Supporting Language Learning Through Assessment in Primary Education

This month we are publishing Assessment for Learning in Primary Language Learning and Teaching by Maria Britton. In this post the author explains what we can expect from the book.

It is probably fair to say that teachers and learners can invest significant amounts of time and energy in assessing language learning. As a minimum, such effort should pay off by providing clear and accurate information about what has already been achieved and what needs to be improved. It would be even better if assessment could also support learners in becoming more proficient language users as well as more effective and independent learners. This may not seem easy to achieve, especially when the learners are young children.

What criteria should assessment meet to support language learning in primary education? I was keen to find out what educational research can tell us about this. In this volume, I outline what we know about children as language learners; how they learn languages and what factors might affect the outcomes of primary language education. This serves as a starting point for drawing out characteristics of the kind of language assessment which could benefit learning.

So much for theory, now onto practice. I took to the classrooms to investigate what actually happens when assessment for learning (AfL) is used and what teachers think about using it with primary-aged children. In this volume, I share a detailed report of what I found, offering insights from a large dataset. Importantly, the findings clearly show that AfL is appropriate for use with primary-aged language learners as it meets the criteria for effective language assessment in childhood. Perhaps even more significantly, they also suggest how using AfL may help enhance language learning.

Readers might be interested to find out about the four types of implementation of AfL in primary language education which I identified, or about the ways in which teachers can practically support language learning through AfL techniques, described in detail and illustrated with examples sourced from lessons. The discussion also clarifies the compatibility of AfL with teaching various language skills, task types and age groups. Finally, I explore the impact of AfL on language learning in primary education, focusing on interactions and feedback. I propose that the concept of an assessment spiral is an accurate and useful model for thinking about AfL and researching its use and impact on language learning in primary education.

I am grateful to all the teachers and learners who kindly welcomed me into lessons and were keen to share their practice and thoughts with me.

Maria Britton

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching edited by Danijela Prošić-Santovac and Shelagh Rixon.

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