Language teachers are interested in seeking further training and fostering their professional development. This became evident in the quickly fully booked ARVO in-service training event on assessment skills, which was organised by the Language Campus. The programme was tailored for 200 language teachers, and it attracted participants from different education levels across Finland.
The idea for arranging this event arose from an actual need. Last year, The Finnish National Agency for Education updated the assessment section in the national framework curriculum for basic education. At the same time, the Agency specified the criteria for school-leaving assessments, specifically for the grades 5, 7, 8, and 9 on the assessment scale. The new core curriculum for the general upper secondary school also highlights the dual, formative and summative, functions of student assessment. Because of the specified definitions, teachers need to update their knowledge and skills accordingly.
Last year, the Language Campus received funding for the ARVO project from the Finnish National Agency for Education. The training was organised during this spring, and it will be repeated in autumn.
Three main themes
Formative and summative are the two typical functions of assessment in schools, and hence most natural themes for assessment training. Oral language proficiency is regarded as difficult to assess, although it is a focal area of language teaching and learning in basic education, in particular, Professor Ari Huhta considers. These three aspects were chosen as the main areas for the training.
In the first training event, Lecturer Pirjo Pollari focussed on formative assessment, which promotes learning. Through different exercises, observations and feedback, both the teacher and the learners gain insight into their learning and skills.
– The learner realises what needs developing, and the teacher sees what should still be practiced more, Pollari described.
Systematic assessment plan makes teacher’s work easier
Professor Huhta, who is leading the ARVO project, discussed the prerequisites for useful, high-quality assessment.
– The more systematically planned, the better, but even a rough plan is better than nothing, he emphasised. Huhta also discussed some challenges that are posed to assessment by highly varied teaching and learning objectives.
– Although summative assessment is familiar to teachers, there is still room for development. For example, teachers may feel that criterion-referenced assessment as well as making summative assessment more diverse are rather challenging tasks. People are also so accustomed to test-centredness that reviewing it critically from the perspective of improving assessment is not necessarily self-evident. These very issues were considered in the training event, Professor Mirja Tarnanen pointed out.
On the day dedicated to the assessment of oral language proficiency, teachers pondered the challenges of assessment and shared their experiences of well-proven practices in small groups. Teachers were encouraged to engage in regular and systematic assessment of oral language proficiency, and they were also offered a set of concrete tools to facilitate teacher’s work for assessment.
– The special characteristics of spoken language should be taken into account in the assessment of language skills, Lecturer Maarit Ilola emphasises.
Postdoctoral Researcher Dmitri Leontjev looked at learning and development from a sociocultural perspective.
– Both teaching and assessment are part of the same activity, dynamic assessment, Leontjev summarised. He gave examples illustrating what kind of information teachers can get about the learners by means of dynamic assessment and how it can be implemented in the classroom.
The diversity of Language Campus expertise
The ARVO project team comprises experts from the Centre for Applied Language Studies, Department of Language and Communication Studies, Department of Teacher Education, and Teacher Training School. In addition, reinforcements were received from the University of Tampere and the University of Eastern Finland. Organising the training event digitally for a big group of participants did cause a slight thrill in advance. To the organisers’ relief, the connections worked well for the most part.
– On the last training day, the Zoom application caused some problems for the scheduled programme, but fortunately the application was otherwise nicely adaptable to small-group discussions and involvement, Project Researcher Laura-Maija Suur-Askola summarises the organisers’ experiences of the technology.
Feedback on the content of this in-service training was very positive. Overall, the capacity of the Language Campus to bring together the diverse expertise of its members was highlighted. In addition, the event showed what societal interaction at its best can mean in practice.
Ari Huhta, Professor, Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Maarit Ilola, Lecturer, Jyväskylä Teacher Training School
Maria Kautonen, Senior Lecturer School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland
Laura Lahti, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Culture, Tampere University
Dmitri Leontjev, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Pirjo Pollari, Lecturer, Jyväskylä Teacher Training School
Olli-Pekka Salo, Lecturer, Jyväskylä Teacher Training School
Laura-Maija Suur-Askola, Project Researcher, Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Mirja Tarnanen, Professor, Department of Teacher Education, University of Jyväskylä
Elina Tergujeff, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä
Subscribe to the JYUnity newsletter
Get latest articles from The University of Jyväskylä’s stakeholder magazine into your email. You can cancel your subscription at any time.