Support and Advocacy

How can heritage-specific assessment practices support and advocate for students?

Assessment for heritage learners should recognize and celebrate the assets and abilities that HLLs bring to the classroom, even if they are different from the expectations of the classroom context. The institutional or standardized goals of the classroom can often be very different from the way in which HLLs have learned the language outside of the classroom. Students may experience insecurities and anxiety about their abilities or familiarity with the heritage language/culture, especially when it comes to speaking “correctly” according to academic standards. As many HLLs speak a specific variety or dialect of the heritage language, they may feel uncomfortable in classrooms that do not recognize, celebrate, or support these versions of the language. 

To students, assessment can send a powerful message about what matters, and can shape what they focus on and how they study. Assessment practices that are heritage-specific can ensure that all students feel seen and represented, leading to more positive assessment experiences and reduced feelings of otherness or alienation. Inclusive practices can also show students that languages exist in various forms, and that to learn or speak different varieties can be both a reality and an advantage. 

Some examples of inclusive and supportive assessment practices include: 

  • Tasks that are adapted to the different skills or needs of learners, based on the demonstrated skills or needs of learners
  • Activities and examples that are relevant and authentic to the learners’ context
  • Clear standards and guidelines that are appropriate for the student being assessed

Teachers will also be able to appropriately identify areas of need in the classroom and use this information to advocate for their students when requesting various instructional materials that support an assets-oriented approach to language development.