Testing and assessment of linguistic-communicative competence in

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					         Testing and assessment of
     competence in schools: thoughts on
       L1 and L2 Linguistic Education

Monica Barni, Carla Bagna, Sabrina Machetti
Università per Stranieri di Siena (I)
EALTA Conference, Krakow, 19-21 may 2006
Work in progress: project in cooperation with the
 Municipality of Florence.

Starting point: the problem of assessing linguistic
  and communicative competence in Italian L2 of
  children and youngsters from families of foreign
  origin entering the Italian school system,

Broader objective: to induce the teachers to reflect
  on the topics of assessment within the domain of
  language education, be it L1 or L2.
 In Italian school system

there is a lack of knowledge on language testing
   and assessment
partly due to the fact that the subject is scarcely
   considered during the training of future language
   education teachers
or, if it is,
 the focus is very much on the psycho-pedagogic
   domain, paying more attention to methods and
   techniques than to reflections on language
The research context in Italy
increasing presence of pupils who are the
  children of immigrant workers

the arrival of foreign students is having the
  consequence of leading reflections
  towards the question of teaching, learning
  and assessing Italian not only as L2, but
  also as L1
Students of foreign origin
are in a disadvantaged position: attention is
  focused only on the lack of adequate
  competence in Italian.

Surveys of the Ministry of Education (2005)
  show that
the average percentage of positive results is
  lower for foreign students than for Italian

criterion used: pass rate criterion
Pass-rate criterion
two different criticisms
  - firstly it is not subject to standardised criteria
  in all Italian schools, but is decided through
  assessment that vary according to individual
  classes and individual teachers

 - secondly it does not provide us with any
 explicit information as to the degree of
 competence achieved by students
Furthermore, linguistic problems
are not only restricted to foreign immigrants and
  their children and to their learning process of
  Italian L2

international surveys such PISA show us that
   Italian students’ reading abilities decrease as
   they progress through the school system

urgent need for the education system to engage
  in some in-depth reflection on the theme of
  language education and the continuous
  development of the four basic skills
The local context of the research
The Municipality of Florence

has established a strong policy for the support of pupils
  from foreign families

has set up five literacy centres within its territory, one in
  each of the city’s five administrative districts

teachers specifically assist foreign pupils in learning
   Italian L2
there is a discrepancy between the work carried
  out by the literacy facilitators and curricular

the sphere in which the lack of communication
  between the work of the literacy teachers and
  the school teachers appears to be more
  evident is in the consideration of linguistic
  and communicative competences acquired by
  the pupils in assessment procedures
 Type of intervention
The Municipality of Florence, in collaboration with
  the CILS Centre at the Università per Stranieri
  di Siena, designed a general training
  programme on language testing and
In-depth discussion on the questions of
  assessment in a school context, the need for
  coordination between assessment of language
  competences and knowledge of curricular
  subjects, and the need for good and ‘ethical’
  practices during assessment (phase 1).
 Type of intervention
History was then selected as a sample subject,
  taking a basic-level (A1 – A2) learner profile for

The ability selected was reading comprehension.

Teachers divided into two groups, according to
  their teaching range, creating one working group
  for primary schools (age range 6-11) and one for
  secondary/middle schools (age range 11-14).
 Type of intervention
Specifications for reading comprehension were
  discussed and texts were selected.

Teachers reflected on the importance of the
  textual dimension in learning and assessment
  processes, and on the identification and
  application of criteria for the selection of texts,
  regarding factors such as readability, density of
  information, linguistic complexity, discourse
  structure, length of text, etc.
Results of the first two phases

Common and shared basis for literacy
 facilitators and teachers, so that they could
 work together to create instruments and
 ‘products’ for use in class.
Second part of the project
History tests were written and presented to the
  classes of various schools in the Municipality
  of Florence as from April 2006, and still under
By the month of June we expect to collect all
  the tests and perform a detailed analysis of
  the results.
If the hypotheses are confirmed by the results,
   this should lead to the approval of models
   and protocols for the production of
   assessment tools and criteria for primary and
   secondary schools, which could then involve
   a greater number of teachers, schools,
   curricular subjects and abilities

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