female teacher helping a teenage girl in a classroom

By Chris Lemon, Northmont High School, Clayton, OH (Spanish Teacher, Department Chair)

Four years ago, our school chose the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Language (AAPPL, Form B: Novice High to Advanced Low), over sixteen other options, as our preferred method for students to earn the Seal of Biliteracy accepted by our state. It was the clear choice as the best combination of design, accuracy, cost, and individualized feedback, and we have stayed with it in large part because of the “washback effect” that it has had on our classrooms.  The AAPPL is new to us; implementing it has been a change that impacts our program and classroom environment. So, the notion of washback effect is related to our firsthand experiences with the AAPPL in very specific ways.

Before we began to use the AAPPL, we had already begun to shift our instructional design–objectives, curriculum, resources, etc. toward a proficiency-based learning approach. From the first year, the test design itself and its detailed results for our students pushed us even further to build our learning experiences around real-world language use. ACTFL even supported us running our own workshop a couple years ago in which we invited teachers from around the region to learn more about the AAPPL and get a better sense of the format that our students would see.

These experiences taught us the importance of time management for our students, and now we focus more on building their ability in the lower levels to more quickly identify key vocabulary and details and to get the main idea in a variety of familiar settings in order to successfully transition to demonstrating these same skills in more challenging situations. We also prepare them for the increasing difficulty level of tasks within the testing environment itself, training them to leave themselves time for the later tasks that will require more thought, especially in the reading and writing sections. These time management skills not only prep them better for the test, but also push our classroom instruction to focus more time on those more advanced skills that lead to more interesting discussions during which students express themselves beyond simple statements and questions.

If you are looking for an assessment tool that will create a positive feedback loop to help you to reinvent your instruction, keep your students engaged, and push them to explore a variety of topics relevant to their own life and the culture that they are studying, I encourage you to explore what the AAPPL can do for you and your students. For us, the positive washback is significant.

Learn more about the AAPPL here: https://www.languagetesting.com/aappl

Learn more about the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines here: https://www.actfl.org/resources/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012/english

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