Published: March 17, 2015

Alina Van NelsonFrench Instructor Alina Van Nelson completed the Fall 2014 ASSETT Teaching with Technology seminar. Van Nelson implemented a new assessment approach to give students more opportunities to show what they learned. She created a Google Site for her class to upload written work. She also asked her students to record their presentations in VoiceThread.

The big idea for my technology project is to better integrate instruction and assessment in French beginner classes. As pedagogy has evolved quite a bit in the past decade, we took steps in changing instruction so it matches our students’ needs and interests, in flipping grammar instruction so class time is spent essentially on practice of the language. Assessments, however, remain too traditional at this point and don’t allow students to fully show what they can do with what they learned.

As this will impact about a dozen graduate instructors, I decided to take small steps. Initially, I was planning to apply this to our second semester of French class, and only in the section I would teach. Lately however, due to fluctuating enrollment, I was not able to secure such a section. Given that we only have one section of accelerated French review this semester, I considered trying my project in this section, which turned out to be too small - only 6 students currently enrolled, which would mean very little student feedback on this project. Ultimately, I have to ask the three TA’s currently teaching the second semester of French to try this out, and I will depend completely on their approval. I will see them this Friday January 23, and I will see how many are willing to replace the first exam after their midterm with this project.

Instead of taking a paper and pencil exam, students will work throughout a chapter on one individual task (interpretive communication) and two collaborative ones (a dialogue and a written report). For modeling and assessment purposes, I will rely on specific activities in class and on clear rubrics, which will both allow students to focus on specific goals, and allow TAs to appropriately assess them and give them pertinent feedback.

I am currently working on a Google site that will host all their work and would allow them to react to their peers’ work. They will all have to leave specific comments on each part of the project. I am planning to develop the rubrics with the TA’s to ensure that everyone sees the value of such a project and has a say in the way assessment is tailored. They will use VoiceThread to record their individual presentation as well as the dialog with their partner, and Google Docs for the written piece. For properly recording their feedback, we’ll probably use Desire to Learn surveys.

I hope to see student involvement in the project, and have positive reactions about how learning merges with assessment in a non threatening way. Although this will be new to our TA’s, I think they will see that matching instruction and assessment enhances classroom experiences and has a positive impact on students’ motivation and attitude toward language learning.

In the surveys, if more than 50% of students prefer this type of assessment, we’ll probably move to the next level and start replacing more exams by similar real-world tasks, refining both tasks and rubrics as we go.

Part of my reticence to experiment with this project came from the difficulty of relying on others to administer a type of assessment that I created.

Although I’ve had the idea for a couple of years now, this reticence held me back. Being in this seminar and hearing other faculty’s struggles, on one hand, and having Amanda and Caroline next to us as both a resource and support, helped me finally making things more concrete and taking steps toward making it happen. I am extremely grateful for everything I have learned and for all the people I met during this seminar. I also immensely appreciated the gentle reminders that these two ladies had to send us. It is always hard for me to teach two or three different things and at the same time work on a completely different project.

The design process is not over for me yet. After meeting with the TA’s and deciding how we will go further, I will share the page with them and decide how to integrate the rubrics in the site, how to scaffold it so students find it easy to manage, and how to encourage them to collaborate. Working with technology definitely makes all these aspects compelling and worth exploring.