9 - Assessment
Students are assessed at different times in school. In newcomer contexts, their school language proficiency or competence is often assessed. Language assessment often takes place at moments of transition. Also language proficiency assessment is sometimes completely disconnected from the language learning process.
Our idea of assessment: instruction/learning should not be segregated from evaluation. Instead, they should be interconnected. This opens up opportunities for alternative assessments such as feedback, feed-forward, group assessment and co-assessment.
This relates to dynamic assessment – feedback in increasingly complex and challenging tasks – and to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). ZPD is the difference between what a student can do without help and what he can achieve with support.
We call the integration of assessment and learning as ‘assessment for learning’, ‘assessment as learning’ or ‘learning oriented assessment’. This is in line with social-constructivist approaches on learning: feedback and feed-forward are examples of social interaction in relation to assessment and go hand in hand with cooperative learning strategies.
This scheme draws to the following conclusion: in the context of assessing newcomer’s competencies, a shift on two axes is needed. First, from assessment in only one language to assessment where the multilingual repertoires are being exploited. Secondly, a shift from ‘narrow assessment’ (i.e. standardized tests) to broader approaches of assessment.