Reflections on Implementing IPAs

Lucas Hoffman, OFLA Executive Vice-President

Three years ago, I started “dabbling” in the world of Integrated Performance Assessments.  There is a learning curve, for sure, on the part of both students and teachers; my students were certainly patient with me as I discovered a new and more authentic way of testing. While I had always been using performance assessments, which make up only part of an IPA, I was not integrating the skills, nor was I always using authentic interpretive texts.  However, properly used IPAs are so much more rewarding.

So what makes my new assessments so much more rewarding for the students and for me?

Let me first revisit my old tests. In finishing a traditional multiple choice or fill-in-the blank test, I would inevitably see frustration on the part of my students for missing a conjugation (or several conjugations) or vocabulary word(s).  Many students could not feel successful being tested in that method; and after all, they were right! The tests simply determined what students did not know.  Do you remember trying to help (or force?) our kids to memorize lists of the prepositions associated with various verbs in order to pass those AP exams?  How did we ever expect a poor student to master that list, out of context, after just a few hundred hours of instruction?

Fast forward to 2014. I love that my students now feel happier about world language testing, even in spite of our test-crazy culture.  I swear that this is true!  Why exactly?

  1. Our new assessments are real.  By design, there is student buy-in to engage in and complete this real task.  In responding to or thinking about an authentic text, students are naturally more engaged and reflect more deeply.  The content itself is often more interesting as well.
  2. Our students are set up to succeed! Designing a test to demonstrate their performance naturally allows students to show what they can do.  No more trick or random questions.
  3. The ODE, ACTFL, and the College Board are now all pushing on the “same wheel.”  Even though given tasks may vary, our communicative modes are the same.  “Level one” students are now pre-AP students who can already start preparing for their AP exam.
  4. We totally support Common Core!  Your administrator will love how you can support ELA standards by finding “supporting/key details” as part of the interpretive task, which uses “evidence” in order to make your argument in your presentational task.
  5. Feedback is more meaningful, both before and after the assessment.  My formative assessments, leading up to the summative IPA, are geared specifically to check skills needed to complete each mode.  Students find out weeks before the assessment how their listening, reading, speaking and writing abilities are developing.  No need to wait until after the test!
  6. This feedback, along with backwards design (with my final IPA in sight), has clarified learning goals for both the students and me.  This helps me put students in the driver’s seat of their own learning, because they know where they’re headed.
  7. The kids are still learning!  Upon reading a new article and discussing it with their group, our students walk away with new information, or perhaps consider the world a little differently. I promise you that our kids aren’t learning about the world thanks to a fill-in-the blank test!
  8.  How about you?  What do you love about IPA’s?  Why don’t you share your thoughts and success stories on our OFLA Facebook page?


This entry was posted in OFLA News: Association, Vol. 53, No. 1 - Fall 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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