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.

Early Language Learning in School Contexts Series – Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s two years since the first book in our Early Language Learning in School Contexts series was published. In this post the series editor, Janet Enever, reflects on how the series began and what the future holds.

The inspiration for this book series began a long time ago – working as a language teacher educator in eastern Europe in the mid-1990s I found it very difficult to identify any research collections which focused on the 3-12 years age group, despite the needs of my students. Bringing the series to fruition however, has spread over a long period of gestation – teaching MA students in London, leading the ELLiE research project in Europe, then taking up a professorial position in Sweden where it became possible to work with colleagues to launch a conference event focusing on Early Language Learning: Theory and Practice in 2014. The event proved seminal, precipitating my proposal to AILA for the launch of a global research network in early language learning (ELL-ReN) and my proposal to Multilingual Matters for the launch of the Early Language Learning in School Contexts series (launched in 2015).

I’m thrilled now to be able to say that the Multilingual Matters book series Early Language Learning in School Contexts has really taken off, with three titles already published, at least one more expected in 2019 and a further four being written as we speak!

The aim of the series from the start has been to take a very global look at how early foreign, second and additional language learning is developing in many parts of the world. We have really fulfilled this promise with publications on:

Mixed methods research: Early Language Learning: Complexity and Mixed Methods (Eds. Janet Enever & Eva Lindgren, 2017);

Pre-school language learning: Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition: Pathways to Competence (Eds. Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow & Melanie Ellis, 2019);

Teacher education: Early Language Learning and Teacher Education (Eds. Subhan Zein & Sue Garton, 2019);

Coming in August 2019: Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching (Eds. Danijela Prošić-Santovac & Shelagh Rixon, 2019).

Other themes in the pipeline include: assessment for learning, issues in researching young language learners in school contexts, and policy – no promises as to when these will be published yet though!

Looking back and looking forward:

Reflecting on the three years since the series was launched, I can remember initial questions about whether such a series was needed. Some suggested that a separate strand of publications focusing only on language learners from 3-12 years was unnecessary. However, for teachers, teacher educators and researchers working in this field it has been difficult to know where to look for research which really focuses entirely on young children’s foreign/ second and additional language learning experiences. With the ELLSC series we have at last established a ‘home’ for this specialist area.

The series has proved timely, as more and more young children begin their journey of learning additional languages in schools and kindergartens around the world, so teachers and teacher educators are seeking research-based evidence to guide them in implementing age- and context-appropriate approaches to teaching and learning. With every new volume published in the series we are aiming to provide this support.

However, we still need much more! There are still many gaps in the collection! So, if you have an idea that you would like to discuss – either formally or informally, do get in touch with the Multilingual Matters editor, Laura Longworth at: laura@multilingual-matters.com. Alternatively, contact me directly at: j.h.enever@reading.ac.uk.

For more information about this series please see our website.