English Language Learning: Types of Assessments

Topic 2 DQ 1

Diagnostic assessments allow teachers to thoroughly evaluate students’ preliminary knowledge and abilities, thus helping to make sure that the planned lessons and activities are suitable. Also, thanks to diagnostic assessments, it is possible to learn more about students’ specific needs and required accommodations. This type of assessment supports ELL students by helping the teacher to single out the most important aspects of language use to focus on, be it the knowledge of grammar, word choices, reading, pronunciation, or anything else. To some degree, these assessments support ELLs’ linguistic needs by establishing a reference point in terms of knowledge and using it to set realistic expectations.

Differently from that, formative and summative assessments are aimed at evaluating knowledge in the middle of the instructional process or after completing specific units (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017). Formative assessments are widely used in ELL students to keep track of their daily linguistic experiences and changes to them, thus shedding light on their learning progress and the required changes to instruction. In ELLs, formative assessments can take the form of language usage observations, student interviews, or self-reflection activities, and the need to demonstrate their newly-acquired abilities facilitates ELL students’ language development (Colorín Colorado, n.d.; Montalvo-Balbed, 2012). Formative assessments sometimes involve working in pairs under the teacher’s supervision, which allows ELL students to learn from peers (Montalvo-Balbed, 2012). Summative assessments mainly support such students’ needs by providing accurate information on specific linguistic and communicative competencies to be improved in the future.

The results of student assessments support decision-making in terms of how to teach specific subgroups of ELL students, including those eligible for special education services. The accuracy of special needs assessments and the existence of biases against ELLs are listed among important concerns related to this student population. It is because learning difficulties and disabilities in non-white ELLs often remain unrecognized, and norm-referenced assessment tools are not always applicable to ELLs (Echevarria et al., 2017; Hamayan, Marler, Sanchez-Lopez, & Damico, 2007). The use of assessment results to determine the presence of special education needs in ELLs may vary depending on the state. In some states, the unsatisfactory results of RTI interventions are enough to consider the child as a special needs student and make subsequent decisions, whereas in other states, there are many more obligatory assessments to be conducted (Echevarria et al., 2017). If the presence of special needs is established, assessment results are used to plan and justify accommodations.

Different approaches to assessment can also be used to identify and accommodate gifted ELL students. In many instances, giftedness finds reflection in the ability to easily read texts in English beyond one’s grade level. Thus, to identify and accommodate such students, it is possible to use the Informal Reading Inventory and other evidence-based approaches to assessing reading skills (Echevarria et al., 2017). Along with the exceptional results of formal assessments, the information on ELL students’ reading levels can be used to identify ELLs into gifted programs and individualize instruction to make assignments more challenging for these learners.

Topic 2 DQ 2

Formal and informal assessments play a significant role in ESL classrooms since they allow making conclusions about ELL students’ progress and even their attitudes toward learning. Informal assessments, such as observations, written works, and student interviews, support knowledge acquisition by encouraging children to learn how to implement new language-related knowledge into practice, whereas formal assessments summarize learning. One interesting way to incorporate feedback into informal and formal student assessments is to encourage ELL students to engage in self-reflection and provide self-administered feedback by discussing their own strengths and improvement areas (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005). If combined with comments from the teacher, this approach to feedback can be helpful in improving ELLs’ self-awareness. As for teacher-delivered feedback, there are numerous ways to incorporate it into assessments in ESL classrooms to make instruction and evaluations more effective. Some examples include detailed written feedback on students’ written assignments or one-on-one meetings with students to discuss their performance and the required improvement efforts (Williams, 2003). By using the listed strategies and providing individual feedback immediately or shortly after assessments, it is possible to support ELL students’ learning.

The feedback that teachers deliver to students in ESL classrooms should meet a set of standards. They include being comprehensible, capable of guiding performance improvement, fair, and practice-oriented (Smith, Teemant, & Pinnegar, 2004). These requirements largely define the way of how feedback should look like. For instance, from the considerations of understandability and practical significance, written feedback should explain mistakes instead of simply identifying them, demonstrate the exact location of mistakes, and highlight both strengths and weaknesses to avoid poor motivation (Williams, 2003). Additionally, if written feedback contains specific symbols and abbreviations, it is essential to make sure that they are used consistently and do not change meanings from time to time (Williams, 2003). In this case, it is essential to provide all students with a handout that would explain the signs and their meanings and could be used at any time.

The standards for oral feedback delivered with the help of student conferencing are quite similar. One-on-one meetings with students are widely used to further explain written feedback and provide recommendations on how to understand and use it (Williams, 2003). Thus, oral feedback should use the words and structures that ELL students easily understand. It should also highlight strengths instead of focusing only on knowledge gaps to keep students motivated to learn and correct mistakes.


ColorĂ­n Colorado. (n.d.). Using informal assessments for English language learners. Web.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2017). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Hamayan, E. V., Marler, B., Sanchez-Lopez, C., & Damico, J. S. (2007). Reasons for the misidentification of special needs among ELLs. Web.

Montalvo-Balbed, M. (2012). Using formative assessment to help English language learners. Web.

Smith, M. E., Teemant, A., & Pinnegar, S. (2004). Principles and practices of sociocultural assessment: Foundations for effective strategies for linguistically diverse classrooms. Multicultural Perspectives, 6(2), 38-46.

Stiggins, R., & Chappuis, J. (2005). Using student-involved classroom assessment to close achievement gaps. Theory into Practice, 44(1), 11-18.

Williams, J. G. (2003). Providing feedback on ESL students’ written assignments. The Internet TESL Journal, 9(10). Web.

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