will be crucial to carry out the evaluation of their progress in the course of three weeks.
Specific Course Objectives and assessment tasks
List the objectives and types of assessment used for each objective across the 10 weeks
|Language Focus||Students will be able to…||Assessment (D = Diagnostic, F= Formative, S = Summative)|
|Week 1||Week |
|Listening/Viewing||1. Understand basic information concerning requests, requirements, etc.; |
2. identify the words that they have learned while watching a video or listening to a tape;
3. Answer a set of true-or-false questions (with the following peer assessment of the answers) after watching a short video.
|Speaking||1. Provid detailed information about and description of themselves, their families, their peers, their needs, etc., in English; |
2. Speak English clearly and intelligibly;
3. Give an essential message across in English without distorting its meaning in the process.
|Reading||1. Read a short (300 words) excerpt without making pronunciation mistakes; |
2. Answer the questions about the contents of the text correctly;
3. Complete a group project successfully and reporting about the content and essential outcomes thereof.
|Writing||1. Write a cohesive text (1-2 pages) in English with a maximum of one mistake per each ten lines. |
2. Write a short notice, a short letter to a friend, etc.;
3. Contribute to writing the content of the group project.
Appendix B: Sample Peer Assessment Tasks
- Look at the picture below. Who is in the picture? Describe what you see. What is the person wearing?
- Tell your classmate what you see in the picture.
- Listen to your classmate. Do they describe the picture correctly? What mistakes did they make? Are the mistakes grammatical? Was the picture described correctly? Evaluate your peer on a 5-point scale.
Please, fill in the gaps below.
Find the words that rhyme and link them together: