Technology and LOA
Within this wider ecology of learning, traditional classrooms are only one of the places where language learning happens. Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are now becoming central to learning and assessment processes, and households and communities can now be connected up using this kind of digital technology. The connectivity helps create innovative “learning systems” based on virtual environments that have a functional resemblance to “real” classrooms (e.g., cloud-based learning systems). Such systems enable new forms of learner-to-learner interaction, provide adaptivity to individual learner interests and personalized needs, and address persistent problems that are known to impede learning (e.g., attitude, motivation, and perseverance). This learner-centered focus may also facilitate learner autonomy and increase the amount of time learners spend on communicative tasks that interest them and are relevant to their lives.
Very importantly, the use of devices can capture and process richer data than in the past. This data-driven evidence of learning can be used by teachers and learners to provide individualized feedback in timely and formative ways to stimulate reflection on further learning. It can also be used with a diagnostic focus and to report detailed learning outcomes in terms of progression in proficiency.
30 Nick Saville Conclusion
In summary, LOA seeks to provide a coherent system for combining all forms and uses of assessment, and combines different kinds of evidence at each stage of the planning and delivery of instructed learning programs. The aim is to achieve measurably better language learning and, consequently, to equip learners with enhanced communication skills.
In order to avoid a negative impact, a key factor remains the necessary alignment of stakeholders’ views and actions in their own contexts - at the macro- and micro-levels of the ecosystem. So, in addition to a theory of change and improvement, LOA needs to provide a theory of action aimed at implementing educational change processes and achieving the intended impact by design.
If such alignments are to succeed, shared understandings of the principles and values underpinning the systemic model need to be developed by the various participants and stakeholders and then communicated to all. This will remain an ongoing challenge. Teachers and the quality of their teaching will remain central, and with the increasing use of technology, the role of the teacher will need to change and adapt to the new learning contexts. Amongst other new skills, higher levels of assessment literacy will be needed to take full advantage of the data-driven evidence that the LOA system can provide, and that can be used to provide the feedback to empower learners more effectively.
Thanks to Neil Jones, Angeliki Salamoura, Miranda Hamilton, and colleagues at Cambridge Assessment English for their collaboration in developing the systemic approach to LOA referred to in this chapter.
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