Eric’s statement below made in a comment today pretty much answers the ACTFL Language Educators question brought to our attention by Alisa:
“What strategies for evaluation or feedback provide learners with guidance to improve their performance?”
Eric I trust that you will post your answer on the ACTFL site. It will be a sufficient answer to the question and no more of us need to weigh in on it. I think it is a succinct description of the highest order, a truly fine statement in response to the question. And I guarantee that few among the 18,000 ACTFL people will agree with any aspect of Eric’s points below, which I think makes perfect sense in terms of the research. Most of the people in that group won’t read it, for two reasons: 1) they never go to the site; they just need to be a member of a professional group for their school, and 2) they are unconsciously skilled workers. They are not consciously skilled. So they won’t hear what Eric is saying. And the beat goes on.
I don’t agree with the assumption made in the question. It assumes that assessment and feedback actually give students info to improve their performance. Another issue not addressed is whether or not students care enough at all to take the feedback and go work on those areas for improvement.
What would this sound like in a grammar-oriented classroom? Oh, Johnny, you didn’t use the direct object pronouns correctly. Thanks, Teacher, I’ll go acquire those right now.
What would that sound like in an ACTFL Can-Do classroom? Oh, Jenny, you can only speak in short sentences about your after school activities and only a little about your morning routine. Thanks, Teacher, I’ll go acquire the syntax to speak in fuller sentences and practice my morning routine word lists.
The silly part of all of this is the:
1) Misguided idea that we can actually control the rate and route of acquisition. The effects of instruction are nebulous to say the least. There is not a one-to-one correlation between what I teach and what gets learned. Likewise, there is not a one-to-one correlation between what a student tries to learn and what gets learned.
2) There is also this focus on product. What can we get students to “display,” like improving their showmanship on tests. Instead, WE focus on process. Constant interaction day-in and day-out is all the feedback our students need. And we have plenty of actual scientific studies to guide our process. You simply cannot fluently perform (unrehearsed & spontaneously) what you have not acquired. And you can only acquire if you attend to comprehensible input. Even then, there are innate and universal constraints to what comprehensible input can be accommodated into our developing language systems at any one moment.