The Standards of Assessing Adult English Language Learners
The Estimation Standards of the Assessment Criteria Among ESL Adult Learners
The assessment of adult ESL learners focuses on many basic information tools and aims to place students in relevant instructional levels and classes, to evaluate the progress and encourage students to promote their knowledge to higher levels, qualify them and engage in academic training programs, and document the program effectiveness. Finally, the adult assessment learner gains could be achieved through the development of adult-oriented programs. Although adult assessment programs are properly developed, there should still be specific criteria for the evaluation of their achievements, which should differ from the training programs for ESL students of younger age. Additionally, there should be specific standards that would evaluate the credibility and validity of the assessment.
With the development of specialized programs and assessment tools, the standards and criteria for performance evaluation has been of central importance. However, the assessment tools for adults are still evolving and require additional research for understanding how the tool can be adjusted to estimate ESL adult learners who strive to increase their language efficiency. What is more important is that this tool could be evaluated from a practical and theoretical viewpoint with regard to the current andragogical theories.
The research questions will take into consideration both practical and theoretical perspectives of the current standards of the estimation of the assessment criteria among migrant ESL adult learners. The questions are as follows:
- What makes the assessment in ESL adult classes relevant and valid?
- What is the difference between common assessment of performance and the assessment of performance among adult ESL learners?
- What tools and specific technologies could be engaged for checking adults’ performance in ESL classes?
With regard to the above-presented questions, the research objectives will be confined to three major aspects. First of all, the paper seeks to understand the shift in current outlooks on the assessment tool in adult education, particularly regarding ESL academic environment. Second, there is also the need to understand specific tools for the estimation of adult performance and skills. Finally, the technological devices and any innovation should also be analyzed to define the major gaps in assessment in ESL adult classes.
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Overview of Literature
It should be stressed that there has been significant theoretical confusion among adult learning research related to different types of learning. In this respect, scholars have addressed the alternative possibilities for adult learners to engage in training and educational programs. This is of particular concern to informal learning and other ways of enhancing professional skills and competence. In this respect, Livingstone has explored the range of surveys in which the respondents reflect on the role of informal learning in their life. In particular, the researcher assumes, “the questions on information learning are typically posed immediately after a series of questions about initial schooling, adult credit courses and non-credit course which serve to predispose respondents to think of learning in terms of organized education”. Therefore, the survey analysis provides an outlook of learners on alternative and non-conventional approaches to learning. What is more important, the assessment of such surveys and the role of information learning are currently beyond the topic because it is underexplored by the researchers.
Despite the current stereotypes about the necessity of introducing a specialized tool for the assessment of adult ESL learners, Schwarzer assumes that the common principles of language learners should be applied in terms of person-oriented approaches rather than age-oriented ones. In other words, the use of holistic approaches can help teachers facilitate the learning process and recognize evident improvement during the assessment process. What is more important is that the whole language model of learning encourages both the learners and the teacher to consider language not in segments or as an isolated phenomenon but as a whole. Additionally, all language skills could be integrated into class participants to expand their outlook on different cultures, social order, and communities. The open discussion of class activities as well as students’ assessment according to their skills and knowledge, but not according to their age, could be much more effective in the pursuit of knowledge.
A needs assessment of learners of English is a valuable tool that explores what types of English and literacy skills should be obtained in a literary environment in which the learner works and lives as well as states that one needs and wants to understand the main responsibilities and functions of those environment, including their expectations and what should be done while focusing on the native language. There are several purposes of needs assessment which should be taken into consideration because the needs assessment is the first step in identifying the criteria for the development of specialized assessment and testing for adult learners of English language. In addition, Lawler considers it essential for teachers to be viewed as adult learners as well as perceive professional development as the main activity in adult learning.
In regard to testing adult learners who study English as a second language, the attention should be given to the type of learners. In this respect, Crandall and Shappard differentiate several types of adult students such as international ESL learners, World English-speaking students, Adult ESL learners, and ESL literacy students. With regard to these kinds of learners, there are different backgrounds, goals, and needs of these adult learners. Due to the fact that the majority of learners have migrated from other countries to the English-speaking ones, their cultural backgrounds could differ as well as their goals. In this respect, Crandall and Shappard explain, “Adult English language learners differ in their languages and cultural backgrounds, their prior educational experience and literacy, their employment history, their English language proficiency, and their reasons for participating in adult ESL and education”. Therefore, each participant of the training program should be approached individually.
Apart from practical assessments, there are also theoretical frameworks and concepts which can explain the difference in needs and the necessity of introducing specialized assessment standards for ESL adult learners. At this point, Sternberg and Zhang focus on the experiential learning theory that “provides a holistic model of the learning process and a multilinear model of adult development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how people learn, grow, and develop”. In this respect, the term experiential endeavors to provide difference of English learners from the perspective of cognitive learning theories that place an emphasis on cognition. The attention to behavioral learning theories should also be considered for subjective experience in the learning process. Another theory is considered experiential in its intellectual origins. Therefore, this theoretical basis should be taken into consideration to be able to provide philosophical and pragmatic explanation for the new criteria to create the assessment of ESL adult learners. Additionally, the experiential learning theory implies that knowledge is created as the process through knowledge that is obtained through the transformation of experience. Knowledge is premised on the combination of experiential aspects during a learning process. A closer examination of the theoretical framework suggests that an academic process requires skills and abilities that a learner can continually choose through a range of learning abilities.
The studies by Imel (2002) paid attention to the cognitive skills of adult learners. In particular, the scholar argues that metacognition refers to the ability of student to become aware of and control their learning process. Therefore, cognitive skills are aimed at performing a task, but metacognitive skills are essential to the understanding of how it was performed. Metacognitive skills can be of two types, namely self-management and self-assessment. The first one refers to the students’ ability to control one’s cognitive development, whereas the second one introduces the ability to evaluate one’s own cognition. What is more important is that Imel has conducted the study dedicated to the analysis of metacognition in adult learning with regard to self-management skills. Much of the materials emphasize the role of instructors in the evaluation of learner cognition. Teachers who realize their own responsibilities to promote metacognitive experience should play a pivotal role in assisting students and develop their skills and experience.
The above-presented information proves that there are various research studies related to the analysis of adult learners’ experience, their needs assessment, and theoretical implications. The latter promotes a foundational basis for further research in the field of the development of the assessment criteria for adult learners. However, both practical and theoretical dimensions fail to provide a sufficient basis for understanding what assessment gaps exist in the evaluation of the performance of ESL adult learners migrating from other countries. Additionally, the cultural and social background should also be evaluated in response to these issues. In this respect, there is an urgent necessity to explore new dimensions of adult learning and develop the new criteria that would differ from those assigned for the ESL learners under the age of eighteen.
The methodological analysis of the assessment and testing of migrant ESL adult learners introduces new requirements for the analysis and evaluation of the peculiarities and difference between various age groups. The methodological tools will be placed on a mixed-method research composed of both qualitative and quantitative part. The qualitative part will refer to the theoretical frameworks and concepts on the basis of which the group of participants will undergo survey and assessment testing of different types and with reliance to different theories. The latter refers to social learning theory, experiential theory, and behavioral theory. On the basis of these theories, it will be possible to define whether the testing procedures for adult learners in ESL class should differ from the commonly accepted standards for students of accepted age. The participants will involve a group of 20 individuals with different cultural backgrounds, including the most spread groups with different nationalities, gender, and profession. The invitation letters will be sent to the participants studying in different colleges and universities that have the ESL course for adult learners. Apparently, as soon as the responses are received, it will be possible to compile a questionnaire for them to define their perceptions, principles, and understanding of learning English as a second language. The experiential learning model will be also introduced to define how the assessment standards will influence their performance results.
According to ETS the assessment standards concern such factors as different linguistic backgrounds, levels of English proficiency, proficiency level in native language, educational background, and cultural factors. All these issues will be taken into consideration while planning an assessment of the participants. The second stage of the study will be planning the assessment with regard to the identified factors as well as implementing the assessment. The grading will relate to the proficiency skills, cognitive skills, experience, overall understanding of the topic, and communication. Thus, all these measurement criteria will be included in assessment specifications.
As soon as measurement specifications are defined, it will be possible to conduct an assessment among ESL adult learners to define their level of language proficiency and understand how it can relate to their social and cultural background. The measurement specifications for the participants will be equal. However, the interview will be conducted individually for each participant to understand their outlook on a new learning and linguistic environment. Finally, the results will be combined with the availability of the reviewed literature on practical and theoretical parts of the analysis. The assessment schemes will be adjusted as soon as the result of the survey will be provided.
Limitations/Delimitations of Research
There is little research on the connection between cultural background and language proficiency to define whether these two variables could be used in this particular study. Additionally, the research studies prove that the difference in adult and adolescence learning exist irrespective of cultural backgrounds. Consequently, both cultural and age issues will be taken into consideration to define whether this particular research could provide a new opportunity for theoretical development. What is more important is that research is limited in the availability of national and ethnic groups included in the research sampling. Nonetheless, it can still be applied to a certain population. Additionally, the attention should be paid to the analysis of such issues as age, personal traits, perception, social status and political vision. Moreover, communication and interaction with native speakers will play an important role in understanding what common standard criteria could be used. Therefore, the limitations are not numerous; thus, the research provides great potential for further studies in the sphere of andragogy and ESL learning. Finally, the limitations provide new implications for studying the role of experiential learning in promoting new assessment criteria for ESL adult learners since this sphere is underexplored.