Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA): Connecting Assessment to Instruction and Learning

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA): Connecting Assessment to Instruction and Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This article reports on Beyond the OPI: Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) Design Project, a three-year (1997-2000) research initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program. The primary goal of the project was to develop an integrated skills assessment prototype that would measure students' progress towards the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (National Standards, 1999, 2006). A second goal of the project was to use the assessment prototype as a catalyst for curricular and pedagogical reform. This paper presents the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) prototype, illustrates a sample IPA, and discusses how classroom-based research on the IPA demonstrated the washback effect of integrated performance-based assessment on teachers' perceptions regarding their instructional practices.

Key words: integrated skills assessment; performance assessment; standards-based instruction; standards-based learning; washback effect

Language: Relevant to all languages

Introduction

Over the past several decades, language teaching in the United States has dramatically evolved from a discrete-point, grammar-driven approach to one that focuses on communication and performance-based use of language.1 Great strides have been made both in second language acquisition (SLA) research (Donato, 1994, 2004; Ellis, 1994, 1997; Lantolf, 1994, 1997; Swain, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978, 1986; Wells, 1999) and in application of this research to classroom teaching practices (Lee & VanPatten, 2003; Lightbown, 2004; Omaggio Hadley, 2001; Shrum & Glisan, 2005). The Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (National Standards, 2006) have provided a focus for K-16 language teachers concerning the goals of classroom instruction. Accordingly, in "standards-based instruction," learners develop the ability to communicate in another language, gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures, connect with other disciplines and acquire information, develop insight into the nature of language and culture, and participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world. Further, the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners (ACTFL, 1998) have enabled elementary and secondary teachers to understand how well their students perform across benchmarks of language development described as Novice range, Intermediate range, and Pre-Advanced range, based on the length and nature of their learning experiences. These two national endeavors have served as catalysts for bringing about new ways of envisioning classroom instruction according to standards-based goals.

While progress continues to be made in strengthening classroom instruction, change in assessment practices has been much slower to occur. According to Wiggins (1998), "the aim of assessment is primarily to educate and improve student performance, not merely to audit it" (p. 7). Accordingly, current research in assessment argues for a closer connection between instruction and assessment. In other words, assessment should have a positive impact on teaching and learning practices (McNamara, 2001; Poehner & Lantolf, 2003; Shohamy 2001; Wiggins, 1998).

Although current research suggests new paradigms for assessments, virtually no assessments have focused on measuring learner progress in attaining the standards while capturing the connection between classroom experiences and performance on assessments. In response to the need for standards-based assessments that connect to classroom practice, ACTFL received federal funding to design an assessment prototype that would measure students' progress in meeting the national standards. The purpose of this article is to present the prototype called the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA); illustrate a sample IPA; and show how classroom-based research on the IPA has demonstrated the washback effect of integrated performance-based assessment on teacher's perceptions regarding their instructional practices. …

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