A Four-Step Process

Authors: Rita MacDonald, Timothy Boals, Mariana Castro, H. Gary Cook, Todd Lundberg, Paula A. White

The significant challenges faced by English Language Learners (ELLs) become greater during the middle and high school years, when they must learn more abstract academic concepts with emergent English language skills and differing levels of background knowledge.  To meet these challenges, ELLs need immediate feedback about how the development of their language abilities interacts with their academic performance; and teachers need practical strategies to help ELLs develop the specific content and language abilities necessary for success.  In Formative Language Assessment for English Learners, the research team of Rita MacDonald, Timothy Boals, Mariana Castro, H. Gary Cook, Todd Lundberg, and Paula A. White demonstrates what good language assessment for formative purposes is, explains the cycle of formative language assessment, and shows how it unfolds stage by stage in a school setting.  Based on a five-year collaborative project with middle and high school teachers in three major school districts, the book presents a process for:

  • Weaving a language focus into content lessons
  • Analyzing students’ language from writing samples to help them broaden their linguistic choices
  • Creating active partnerships with students as they learn and practice new ways to use English.

When classrooms are defined by effective language assessment for formative purposes, they become dynamic spaces in which teachers can use that information to plan clear, attainable steps to increase student learning, and students develop deeper understandings of both academic content and academic language. Formative Language Assessment for English Learners provides practical strategies to implement a unique process for formative assessment that can truly change classroom practice.

This team of authors works together at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have collaborated on formative language assessment for English Language Learners through their work for WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment), a 36-state consortium that supports academic language development for linguistically diverse students through standards, assessment, research, and professional development.