For this week’s assignment, I was asked to critically review a type of assessment that is commonly used within my profession of teaching a secondary language (ie. Spanish). I was thinking of all of the types of assessments that are used both in my classroom and in other foreign language classrooms — such as the dialogue assessment (or oral assessments), proficiency assessments, written assessments and placement assessments. For this entry, I wanted to review the dialogue assessment often used in foreign language classrooms.
A dialogue assessment is when a learner is asked to perform an oral presentation through conversation to show their understanding of the language both as a cognitive representation of content knowledge but also as an interpretation of their understanding of the language’s pronuncation and phonetics. Dialogue assessments tend to be used because it helps the learners become comfortable with speaking the target language as well as provides instructors with an opportunity to give in-the-moment feedback and interpret how well the students interpret conversation and how they speak in the target language. It also provides the instructor with a context for understanding a learner’s thought process through dialogue and conversation in the target language. For the purpose of using the dialogue assessment, it provides a guide for what content may need to be rexplained (gone over) and provide a context for how an instructor helps students with their pronunciation of the target language (to help them sound more authentic).
Looking back on my drafted assessment design checklist, the two questions that I would use to assses an assessment were:
- Does the assessment provide for an opportunity for students to transfer previous knowledge to current content?
- Does the assessment provide students with effective feedback for learning?
With a dialogue assessment, I feel that it does, indeed, provide an opportunity for students to transfer their prior knowledge while also showing their current understanding of content knowledge. The benefit to providing dialogue assessments is that if a learner does not understand or cannot provide immediate response to the dialogue’s questions in the target language, the instructor knows immediately that there is a lack of understanding (and knowledge) in the moment. It is also obvious to the instructor that the learner does not understand pronunciation cues when the dialogue/conversation does not flow or does not sound natural.
As for the second question on my checklist, I do think that depending on the way that the instructor checks for understanding will provide students with effective feedback for learning. If done in the moment, the instructor can give learners feedback as to whether or not they are providing the proper responses to the dialogue questions and at the same time, in a rubric format, the instructor can provide more specific, detailed feedback on things that the learner(s) can improve on.
I think that it’s possible to use dialogue assessment as a form of formative assessment in that it would allow the learner to obtain specific feedback that could then be transfered almost immediately to the current dialogue to allow the student to interpret and make changes in the moment.
Based on my understanding and usage of dialogue assessment and my analysis of it in the context of my assessment design checklist, I feel that it dialogue assessment is an important genre of assessment for foreign language instructors. I think it is imperative that we continue to use and assess the way we use dialogue assessments in our classrooms so that we can help our learners understand the importance of oral presentation, cognitition and pronunciation in the target language. As we develop our understanding and use of dialogue assessments, it is important to remember to continue to provide formative feedback so that learners can build upon that knowledge and apply it their foreign language academics in future years to come.
Considering that most dialogue assessments are done in person through conversation, I think that it would be fun to allow students an opportunity to do dialogue assessments using digital technology and tools. For example, learners could do a Skype or FaceTime conversation and have it screenrecorded and submitted for feedback. Or if the dialogue assessment is done with the instructor, there could be a skype session setup between instructor and learner outside of class hours. I think that in the case of dialogue assessments, it’s possible to use other video technology tools or even Google Voice applications where the student is required to call and leave a voicemail with answers to scecific questions/prompts. (Although I feel that students wouldn’t give on-the-fly responses in this case, as they would’ve been given the questions ahead of time and could spend time writing out their answers first, prior to leaving the message).
With that in mind, overall, I think dialogue assessments are a good tool and opportunity for instructors to gauge their students’ understanding of prior knowledge and current content knowledge, while also giving them the opportunity to hear in the moment feedback for learning.