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Monday, June 8, 2015

Launching of Inaugural Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG)

On June 3, 2015, the Language Center kicked off its first Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group in Jones Hall. The Reading Group meets every three weeks to discuss a current journal article related to language teaching and/or learning. For this first meeting, 11 instructors representing seven different language programs (Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese, ESL, German) gathered for an hour to discuss the topic of formative and summative assessments in language courses through the article “The Impact of Assessment Method on Foreign Language Proficiency Growth” (Applied Linguistics, 2005). The author conducted a quantitative longitudinal study to compare how formative assessment procedures and summative assessment procedures affect the development of students’ language proficiency.

Here, “formative assessment” refers to any on-going assessment of effort and contribution by the learner, which can manifest in portfolios, peer-assessments, projects, and cooperative learning tasks. “Summative assessment” refers to any objective mastery testing of course content (e.g., midterms, quizzes, finals). In the study, students’ language proficiency was determined by TOEFL scores measured three times within two academic years (pre-entry, at the end of the first year, and exit); the students’ language achievement was assessed by their GPAs at the end of each term.

The author found the following correlations between proficiency and achievement in listening and reading comprehension:

  • The formative cohort achieved smaller gains in reading proficiency level when compared to the summative cohort. 
  • For listening comprehension, positive changes in GPA were more directly related to TOEFL score for the formative cohort than for the summative cohort. 

The author connected formative assessments to student motivation, suggesting that formative assessments, which are more student-centered,— could produce greater motivation in regard to listening activities. Introducing more formative assessments into a curriculum could lead to greater listening comprehension improvement as students share more direct control over the definition of “achievement.”

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 24 in Jones 35 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If you have articles or journal topics you would like to discuss at future sessions, please e-mail your ideas to Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

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