By Angela Lee-Smith, Yale University
The Challenges and Rationale
The COVID-19 pandemic hit every corner of the world, and we, language teachers, all had to transform our classrooms into virtual platforms. I swiftly adjusted learning materials, activities, tasks, and assessments, with no choice but to face and accept the present circumstances. The initial challenges of my newly transformed virtual classroom on Zoom were: How does online learning affect my students’ performance, especially at the beginner level? How can I help boost their motivation and confidence in the virtual classroom throughout the semester?
The World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (2015) suggest a framework with three modes of communication — interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. This framework focuses on the contexts and purposes of communication. That is, the three modes account for how students use and interact with their target language in real-world contexts. From this perspective, How can I adapt my daily teaching practice to offer students more opportunities to perform and produce language? How can I provide students with the guidance and opportunities for self-assessment and reflection on their progress given limited in-class time? How can I design meaningful and contextualized communication tasks, particularly for the presentational mode, which language textbooks for beginners generally lack?
Why process portfolios?
A process portfolio is a document of evidence that shows learning progress and the gradual growth of skills, achievements, or competencies, rather than a collection of students’ best and perfect final outcomes selected. They provide samples of students’ work collected throughout the term and illustrate improvement over time. Thus, when students view their process portfolios, they feel rewarded and can clearly see their learning progress from the beginning of the semester to the end. Moreover, a process portfolio can be used not only to monitor each student’s learning progress but also to reflect on the quality of the teacher’s instruction, teaching style, and pedagogical strategies.
I will present a rationale for maintaining student learning portfolios throughout a first-year, beginner-level L2 language course curriculum. Also, I will describe the goals of each assigned performance task, the procedures for creating a portfolio, and the ways to provide feedback and corrections. In addition, I will demonstrate examples of learners’ Can-Do statement rubrics, assessment criteria, sample portfolio products, and reflections. Finally, I will discuss pedagogical reflections and practical suggestions as well.
Designing the Process Portfolio Module
The module’s conceptual framework in designing the portfolio is founded upon performance-based, standards-based, and portfolio-based assessments. The progress portfolio’s primary purpose is to serve as a formative assessment that I use to check and monitor students — their learning progress, needs, and what they can do during the course. Curriculum, instruction, learning, and assessments should align under a consistent framework, in this case — portfolios, standards, and performance-based assessments.
The first-year Korean portfolio module for the presentational speaking mode consists of the tasks for overall functional goals in the Novice High proficiency level adapted from the AATK (2015) and ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (2012). Students are also gradually introduced to the features of the next benchmark, Intermediate Low, to increase their awareness of the criteria that will be expected for the next level.
Process portfolio tasks can be assigned weekly, but students are not restricted to using the specific grammar target forms or vocabulary they have learned in the current lessons. Instead, they are encouraged to build on their oral presentation tasks focusing on language usage and contexts rather than explicit grammar drills. In this way, students can freely search for new grammar forms or vocabulary that they have not learned but need to master to convey their thoughts (i.e., meaning-making; creative language use).
Instructors of beginner-level language courses may transform current assessment practices (heavily grammar- and vocabulary-focused summative tests) into performance-based assessments with a few modifications in performance criteria. This transformation may be transitioned gradually throughout a unit or a curriculum, and a series of learners’ regular performances can be collected in their portfolios.
Sample Module and Procedure
The sample module presented is designed for beginner-level L2 Korean learners in first-year courses comprising a minimum of 140 instructional hours (as guided in the AATK College-level Korean curriculum, 2015). The primary target domain of language skills for this portfolio assessment module is speaking, particularly in the presentational communication mode.
I constructed the module based on the backward design approach to reflect the standard proficiency goals. Each performance task in the module is designed to promote learners’ integrated language use — creative, meaningful, contextualized, yet implicitly form-focused language application. Learners in communicative-based instruction still must learn the target language’s forms to develop their accuracy and fluency, and thus the forms can be integrated into such communicative activities. Integrating the forms helps learners develop the fluency and automaticity needed for communication outside the classroom because the learners’ portfolio contents serve as progress indicators toward the goals.
The procedure of portfolio tasks is straightforward so that the learners and the instructor routinize working on portfolios during the course of study. Students submit one self-recording assigned to each lesson unit. The instructor reviews each student’s performance submission and provides feedback with corrections if necessary — written feedback with corrections and oral feedback for proper pronunciation and intonation whenever necessary.
Then, students review their performance again with the feedback provided. As a follow-up, they meet with the instructor or teaching assistant, discuss their progress, share their reflection, or retell the assigned topic during weekly one-on-one tutorial sessions.
|1||Self-introduction||Can introduce myself using words, phrases, and memorized expressions|
|2||My daily/weekly routine||Can present my daily and weekly routines using words, phrases, and memorized expressions in the present tense|
|3||Last week||Can tell about my past activities using phrases and simple sentences in the simple past tense|
|4||Last summer break||Can tell about my last summer break in a series of simple sentences in the simple past tense|
|5||Weekend plans||Can present my plans in a series of simple sentences in the simple future tense|
|6||Next summer plans||Can present my plans for next summer break using a series of sentences|
|7||My bucket list||Can tell about things that I want to do with reasons using a series of sentences|
|8||Giving advice to high schoolers/your junior students||Can give basic instructions or advice to my peers and junior students based on my experiences using a series of sentences|
|9||My BFF||Can present information about my best friend using a series of sentences|
|10||My Thanksgiving break||Can describe my Thanksgiving break using loosely connected sentences|
|11||Career plans and reasons||Can present my career plans and intentions using loosely connected sentences|
|12||Cultural short stories: Korean folktale||Can retell a short story – common cultural folktale, using loosely connected sentences|
|13||My family||Can give basic biographical information about my family using appropriate registers and loosely connected sentences|
|14||Audio letter to my parents||Can tell about familiar experiences or events in my college life to older people in various time frames in loosely connected sentences|
|15||Travel recommendation||Can describe a place I have visited and give simple directions using loosely connected sentences|
|16||A good _____ is…||Can express my thoughts and preferences on topics of interest using loosely connected sentences|
|17||Cook-Bang||Can give multistep instructions for preparing a recipe or cooking a dish using loosely connected sentences|
|18||Finding a part-time job/internship||Can describe what I need for work or an internship and present my experiences or qualifications for a position I apply for using loosely connected sentences|
|19||Storytelling: K-Drama||Can present short skits: participate in the performance of a skit|
|20||Before vs. After||Can describe simple differences and similarities using loosely connected sentences|
|21||Promoting my extracurricular club||Can make a presentation in a generally organized way to promote my school club using loosely connected sentences|
|22||My happy place and well-being||Can give a presentation about a place where I feel happy and describe a location, activities, and feelings associated with that place using loosely connected sentences|
Table 1 – Task module for first-year process portfolio
Sample Tasks and Assessments
Students perform all assignments as shown in Table 1, during the first-year (e.g., Task 1 to 11 in the first semester and Task 12-22 in the second semester), as out-of-class work. The course’s general proficiency benchmark for the first semester is set at Novice Mid (but some students reach Novice High). One portfolio task is assigned per week on average; however, of course, instructors may adjust the topics and frequency of the portfolio assignments. Again, these topics are not totally new to the students since they experience learning the foundation in class in order to perform the target functions (e.g., time and actions, dates to describe their daily routine, etc.).
Students’ portfolio performances for presentational speaking during the fall of 2017 were shared with the class using VoiceThread, supported by the institution as an educational technology application. Instructors can incorporate other resources such as YouTube, Padlet, or Flip. The class was discouraged from reading their writing or scripts for their performances, although self-rehearsals and preparations were allowed. In addition, students were encouraged to improve their performance based on the criteria, in part by reflecting on their own performance using a similar rubric that the instructor uses to evaluate them.
The following is a sample portfolio assignment, and the corresponding sample performance is presented. (Note: Names in the transcripts are replaced with pseudonyms or omitted.)
Sample Portfolio Assignment #12 – Cultural short stories: Korean folktale
- Task Mode: Audio performance
- Task Title: Cultural Storytelling
- Task Scenario: You are currently enrolled in a Korean language culture course at a university and assigned with a presentation task on traditional Korean folktales. Research and select one folktale and retell the story for your classmates and a collaborative audiobook for Korean children.
- Engagement Tech Tool: VoiceThread/Padlet
- Performance Criteria:
i) Global Function: Can retell a short story: common cultural folktales
ii) Text Type: Can produce strings of discrete and complete sentences; loosely connected sentences
iii) Comprehensibility: Can be mostly comprehensible to sympathetic listeners although repetition or reformulation may be needed
iv) Quantity and Quality: Can perform the given task with sufficient quantity of language production; Can use vocabulary appropriately and apply grammar with accuracy
- Reflection: Please review and reflect on your performance
|Criteria||Can do||Almost there||Still working||Need help|
|Note: Sometimes I wonder if my pronunciation is correct. I would like to sound smoother without accents.|
Instructor’s Review and Feedback
|Assignment # 12||Student name: ML|
|Criteria||Exceeds standard||Meets standard||Approaching standard||Needs help|
|Note: a well-developed vocabulary; chooses words with care;
expresses ideas clearly. Creative with the language.Question: Do you like/don’t like the story? Why is that? How would you like to change the story?
As shown in the instructor’s feedback, instructors may prompt follow-up questions to help students use the language creatively and critically by responding to those questions. This follow-up can be done during the one-on-one weekly meeting session.
Excerpt. Sample student performance on task #12 (Retell a Korean folktale)
줄리아 씨하고 영미 씨가 설화를 가르쳐 줬어요. 한국 아이들이 그 설화를 잘 알아요. 그 설화 제목이 청개구리예요. 청개구리가 말썽꾸러기예요. 어머니 말씀을 들어주지 않고 항상 나빴어요. 그래서 청개구리 어머니가 죽고 있을 때 청개구리한테 말씀하셨어요. “산에 저를 묻지 마세요. 연못에 저를 묻어 주세요.” 그런데 청개구리 어머니가 정말로 산에 묻히고 싶어하셨어요.
하지만 청개구리가 항상 반대로 해서 청개구리 어머니가 반대로 말씀하셨어요. 청개구리 어머니가 죽으셨어요. 그런데 청개구리가 잘 듣고 어머니를 연못에 묻었어요. 그리고 매일매일 걱정했어요. 왜냐하면 비가 오면 청개구리 어머니 잃어버리게 될 거예요. 그래서 청개구리가 비한테 기도했어요. “우리 어머니를 떠내려 가게 하지 마세요.”그 설화 교훈이, “잘 해서 어머니를 존중하세요!”
Julia and Youngmi taught me a tale. Korean children know [about] the tale well. The title of the story is Cheonggaeguri [green frog]. Cheonggaeguri is a troublemaker. [He] didn’t listen to his mother and was always bad. So, when mother cheonggaguri was dying, said to Cheonggaguri. “Please, don’t bury me in the mountain. Bury me at a pond. However, the mother cheonggaeguri truly wanted to be buried in the mountain. But she told opposite because Cheonggaeguri always did opposite [to what she said]. The mother cheonggaeguri passed away. But Cheongaegguri listened [his mother] well and buried [his] mother at the point. And [he] worried every single day. Because if it rains, [he will] lose mother cheonggaeguri. So Cheonggaeguri prayed to rain. “Please, don’t let my mother get washed away.” The tale’s moral lesson is, “Respect [your] mother by doing well [being good].”
At the beginner level, it is easy to notice whether a student’s oral performance is based on reading aloud scripts versus speaking spontaneously with many pauses, repetitions, and self-corrections. As mentioned, the progress portfolio assessment is a formative assessment closely connected to students’ ongoing learning. Therefore, instructors should communicate clearly from the beginning that mistakes will not be penalized by grade points, so that students do not lose sight of the purpose of the portfolio.
Overall, as a built-in assessment tool, the process portfolio assignments provided the students with the opportunity to understand what they would achieve and what goals they were expected to meet. Students also gained a better understanding of how their learning progressed. By seeing how their work accumulated, they witnessed what they had learned, where they were in their language learning journey, and what they still needed to do. Furthermore, by working on the portfolio assignments outside of class time, the class could maximize in-class learning time.
The student’s sample performances, collected periodically and presented as examples, clearly documented evidence of progress over the semester. Portfolio assessment is aligned with the course curriculum as performance assignments, learning activities for students, and as formative, low-stakes assessments for instructors. Implementing portfolios can benefit the course curriculum, students, and instructors during the course.
Portfolio assessment aids the course curriculum by
- providing ongoing feedback of teaching progress and learning;
- monitoring closely the lesson and course goals;
- being easily accessible and affordable;
- providing an effective way to communicate and share with the students;
- helping manage in-classroom time more effectively;
- enabling the course curriculum to reflect students’ learning and achievement;
- aligning curriculum among teaching, learning, and assessing;
- aligning purposes and criteria for developing formative assessments based on the program’s sequential proficiency benchmarks learning goals.
Portfolio assessment aids students by
- helping them identify their strengths and improve their weaknesses;
- helping them build fluency with accuracy by using the language in meaningful and creative ways;
- allowing them to hear their own performance as a learning archive;
- showing them how they actually speak and identify their own mistakes;
- helping them feel at ease speaking;
- allowing them to track and take control of their learning;
- setting clear expectations for meeting the goals.
Portfolio assessment aids my teaching as an instructor by
- helping me motivate my students by providing personal and tangible materials on which students can build and develop over the course;
- enabling me to check what is taught and detect any weaknesses, needs, and status changes in individual learner’s progress over time;
- allowing me to focus on what learners actually can do in the target lesson;
- enabling me to incorporate more oral communication work into a curriculum that has limited or insufficient instructional hours;
- helping me closely monitor individual students’ progress;
- helping me provide individualized and differentiated student instruction in a class with a broad range of progress and needs.
As shown and discussed in this article, a portfolio assessment that is integrated with performance, standard-based criteria, and learning goals can be implemented from the very beginning stage of learning because it is beneficial for effective instruction, learning, and the language program curriculum.
The presented portfolio assessment module for beginner learners of L2 Korean focused on the presentational speaking mode of the Communication standard. However, portfolio assessment can be implemented for a variety of other skill sets, such as reading and writing, at all levels. For example, the first-year language course curriculum may include a reading and writing portfolio that encourages students to keep track of their reading and writing work throughout the semester. Reading and writing portfolios that contain a series of carefully built-up tasks—personal reflections, letters, cards, emails, inquiries, directions, storytellings, social media postings, narrative memes, K-POP lyrics logs, and so on—can be well-aligned with speaking portfolio activities for elementary proficiency-level learners. Especially in the twenty-first century, language users may be more involved in digital communication. Thus, the curriculum needs to provide students with balanced learning opportunities for various modes of communication.
American Association of Teachers of Korean (AATK). (2015), College Korean curriculum inspired by National Standards for Korean, The Korean Language in America 19-2. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
The National Standards Collaborative Board. (2015). World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Author.