What is Assessment?

Various definitions of assessment and the role it plays in teaching and learning:

  1. Assessment involves the use of empirical data on student learning to refine programs and improve student learning. (Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004)
  2. Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning. (Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000)
  3. Assessment is the systematic basis for making inferences about the learning and development of students. It is the process of defining, selecting, designing, collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and using information to increase students learning and development. (Assessing Student Learning and Development: A Guide to the Principles, Goals, and Methods of Determining College Outcomesby Erwin 1991)
  4. Assessment is the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development. (Assessment Essentials: planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education by Palomba and Banta 1999)

Fundamental Components of Assessment

Four fundamental elements of learner-centered assessment:Formulating Statements of Intended Learning Outcomes - statements describing intentions about what students should know, understand, and be able to do with their knowledge when they graduate.

Developing or Selecting Assessment Measures - designing or selecting data gathering measures to assess whether or not our intended learning outcomes have been achieved. Includes

  1. Direct assessments - projects, products, papers/theses, exhibitions, performances, case studies, clinical evaluations, portfolios, interviews, and oral exams - which ask students to demonstrate what they know or can do with their knowledge.
  2. Indirect assessments - self-report measures such as surveys - in which respondents share their perceptions about what graduates know or can do with their knowledge.
  3. Creating Experiences Leading to Outcomes - ensuring that students have experiences both in and outside their courses that help them achieve the intended learning outcomes.
  4. Discussing and Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning - using the results to improve individual student performance.

Language Testing and Assessment

There are normally four major categories of language testing and assessment that Language Testing organizations provide. Any organization that offers a second language service must consider using these types of language tests in order to be a competitive employer, as companies typically offer extra incentives for second language skills. As such, you want to be able to ensure that you are getting your money's worth by promoting/certifying an individual who can effectively communicate in the second language.

The first element of language testing and assessment is the spoken test. Most of the Informal/general communication happens through speaking, so any educational organization has to make sure that their students can effectively speak the language without major difficulty as well as being able to be completely understood. A spoken test measures not only how correct the test taker's word choice is, but also their use of common vernacular, slang, and conversational tone and inflection.

The second element of language testing and assessment is the listening test. Just like students should be to be able to effectively speak in the second language, they should also be able to understand what is being said to them. As you likely know, this is absolutely vital in any area where individuals have to communicate in a second language.

The third part of the language testing and assessment is the reading test. Students at higher levels of education need to read a lot of formal written content. They need to read to understand, to interpret, to summarize, to analyze, to conclude and perform various such functions from what they read. Hence assessing students' reading skills becomes an important part of any educational organization. Any second language reading test measures students' ability to read and understand a variety of Informational/Formal texts as well as pieces of narrative fiction.

Finally, a good second language test also measures the student's ability to write effectively in the second language; this encompasses a wide selection of skills related to grammatical rules as well as rhetorical skill in the additional language.

How Should Assessment Instruments be Selected or Designed?

Identifying an appropriate instrument depends upon the purpose of assessment and the availability of existing instruments. If the purpose is to assess a specific set of skills -- for instance, diagnosing strengths and weaknesses or assessing mastery of an objective -- the test should match those skills. If appropriate tests are not available, it makes sense to design an assessment instrument to reflect specific needs. If the purpose is to assess communication broadly, as in evaluating a new program or assessing district goals, the test should measure progress over time and, if possible, describe that progress in terms of external norms, such as national or state norms. Several reviews of oral communication tests are available (Rubin and Mead 1984). The Speech Communication Association has compiled a set of RESOURCES FOR ASSESSMENT IN COMMUNICATION, which includes standards for effective oral communication programs, criteria for evaluating instruments, procedures for assessing speaking and listening, an annotated bibliography, and a list of consultants.


The abilities to listen critically and to express oneself clearly and effectively contribute to a student's success in school and later in life. Teachers concerned with developing the speaking and listening communication skills of their students need methods for assessing their students' progress. These techniques range from observation and questioning to standardized testing. However, even the most informal methods should embrace the measurement principles of reliability, validity, and fairness. The methods used should be appropriate to the purpose of the assessment and make use of the best instruments and procedures available.

CEFR (Common European Frame Work of reference for Languages)

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