Assessing is an influential tool in determining the learning outcome in students. Therefore, it is the responsibility of teachers to utilize the various assessment ways in order to determine the progress of their students. This paper seeks to explain the value of diagnostic, formative and summative assessments for English Language Learners (ELL). It also goes further to summarize the five alternative assessment formats and the importance of each feature.
Diagnostic assessment involves evaluating the individual current knowledge and skills in order to distinguish the appropriate learning program for him. This is particularly important to the English Language Learners since it helps them in assessing of their own self. Another form of diagnostic assessment includes forward looking assessment which helps in assessment of the individual future events. It is worthy to mention that diagnostic assessment is a form of formative assessment.
Formative assessment is done throughout the learning process. Formative assessment involves the activities that are performed by the students and the teachers which results in information that is used as a feed back to improve the learning and teaching process.
This type of assessment is usually used by teachers to review their approaches in teaching and also determine the next step of the learner. Formative assessment does not necessarily involve grading of the students but its main aim is to help in learning of the subject (English) (Chappuis, 2005).
The formative assessment is characterized by; improved quality interactions in the classroom, students are involved in the learning process, feedback is issued between the students and teachers in order for them to improve on their work and sharing criteria between the students and the teachers.
Summative assessment involves analyzing the learning outcomes and consequently reporting the outcomes to the parties concerned (Chappuis, 2005). This is usually done at the end of the class, term, course, semester or the end of the year in order to summarize the achievements of the student. Students are normally graded according to their respective performance in the subject undertaken.
The most used English language proficiency (EPL) test in the school is ACCESS for ELLs (Stiggins, 2007). ACCESS test is used for assessing communication and understanding of English language among the people who use the language. It has an aim of developing the standards of English language through the test and instructions issued to the learner. The standard of this test is graded according to the performance indicator that has five clusters of grades.
ACCESS tests have got advantages in that it is more secure as compared to other shelf tests, ACCESS tests are based on the standards of each country and ACCESS tests emphasizes on English as a social language.
However the main drawback of ACCESS tests is that it fails to recognize the knowledge of the student i.e. it fails to assess if the student has comprehended the use of English language.
Assessment in classroom can take various different forms (Stiggin & Chappuis, 2005). Alternative assessment formats in English Language Learners include; selected response, written response that are extended, performance assessment, personal communication which are direct and portfolios (Freeman & Lewis, 2002).
Selected response allows the teacher to assess enough information about the learner. This is also helpful to the student since it is easier to use and gives the student an opportunity to choose from the options that are given. Questions that require the selected response form the student are objective. The likely questions that need selected response include; questions with multiple choice, matching questions and true or false questions.
Written response compels the student learning English to answer the question in writing rather than orally. The student is expected to come up with sentences which try to explain or answer the question that has been asked. Therefore the students need to have sufficient skills in English in order for a good performance. As a result of this, written response which is extended assesses the reasoning capacity of the student and also learning difficulties in students.
Performance assessment entails the student capability to handle a given task without the assistance of the instructor or the teacher. The teacher will then assess the efforts of the students and then judge according to the observations.
Personal communication which is direct involves both formal and informal interaction between the student and the teacher in an academic setting. This form of assessment is crucial since it helps the teacher to share opinions with the students, helps to find out how much the students have learnt and also boost the morale of the learners through encouragement.
Last but not least there is portfolio as an alternative to assessment formats. Portfolio concerns the various works which has been done by the student which illustrates an improvement in learning. Therefore portfolio is made up of the reflection in the learning process that give the student ability t be responsible of their own learning.
It follows that the schools should use the alternative assessment format instead of ELP tests. This is because the alternative assessment format will assess the individual understanding of the English. On the contrary, the EPL tests fail in doing so.
The above evidence is sufficient enough that standardized testing and language proficiency is not proper in monitoring the progress of the student. It is recommended that schools should use alternative assessment format in recording the advancement in their learning.
Chappuis, J. (2005). Helping Students Understand Assessment. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 39–43.
Freeman, R., & Lewis, R. (2002). Planning and Implementing Assessment. London: Routledge.
Stiggins, R. (2007). Assessment Through the Student’s Eyes. Educational Leadership, 64(8), 22–26.
Stiggins, R., & Chappuis, J. (2005). Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps. Theory Into Practice, 44(1), 11–18.