EAL student oral language can be difficult to assess because spoken language is transitory, interactive and multidimensional. Spoken language is transitory in that it exists only for the instant in which it is produced, and so assessment of spoken language of EAL students has traditionally depended on checklists and note-taking by teachers. However, technology now offers recording as a way of giving some permanence to EAL learners’ oral language in order to follow assessment procedures that have always been available for EAL writing. (See the comments about video- or audio-recording students’ work in section 3, Choosing an oral assessment task.)
In thinking about tasks to assess EAL learners’ oral English, teachers need to consider the nature of the communication involved (informational, imaginative or persuasive), the nature of the spoken interaction involved (conversational with the teacher or other students, or formal presentation) and the ways that listening and speaking skills interact in the task.
The TEAL oral assessment tasks will help you to assess your students’ oral English language development. They are a bank of common assessment tasks, not a test. These tasks, based on typical classroom activities, can be used with individual (or small groups) of students.
Common assessment tasks have been used with other teachers and students, and are a way of sampling the language students may use in the classroom, and which relates to the particular context and demands of each task.
There will be some commonality in the responses students give to these tasks, and these responses can then be ordered to show a hierarchy of response, in the criteria sheets. These responses can then be related back to a notion of proficiency, which is also related to overall assessment on the EAL Companion to AusVELS.
Points to consider
In order to be truly comparable, students’ responses need to be gathered as much as possible under the same conditions. Therefore the tasks should be implemented as closely as possible to the way they are presented in the task sheets. Students should not be over-rehearsed in the task so that they give spontaneous and natural responses, and are given opportunities to show what they know.