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    Young children's language learning pathways
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Young children’s language learning pathways

What assessment is about and why it is important

Assessment is the systematic, ongoing process of evaluating the child’s language learning. It can be used to provide an indication of current skills, knowledge, experiences, ideologies, and attitudes. Assessment can form the basis for planning the next steps along the child’s language learning pathway. These assessments can be formal or informal, summative, or formative, child-led or teacher-initiated. Teachers assessing children should situate the child in a learning path which is ongoing. It builds on past experience and learning and is oriented towards learning targets for the future. The path is marked out by curriculum expectations whilst at the same time comparing the achievements, skills, and knowledge of children with previous evaluations and assessments to identify the small and big steps on the child’s (language) learning journey. The focus of assessment should be on helping children understand this journey, their progress and the next steps along their language learning pathway which allows them to become active agents of their own learning. This means: 
Assessment of young learners should not focus on results and grades but on the process of learning and the individual progress of the child.

The importance of assessment in making language learning visible in the education system

  • It allows for an identification of the child’s linguistic repertoire – in the language(s) of the education system, additional language taught as part of the curricular guidelines, and any additional languages acquired in the home, the family, or the community.
  • It allows the progress of the children to be recorded and reported on.
  • It forms the basis for developing (future) teaching and learning experiences.
  • It allows children to become engaged in their own learning progress and become agents of their own learning experiences.

Assessment toolbox

In this section you can find a variety of resources and tools for observation which can be used to make a range of language learning pathways visible in the education system.

 


 

Please click on the tools for details

Collated representative samples of descriptors of language competences developed for young learners
Volume 1: ages 7-10
Volume 2: ages 11-15

Language(s) English French (available in 2024)
Description These samples are drawn from European Language Portfolios and other sources and mapped to the illustrative descriptors of the CEFR. The samples are organised by CEFR level in the form of “can-do” statements for each of the levels.
Using the tool Based on these sample descriptors (self)assessment checklists can be developed to identify language competence levels of the child.
WIDA (University of Wisconsin-Madison) – ‘Can do’ descriptors as examples of academic language use for specific communicative purposes
Language(s) English, Spanish
Description The WIDA framework provides indicators of what children can do at various stages of language development
Using the tool The descriptors represent a range of language skills (recounting, explaining, arguing, discussing) for various levels. Although aimed at English language users, these statements can be adapted for any other language. Statements are available for children at ISCED Level 0 onwards.
Language diagnostics in multilingual settings as accompaniment of individualized learning and teaching
Language(s) English, French
Description This study provides an introduction to language diagnostics with particular reference to the needs of children from migrant backgrounds. It summarises the objectives and principles of language diagnostics, including formative assessment, as an integral part of continuous language education that emphasises individualised teaching and learning.
Using the tool Different kinds of diagnostic tools such as profile analysis, language sampling and self-assessment can be explored. In addition strategies for implementation and examples for successful transfer can be considered for classroom practice.
Self-evaluate your language skills
Language(s) Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish
Description The 'Self-evaluate your language skills' online tool offers a gaming approach to the assessment of language competences. It helps learners to document their level of proficiency in any language they know according to the six reference levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The game draws on the CEFR’s self-assessment grid.
Using the tool Learners respond to questions about their listening, reading, oral interaction, oral production and writing skills. They can carry out their self-assessment in several languages and save or print the results in the form of a PDF document.

Reflective activity: Assessment to make language learning pathways visible in the classroom

Before you carry out an assessment:

  • What will I be using this assessment for? Is it a formative assessment to evaluate the child's progress on their language learning journey or is it a summative assessment that aligns with the curricular expectations and the child's progress through the education system?
  • What information will I collect through this assessment and in what format will this information be? Will it be written text? In audio-visual format? Or through other artifacts or forms of evidence?
  • For whom is this assessment - is it a requirement of the educational system? Is it to inform the teaching and learning process? Is it for sharing with the child and their parents?

Whilst carrying out the assessment:

  • Is this assessment providing me with the information about the language learning to allow me to support the child in making the next steps in their language learning journey? Are there other ways of assessing the language learning of the child? After you have finished conducting the assessment
  • Did this assessment provide the information I was looking for? What other diagnostic tools can I use to evaluate the child's language learning progress?
  • How will I be using the information collected in the assessment?
    • Will it inform teaching and learning practices?
    • Will it be used to evaluate the child's progress against a set of (fixed) criteria?
  • What is the progress of the child? How does the information collected compare to other sources of information? What progress has the child made?