Examples of Effective Assessment Tasks

What are some examples of assessment tasks for heritage language learners?

Assessment tasks can highlight the skills and abilities of HLLs by letting them demonstrate what they can do in the language, as well as their cultural knowledge. Because of the diversity of their backgrounds and skills, HLLs often have different experiences with and expectations for language use, which can lead to insecurities or anxiety in the language classroom. Low-stakes, alternative assessment methods can help lower stress levels, increase motivation, and encourage positive attitudes toward language learning. These methods are also especially useful in online environments, and can support students who are dealing with stress or trauma (Iturbe-LaGrave, 2020). 

In addition, the emphasis on grammatical norms typically found in standardized or textbook exams may not be best suited for the needs and abilities of this population. The concern with using such a test is not only a lack of accessibility, but also that students will not be able to demonstrate their full capabilities in the language. Multimodal assessment tasks give students more flexibility for demonstrating their skills, and can promote a more natural and low-stakes environment. 

Some examples of alternative assessment tasks that you can use with HLLs include:


  • Your students could produce short essays about a topic of interest or a reflection on something that was discussed in class.


  • You could ask your students to conduct an interview with a member of the local heritage speaker community about topics related to the heritage culture.


  • Your students could compile a collection of videos, artwork, written assignments, or projects to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the course.


  • You could ask your students to design and administer a survey of different students in the class to learn more about the various language varieties and cultures represented.


  • Your students could conduct research on an aspect of the heritage language or culture and deliver a presentation for the class.

There are many other types of alternative tasks that would be appropriate for this context, and this is just a short list of ideas to help you get started. While you might use formative assessment while learning is happening to address a single learning objective, you can combine several tasks to create a more comprehensive, real-life experience for a summative assessment that will help determine students’ mastery of multiple learning objectives. You can also use some of these tasks to help you with placing students in appropriate courses, as you may want to see how students can use the language in authentic ways through performance-based assessment.