LOA in Instructional Settings

One of the main purposes of this volume is to showcase assessment efforts in different instructional settings that have attempted to use LOA, especially those that are well known for their emphasis on summative examinations. This part reports on LOA practices in a wide range of instructional settings. It also provides useful hands-on experiences and reports on the challenges of using LOA in various assessment contexts.

In Chapter 7, Atta Gebril looks into the challenges and potentials associated with using LOA in an examination-based setting through providing an overview of a newly proposed, nationwide assessment policy in Egypt. The chapter sets out with a historical background about the Egyptian educational system, which is essential for understanding how the current accountability-oriented assessment system was originally developed. The second part of the chapter offers a critical take on the current assessment issues by delving into issues related to the mismatch between learning outcomes and test content, assessment literacy of teachers, teachers’ beliefs about assessment, use of assessment results, and work conditions in schools. This section is followed by a detailed description of the newly proposed assessment policy that attempts to develop teachers’ assessment literacy, improve test design and use of assessment data, and enhance technology infrastructure in schools. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the conditions of successful implementation of the proposed LOA policy in the Egyptian context.

Within the same Egyptian context, Wael Amer in Chapter 8 investigates the implementation of LOA in two schools that follow the British Curriculum, yet tend to heavily focus on summative assessment, as is the case with schools in Egypt in general - see Gebril (Chapter 7) for a description of the assessment context in Egypt. Amer attempts to investigate in this study the LOA techniques used in these schools and the perceptions of teachers and administrators about LOA design and implementation. The results yielded a long list of LOA techniques, including questioning strategies, presentations, and group projects. Amer argues that these results are in support of a strong connection between teaching, learning, and assessment. However, he cautions that the current implementation procedures still reflect a more measurement-based, accountability-driven orientation toward assessment. On a more positive note, teachers tend to have favorable views about LOA and their effectiveness in promoting learning and in informing instruction.

In a Malaysian context, Alla Khan and Norhaslinda Hassan in Chapter 9 look into the recent nationwide reform policy in lower-secondary schools (Grades 7-9) that attempts to promote language learning in classrooms. More specifically, they were interested in the washback effect of this policy and the perceptions of stakeholders. The results yielded a mixture of both positive and negative washback effects in the areas of content, teaching methods, and assessment activities. However, the authors argue that these results showed positive effects only at the surface level. Many teachers were not able to see the connection between competing assessment paradigms (summative and learning-oriented). According to Khan and Hassan, limitations of the cascade training model and teachers’ lack of commitment could be two main reasons for some of the challenges in the Malaysian context.

In Chapter 10, Baker et al. look into the potentials of using LOA techniques in an ESL course in a bilingual French-English university in Canada. An assignment was developed with the purpose of encouraging students to use grading criteria and to critically reflect on the process of scoring writing. The purpose of the study was to investigate how information obtained from this assignment could scaffold instructional activities and how such LOA activities could help them develop self-regulated learning. Based on the information gleaned from this activity, Baker and her colleagues argue that future instructional activities should pay more attention to developing analytical reading skills and engaging with the definitions of constructs that they usually take for granted in their writing classes. As for students, they strongly agreed that the proposed assignment was beneficial and they also exhibited signs of metacognitive growth. The chapter is concluded with an intriguing statement about the possibility of using summative assessment as a tool to track progress in language classes.

Based on data from an action research project, Angeliki Salamoura and Sian Morgan in Chapter 11 offer interesting discussions related to teachers’ perspectives about LOA. The chapter reports on an eight-year action research project from two countries (the UK and Australia). The authors focus on four main themes in their discussion: (1) integration of assessment for and of learning, (2) collecting evidence and record-keeping, (3) feedback, and (4) learner autonomy. The chapter includes a wealth of examples from language classes and offers useful recommendations for practitioners. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the future directions of LOA in a classroom setting and the importance of taking into consideration the ecosystem of learning.

In the final chapter in this volume, Erik Voss discusses a number of useful tips for using technological affordances within the context of LOA. I believe the chapter will be of great interest to those who would like to use these affordances in designing assessment tasks for enhancing student learning. Voss provides a wide range of examples for how technology could be integrated into LOA assessment and the way it could provide ideas for new assessment methods and experiences. Taking into consideration the limited access to technology in some local contexts, he offers useful options for learning environments based on existing applications and technologies. He also provides a number of tips for sophisticated information technology, such as speech recognition, facial recognition, and virtual reality that could be helpful within the context of LOA. He discusses these ideas from the perspective of assessment design, data management, and learning environments. Voss also argues that these different technological tools could lead to redefining assessment constructs and the way we assess language skills in general.

I and the colleagues who contributed to this volume did our best to address the challenges and potentials of LOA in different instructional settings. We hope that this volume will contribute to a better understanding of how LOA could be conceptualized, operationalized, and implemented in language classes. We do believe that there is still more work to be done in this area and hopefully this volume will provide the basis for future volumes and other types of publications around LOA themes.


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