Do translations and transadaptations of tests into languages other than English serve as equity tools for assessing multilingual learners?
The article “The role of equity in the assessment of English learners” asserts that testing in a multilingual learner’s home language is a panacea for equitable assessment. It further states that transadaptation* of tests in linguistically and culturally relevant ways provides greater clarity than test translation. Think about it. If teachers and administrators adopt this practice, it implies that multilingual learners who take these tests are, in fact, literate in a language other than English. Furthermore, it assumes that multilingual learners have entrée to content in that other language. We know that not all language programs for multilinguals have the goal of biliteracy, so isn’t the initial assertion actually one of equality, not equity?
Transadaptation in testing is the process of adapting the content of items that have been written in one language to another language with the intent of maintaining their integrity. A further purpose of transadaptation is to minimize the linguistic and cultural bias of a test due to differences between two languages.
If you agree with this supposition, then how might the inequities of content testing in English be offset for multilingual learners? Defining assessment as a process that entails planning, gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting of data for a given purpose, how might teachers and administrators optimize opportunities for our students to show their true learning?
Let’s explore three (of many) actions to increase engagement of multilingual learners in classroom assessment:
1) Incorporate student self and peer assessment into the classroom culture.
Self and peer assessment shifts the focus of learning to the student and creates a bond among students as members of a community of learners. When peers share a partner language, and there is an exchange of timely concrete feedback in multiple languages based on criteria of success, the student voice is valued and honored. As a result, multilingual learners gain confidence in themselves as assessment leaders and become agents of their own learning.
2)Embed student access to multiple languages into instruction and assessment.
There always should be a variety of pathways for students to attain their learning goals on their journey to reaching grade-level expectations. Having accessibility to instructional assessment tasks through multimodalities, such as the use of imagery, movement, technology, and yes, multiple languages, offers a range of possibilities to individualize multilingual learners’ expressions of learning. Incorporating multiple languages into the fabric of teaching and learning allows multilingual learners to grow and thrive in school and beyond.
3) Trust students’ preferred language use during project-based instruction and assessment.
Authentic performance assessment is a hallmark of project-based learning where students engage in hands-on activities that fold into culminating products or performances. It is advantageous for multilingual learners to be given the latitude to research their topic, produce initial drafts, or conduct interviews in their preferred languages. The use of one or more languages for assessment can be offered as an option for multilingual learners to exercise rather than a test which is viewed as a mandate to follow.
Given that testing is a mainstay of school life, what might we do to improve the efficacy of assessment for multilingual learners?