What is post-secondary language assessment?

Assessment is an ongoing process of setting clear goals for student learning and measuring progress towards those goals. Assessment is a critical element in language education at all levels, including in post-secondary programs. Well-crafted assessments provide valid, reliable, and relevant information about student progress. Assessment data can be used to inform program evaluation and instructional design to better meet the needs of language learners and the educators who serve them.

Effective language assessment should consider the four basic principles of assessment: validity, reliability, practicality, impact. For a review of these principles, take a look at the Understanding Assessment tutorial. Each set of Show What You Know scenarios in the tutorial has a post-secondary example; for more practice applying the basic principles of assessment in post-secondary contexts, we recommend working through these scenarios.

In the following sections, we will discuss the context of post-secondary world language teaching and learning and the implications for assessment.

Who are post-secondary world language learners? 

Post-secondary world language learners are students who are learning a language other than English in any context beyond high school or other types of secondary education. The population of post-secondary learners in the U.S. is diverse and students study languages for a wide variety of reasons. Many of them have previously studied the target language or another language at home, in school, or in a community-based setting.