Let’s start with this: do an assessment in order to get a clear, multi-faceted, and detailed picture of your current skill set. (see part 1 here)
Optimally, your assessment will allow you to have a more objective, accurate idea of your current proficiencies. This description should be clear in that it uses language you understand (so for most of us, not a lot of grammatical terms we’ve never understood), and gives specific examples.
It should be multi-faceted, meaning that it should discuss a full range of proficiencies and skills, rather than focusing on just one skill. (Beware of assessments that only test your speaking ability, for example. But more on that in the next post.)
And it should be detailed: you should have an idea of your abilities in a number of different areas, with specific examples if possible. If all you know at the end of your assessment is that you’re at Level 2.5, you’ve learned very little.
Second, not only do you need to know where you are, but you also need to know where you are going. That is, you want to use an assessment to set goals. Now, setting goals in language learning is a rather optimistic, and perhaps vain, task, but it does have value.
Set realistic, quantifiable, multi-faceted goals for yourself with your assessor so that your next assessment can give you an idea of how and how quickly you’re progressing in certain areas.
And if you have an idea of where you are and where you want to go, you need to know how to get there. So make sure your assessment leaves you with practical ideas for how to get from here to there:
- What activities should I do with a language helper?
- What simple disciplines can I incorporate into my day?
- How can I work on specific skills I want to improve?
Make sure your assessment leaves you with a roadmap for progress.
Finally, and here’s the most important reason to do an assessment:
[pullquote]Set realistic, quantifiable, multi-faceted goals for yourself[/pullquote]
Make sure your evaluation motivates and encourages you!
Again, that may seem far-fetched or simply impossible, but it really is the case that an effective, well-done assessment can do just that. In fact, if you’re following the three “why’s” listed above, I believe your assessment really will be a motivating factor for you.
Most people feel de-motivated because either:
- They feel like they’re not making any progress or
- They don’t know how to continue to progress.
An assessment which gives you a full picture of your skill set, goals to attain and ways to reach those goals will:
- Help you to see whether or not you’re progressing, and if you are,
- Help you to continue to progress, and if not,
- Give you ways to start progressing.
So even if your assessment confirms the worst—that you haven’t grown much lately—it should also at the same time help you to get off the plateau and climb again. So yes, assessments can be great motivators!
That’s all for now.
Next time we’ll talk in more detail about what proficiencies and skills to assess.