The conventional approach to assessment in language training often relies on summative assessment tests that evaluate language proficiency based on grammar and vocabulary. However, this approach to assessment may not accurately reflect learners’ abilities to use language in real-life situations, especially in a business context. This is where authentic and project-based assessments come into play.
Authentic assessment can be described as the evaluation of learners’ abilities to perform real-world tasks that relate to the learning outcomes of the training program. In Business English Language training, authentic assessment may involve tasks such as participating in meetings, making presentations, writing business email or reports, and negotiating with clients or partners. In other words, authentic assessment is an evaluation process that involves multiple forms of performance measurement that is designed to evaluate learners’ abilities to use language in authentic contexts, where communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and cultural awareness are essential.
One example of authentic assessment is the role-play. In this task, learners are given a business scenario, and they act out the roles of different professionals in that scenario. For example, learners may be asked to participate in a meeting, where they are assigned different roles, such as the manager, the client, or the salesperson. A variant is where the roles are not defined, but a series of choices are presented, and the learners discuss the pros and cons of each and come to a decision. This activity helps learners practice communication skills, negotiation, and cultural awareness. The assessment is based on the learners’ ability to use language in a professional context, rather than their knowledge of grammar or vocabulary.
Project-based language training and assessment is another approach to evaluation that involves learners much more in the creation of a project and associated learning outcomes. This approach very student-centered as students create many of the elements necessary. Examples of such projects could be tasks such as creating a business plan, designing a marketing strategy, or developing a proposal for a new product or service. This type of project-based assessment is designed to evaluate learners’ abilities to use language in a creative and practical way. For example, in the marketing project, learners are given a product or service to promote, and they have to create a marketing plan that includes a target audience, a marketing strategy, and promotional materials such as brochures or advertisements. This activity helps learners practice communication, negotiation, and problem-solving skills. The assessment is based on the learners’ ability to engage in design thinking and engage in critical thinking.
Activities need to meet certain criteria for them to be considered authentic. They must have real world relevance, use an authentic business context and authentic resources, promote potential for coaching and scaffolding, and support the collaboration in the construction of knowledge. The activities may have a set of different stages but must have at least one complex tasks to showcase learners’ skill levels. The tasks can be assessed with a set of criteria which form an assessment rubric. It is not only the responsibility of the trainer to assess learners, as it can also be undertaken by peers, which is a very effective approach to online work in a digital environment. For example, a learner is asked to write an email and assess two other emails according to some fixed criteria. They will then receive two other evaluations from other learners.
The steps a trainer would need to take to implement a project-based activity could be:
- Choose a relevant topic: The trainer carefully selects a topic related to learners’ field of study and the required learner outcomes defined in the course program. This could be a current problem, a social issue, or a task related to a specific industry or company department.
- Set the learning outcomes: Once the topic has been chosen, the trainer should set learning objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). These outcomes should align with the requirement of the course program.
- Plan the project: The trainer should plan the project, including the tasks that the learners will complete, the timeline for each task, the sources of resources that the learners will need, and the assessment criteria.
For example, the trainer has selected the marketing project, so the following stages would be appropriate:
Introduce the project: The trainer will introduce the project to the learners and explain the learning objectives, expectations, and requirements. If it is necessary to assign roles such as manager, researcher, writer, editor, designer, etc. they should be based on learner strengths and interests.
Choose a product or service: The trainer and the learners will choose a product or service to create a marketing plan for. The trainer should provide support to the learners throughout the project. This could include providing feedback on their work, answering questions, and offering guidance on how to improve.
Research and analyze: The learners will research the product or service, the target audience, the competition, and the market trends. They will analyze the data and come up with insights.
Develop the marketing plan: The learners will develop a marketing plan that includes a marketing strategy, tactics, budget, timeline, and evaluation metrics.
Create the promotional materials: The learners will create the promotional materials, such as a brochure, a video, or an advertisement.
Present the marketing plan: The learners will present the marketing plan to the class, the trainer, and their peers.
Evaluate and reflect: Once the project is complete, the trainer should assess the learners’ work and provide feedback based on the learning outcomes and evaluation criteria. The learners should also reflect on the project and what they learned from it.
Celebrate success: Finally, the trainer should always celebrate the learners’ success and acknowledge their hard work and achievements. This provides positive reinforcement and allows the trainer to reward learners. This could take place through certificates of completion, public recognition, awards, field trip, guest presentation or a group celebration.
The assessment criteria for this task could be:
Research and Analysis: The learners will be assessed on their ability to conduct research and analyze the data to come up with insights.
Marketing Plan: The learners will be assessed on the quality of their marketing plan, including the marketing strategy, tactics, budget, timeline, and evaluation metrics.
Promotional Materials: The learners will be assessed on the quality of their promotional materials, including their creativity, clarity, and effectiveness.
Presentation Skills: The learners will be assessed on their presentation skills, including their organization, clarity, and delivery.
Collaboration: The learners will be assessed on their ability to work collaboratively as a team, including their communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills.
Language Proficiency: The learners will be assessed on their language proficiency, including their accuracy, fluency, and appropriacy of language used in the project.
In conclusion, authentic and project-based assessments are essential tools for evaluating learners’ abilities to use language in a real-life business context. These approaches to assessment help learners practice communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and cultural awareness essential for success in the workplace.
By incorporating authentic, project-based assessments into Business English Language training, learners can develop the language proficiency and communication skills they need to achieve success in their professional careers. It also gives the teacher a much more realistic idea of their learners’ competency levels.
This link is of a lot of interest for trainers/language coaches using PBL in the classroom.
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