Κολέγιο CITY College
Main Campus, Thessaloniki, Greece
07 November 2019

The English Studies Department Acknowledges Alternative Assessment Forms

The English Studies Department of CITY College is highly aware that assessment is a great and important part of education at all levels. The second Personal and Professional Development Seminar delivered on Tuesday, 5 November, 2019 touches upon this issue. Our guest speaker, Dr Ifigenia Kofou, through her seminar titled: “Alternative Language Assessment Forms” raises our awareness towards the importance of assessment and the alternative forms it can take.

Seminar titled 'Alternative Language Assessment Forms', by Dr Ifigenia Kofou, at CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield

When we hear assessment our minds immediately go to items like tests, exams, grades. Alternative assessment as Dr. Kofou highlights also incorporates reflection: how do we assess, why do we assess and what do we assess? Alternative types of assessment include: portfolios, journals/diaries, think-aloud protocols, project-based learning and rubrics. Given the learner-centered context that is becoming ever more prevalent in teaching/learning practices, both teachers and learners need to learn or become more aware of reflecting on practices as well as assessment in comparison to their prior or past knowledge, skills and abilities. Alternative forms of assessment can certainly assist as a continuous informal procedure that enhances cooperative learning, engages and motivates students towards active participation, teaches them life-skills and enables them to become more autonomous.

Dr. Kofou in the area of portfolios placed added focus on the European Language Portfolio that consists of a Language Biography (where learners can exhibit any/all languages they know and/or are learning), a Dossier (containing student work thus demonstrating competences/achievements) and their Language Passport. In addition, journals or diaries – as they draw on actual everyday practices and are thus considered the most common type of alternative and reflective assessment – come in various types such as dialogue journals, learning journals, diaries of attitudes/feelings and can be used by both students and teachers.

Alternative Language Assessment Forms seminar at CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield

The Think-Aloud protocols as Dr. Kofou informs can assist students in understanding and becoming more aware of what they are learning, where they have difficulties and what these difficulties are as well as how they can solve these problems. Students essentially become more aware of how they are learning. Projects can pose as a more dynamic approach and contribute towards collaborative teaching across disciplines. As with all types of assessment so too all the aforementioned need to align with goals, Learning Outcomes, clear instructions and criteria of assessment as well as reflection for future adjustments and improvement. In other words as Dr Kofou stresses, alternative assessment does not exclude testing but actually requires the implementation of testing so as to validate alternative assessment forms and by extension prove that they are reliable.

Hence, Rubrics are also a valuable component not only in informing students of what they are being assessed on and how but also to enable teachers to provide descriptive assessment and productive feedback as well as help students and themselves to engage more in reflective learning/teaching practices. By extension there are different types of rubrics such as: critical thinking, analytical, general, task-specific, etc.

Overall, Dr Kofou points out that alternative assessment by being sensitive towards students’ backgrounds, skills, strengths and weaknesses allows through personalized profiles and diverse tools and practices for a richer and more varied way to assess our students but also ourselves, our strategies and our materials. Assessment reform should be, in other words, an ongoing, continuous effort.

 

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