Assessment in secondary modern foreign languages
Assessment in secondary modern foreign languages

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4.1 Assessing oral work

Assessing oral work can present MFL teachers with a particular challenge. There are many reasons why this is so, such as:

  • the size of classes can make it difficult for teachers to hear all students regularly use spoken language independently
  • a lot of the speaking work done in class may be ‘practice’ rather than the independent production of language
  • spoken work is ephemeral, and it is difficult to record the outcomes of speaking activities during lessons, especially if the teacher leads the activity and cannot record students at the same time
  • at the higher levels of performance, few people other than the teacher can provide the stimulus that students need to extend the scope of the language they produce.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow about 1 hour

In this activity you will look at issues involved in assessing oral work in MFL. Look at the following settings for oral work:

  • role-plays and simulations
  • asking and answering open-ended questions
  • use of classroom language
  • use of spontaneous language
  • mini-talks or presentations made individually or in groups (for example, using illustrations on a whiteboard or in a PowerPoint presentation).

Using Table 3, note down in the middle column which setting from the list above could be used to assess the component of oral work listed in the first column.

In the third column, note the type of record you would make.

One example has been provided for you.

Table 3 Assessing speaking – setting and records
Component to assess Possible setting Type of record
Pronunciation

Pair work

Role-plays or simulations

Note students whose sounds are particularly French, German or Spanish

Note students who need to work on the sounds

Note sounds that the class needs to hear and practise

Intonation
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Range of vocabulary
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Initiative
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Accuracy
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Words: 0
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Despite the challenges, there are many speaking tasks that can be carried out during lessons that afford opportunities for assessment, for example when students are engaged in pair work.

When assessing oral work, both permanent and ephemeral evidence can be gathered. Permanent evidence will often consist of recordings of spoken work that can be assessed at a later date.

Ephemeral evidence is produced at the moment of learning and consists of actions or words. It is important to listen to students as they talk, and to ask them questions that will allow them to demonstrate their level of attainment. Gathering such data is time-consuming, so it is important to identify in advance which students are to be assessed and which aspect of their speaking work needs to be assessed, so that no time or opportunities are wasted.

You may also wish to refer back to the elements identified by Lazarus and Atkinson in session 2. How might you assess the different aspects relating to ‘fluency’?

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