Scaffolding Assessment to Access Student Learning


Scaffolding Assessment to Access Student Learning

Assessing ELs is a complex task.  Until a student is proficient in English, any assessment given is first and foremost a language test, rather than a measure of content knowledge. Sometimes one type of assessment may not seem to capture all that a student knows and can do. If you don’t feel you are getting the full picture of a student’s abilities, consider adding modifications or use an alternative assessment.

Modifications can be made to any test to allow student to better demonstrate what they know. They can also be scaffolded as the student’s language proficiency grows.  Scaffolds are meant to be temporary, so you’ll want to plan strategically when to reduce scaffolds and increase independence while maintaining current performance levels. Keep in mind, students’ level of motivation (or lack thereof) may be an indicator of the effectiveness of the chosen modifications and accommodations, even before assessment takes place. Students are motivated when tasks are perceived as achievable (think Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development), and give up easily when they are not. Modifications can help students not only demonstrate what they know, but have the confidence to try to succeed.

Please note that in order to avoid confusion about the task, students should be familiar with whatever assessment type you choose. Consider that some Middle Eastern countries do not traditionally use multiple choice. Other countries use essay almost exclusively (remember those blue books-still in use).  It would be unfair to expect a student to navigate such as test without practice with the format beforehand.  Whatever testing format you choose, make sure to practice ahead of time so that there is no confusion on students’ parts and you are authentically measuring content knowledge.

Consider the increasing difficulty of the scaffolded assessment tasks below:

Assessment Scaffolds Chart

Click Assessment Scaffolds Chart for a PDF of the chart above.

Note: Summative testing accommodation criteria are often state-mandated and vary widely by region.  See your local guidelines in regards to compliance for your specific area.


Click to read more about Modifications and Accommodations for English Learners


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