When teachers complain about their certain practices that create more work for themselves and take time away from students acquiring the target language, my response is usually “well then, don’t use them.” Follow the logic below to arrive at why you need to wrap your head around changing Assessment & Grading practices so that you can use your prep/planning time, and personal life, for more useful and enjoyable endeavors…
**The term “assessing/assessment” below refers to traditional “testing/tests.” I, however, promote Authentic Assessments used in communicative events. These could be as simple as asking a student for clarification, or recognizing lack of comprehension and responding/adjusting in real time. Still, until schools allow their language courses to be non-graded, most expect scores to be recorded, so strive to eliminate useless grading, error correction, and wasteful testing**
1) Acknowledge that assessing never causes acquisition.
This one is easy and self-evident. Thus…
2) Spend as little time as possible assessing.
For some reason, the little hop from #1 to #2 feels more like a leap, or a bound for many, but it’s still the next logical step. The informed response to all assessments—ALL assessments—in a language class is to Read and Listen to More Target Language (RLMTL). Seriously, you will never, ever respond to any assessment data by saying “gee, my students are reading way too much,” lol! So, read more, make it comprehensible, and give fewer tests/quizzes. Oh, and design the assessments you DO give to be as short as possible.
3) Make assessments count as little as possible towards the grade.
Yep, this one’s tough, but necessary. No single assessment of mine counts towards a student’s grade, so there’s no risk. Facts. When you start to give fewer assessments per #2 above, the weight of each assessment has more impact, and when you make your assessments shorter, each item counts more when—NOT IF—students get an item wrong. This is when implementing #2 usually breaks down for teachers, and they go back to old ways—DON’T! The solution, then, is to eliminate averaging and lower the impact of each assessment by recording them, yet counting 0% towards the grade (e.g. in a “Portfolio” gradebook category). For the overall grade, I use one rubric to rule them all, at the end of the grading period, that students use to self-assess (then I check). That should be encouraged somewhere in your teacher evaluation rubric!
4) Never announce assessments.
WTF?! I know, right? But if you’ve followed me this far through #2 and #3, this shouldn’t be a problem. Unlike the dreaded “pop-quizzes” in the movies, or in your own experience, your assessments are NOW so low risk that anxiety should be at an utmost low. Students show up, and there might be a quiz, but it’s no big deal. In fact, I’ve had students with IEP/504s—the lucky ones identified, though all students are on an individual acquisition plan and require accommodations—who usually take tests in other locations due to testing anxiety remain in class for every assessment! Oh, and since my assessments are super short (i.e. 4 True/False statements), students never use their “extra time on tests” accommodation. The practices that create an ideal environment for CI really do level the playing field!
What about feedback?
Forget what you were taught, or assume about error correction. Students are expected to be wrong for at least a few years, so get with the program! Authentic Feedback is handled the same was as Authentic Assessment—in real time. In order to give “immediate feedback” (that your teacher evaluation rubric also should encourage, btw), I correct all assessments—ALL assessments—in class immediately following the assessment. You cannot get any more immediate than that…AND…it’s done in the target language. So, my assessments actually—DO—lead to acquisition! Click to see more on Quick Quizzes, and me in action teaching some Spanish.