Are we assessing our English Language Learners fairly?

Are we assessing our English Language Learner fairly?

With exam season in full swing and rows of students racing against the clock to finish, have you ever wondered if we are assessing all our students fairly? Turn back the clock BTI (before the internet), and a visit to the same exam room may not appear all that dissimilar to the present day.

Changing times
This formal atmosphere in brightly lit halls, with invigilators roaming, and no-cheating signs plastered on the white walls, is the exercise that students must complete at the end of something. Over the years, our illustrious national examination boards have taken some initiatives with practical exams, but standardised testing seems to rule the roost. However, it is safe to say that things have changed since BTI.

New faces
Our schools are no longer brimming with native English speakers as a result of demographic shifts caused by increased immigration and the pull of ‘western’ education. As a result, English-speaking countries are looking for the best ways to educate their English Language Learners (ELL), as many schools are experiencing difficulties because assessments that appeared to ‘work’ well with native English speakers do not appear to yield reliable data for ELL.

Better assessment for different times
So, how can we improve our ELL’s performance evaluation? There is no easy solution, but we do know that standardised English-medium assessment is not the way forward. They are simply too linguistically demanding to generate reliable data to rank them in comparison to their peers. Creating a personal learning portfolio that documents their language acquisition over time is a far better alternative.

Personal learning portfolio (PLP)
Portfolios have been around for a long time, primarily used by designers and artists to showcase their creative talents and as a critical tool for the exchange of ideas. PLPs are also a great way to show off your students’ achievements. This is particularly true for ELL, as they can be used to improve language skills while also serving as an assessment tool to track their learning experiences and progress.

As the world increasingly shifts to digital technology, the traditional portfolio can be transformed into a digital format that offers diverse media content and allows the ELLs to have unlimited storage capacity to collect digital resources.

Implementing the portfolio
Creating an ELL portfolio takes some planning and discussion, but with the help of specialist language teachers, you should be able to get it up and running in no time. However, make sure you have a good set of guidelines regarding the time, place, and manner in which students are assessed throughout the system.

Learning to adapt assessment
To create a future-ready education, we must recognize the challenges that our students face and develop appropriate assessment strategies to help build students’ confidence and highlight their accomplishments. As more students join the school community whose first language is not English, English-medium schools must adapt their assessments to be fair to their English Language Learners.

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