Assessing heritage language learners: A survey of teachers’ knowledge, practices, and needs

Presented at: AAAL 2021 Virtual Conference

On Demand Webinar

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Presenters: Jamie Morgan, Meg Montee

Description:  As the number of heritage language learners (HLLs) in the U.S. continues to grow, it is important to consider the unique linguistic and cultural backgrounds that these students bring to the language classroom. Despite increased attention on best instructional practices for this population, research on the assessment practices, challenges, and needs of teachers working with HLLs remains limited.

This session presents results from an online survey of educators of HLLs. The survey consisted of multiple-choice questions and open-response items examining respondents’ (1) confidence, training, and degree of support in teaching and assessing HLLs; (2) use of placement, formative, and summative assessments for HLLs; (3) opinions on the importance of assessing a number of different language skills for HLLs; (4) use of resources for developing assessments and/or modifying existing assessments for HLLs; and (5) assessment challenges and needs when working with HLLs.

Respondents included 215 teachers of HLLs, and 42 different heritage languages were represented in the survey data. Findings indicate that most respondents (68.1%) design their own assessments for HLLs, and many respondents reported using formative assessment (73.9%) and/or summative assessment (72.5%) in their classrooms. Respondents described the amount of learner diversity in one classroom as the biggest challenge in assessing HLLs, and responses indicate a need for both general and language-specific resources that support test selection, modification, and/or development.

Presenters will highlight key findings, discuss implications for future resource development, and present a free online tutorial on assessment that has been updated with targeted information to support teachers of heritage language learners. By the end of the session, participants will be able to: 1) identify current trends in the assessment of HLLs; 2) summarize the assessment challenges and needs of heritage language educators and 3) review online tutorial content designed to support the assessment of HLLs.