NMELRC Proficiency Assessment Project

Project Objectives:

NMELRC has developed tests that provide useful feedback and that will have a positive washback effect, motivating and reinforcing those communicative language learning strategies which will lead to truly useful levels of language proficiency. To accomplish this goal, we have worked with assessment experts to develop valid proficiency-based progress tests that:

  1. Are affordable
  2. Measure increases in students’ capabilities from year to year
  3. Are linked to the tasks and contexts/topical domains of the proficiency scale
  4. Assess communicative accuracy in accomplishing those tasks

Why You Should Choose Proficiency Tests:

This benchmark test is a focused, restricted-range measure, which is less expensive to develop and administer. The test design recognizes the communication tasks and topical domains of the ACTFL proficiency scale; however, the scoring protocols focus on the students’ consistency and accuracy of the task performance within those domains. Thus, we are able to assess the learners’ incremental progress while still maintaining a visible relationship to the standard proficiency levels. Our proficiency ratings are more useful as culminating students assessments or program assessments than annual progress checks, yet students and programs need instruments that give finer grained evidence of language learning. Therefore, NMELRC provides useful diagnostic information with formative feedback for both individual students and programs. With assistance of experts like Dr. Clifford who created the design for the proficiency-based progress tests, NMELRC was able to develop and create prototype tests by training testing experts who wrote the test items. The items were piloted and validated at various NRC’s and study abroad programs.

A Collaborative Approach:

NMELRC under the leadership of Dr. Erika Gilson, NMELRC assessment project director, was able to accomplish these goals and develop these tests by working with each of the language organizations (AATA, AATP, AATT and NAPH) as well as the Arabic Flagship program at UT Austin in the development of hybrid assessment instruments that are linked to proficiency levels, but are also detailed enough to indicate students’ progress toward suggested standards established by each field. Each of these organizations has provided enthusiastic support for working together to develop these tests, which has simultaneously helped us to:

  1. Measure student progress in a standard and comparable way
  2. Encourage our language fields to develop appropriate standards for programs
  3. Strengthen the language organizations
  4. Build assessment expertise within these organizations

All of these are essential steps in increasing the professionalism and credibility of our fields.


Impact On LCTL’s:

While assessment alone will not significantly improve our programs, responsive and responsible quality assessment is fundamental to the improvement process. Inasmuch as LCTLs in general share many of the same challenges, our assessment projects have resulted in a model for LCTL test development that will yield valid and reliable tests for languages with limited resources and typically smaller numbers of students.

For More Information:

The Arabic Reading and Listening comprehension tests –which offer Superior, Advanced and Intermediate levels- have been validated and handed over to ACTFL for official release. Contact for more information on these and when other tests will be available.