What kind of evidence can heritage-specific assessment practices provide?
Assessment practices that are heritage-specific can help various stakeholders understand the unique characteristics, abilities, and needs of HLLs. Evidence gathered from this type of assessment may show that HL students require differentiated instruction to address certain skills, or it may indicate that mainstream curriculum options are not well suited for the variety of proficiency levels represented in the classroom. Teachers can use this evidence to advocate for different program models, more appropriate materials, or training for staff members. It might also be helpful in starting a more general conversation with parents or community members about the importance of heritage language learning by pointing out how heritage-specific strategies can best support this population of learners.
Despite increased awareness of and interest in heritage language learning, there are still situations in which teachers might face resistance in implementing heritage-specific practices. Some of these challenges might be practical, as in:
- We don’t have enough money or staff to support the development of an entirely new program.
- I don’t know where to find or how to get heritage-specific materials.
- Our staff needs training on HLLs, but no one has time during the school year to attend a professional development course.
Other obstacles may involve a limited understanding of HLLs and their needs, such as:
- The definitions can be so context-specific, and now I’m not even sure these students are HLLs.
- The proficiency levels of the students are really high, so it seems like the regular curriculum is fine.
- Do heritage students really need a different approach or curriculum than other learners?
Heritage-specific assessment can provide evidence to an administration or community of the need for a re-evaluation of materials, training, or approaches.