What do your students know and are able to do? Image: JohnWoodcock/

What do your students know and are able to do? Image: JohnWoodcock/

Chinese language programs should focus on performance and proficiency. The emphasis on what students know and can do with the language should be used to establish exit criteria. But how do we measure student knowledge and skills?

There are typically two ways: classroom assessment and external assessment. 

Classroom assessment

For many teachers, the focus on performance--both instruction and assessment--is a new thought. Generations of language learners have completed course requirements that measured their ability to regurgitate information about aspects of the language at the expense of being able to use the languge. While traditional testing is still widely used and serves its prescribed purpose, classroom assessment should align with what students have learned and how they have learned. Because the goal of curriculum is for language use, it is important to require students to apply the newly gained communicative competence to similar but different contexts. This ability to transfer is similar to what happens in real life.

Among the assessment tools that teacher will use for classroom assessment include:

  • Performance-based assessment tasks
  • Self assessments
  • Peer assessments
  • Teacher observations
  • Portfolios
  • Quizzes and tests

Multiple measurements taken across time provide a more comprehensive picure of students' ability to use Chinese for meaningful purpose than would an assessment scheme that focuses on students' ability as measured by tests and quizzes alone. For more information about the difference between traditional testing and performance assessment, the New Jersey World Languages Curriculum Framework is an excellent resource, as is the Virginia Standard of Learning .

External Assessments
A growing array of standardized, external assessments is available to measure student performance and program effectiveness.With the exception of Lingua Folio, which focuses on students' self-assessment and reflection, the testing instruments listed below allow the program to compare its results with those of other students and programs nationally and internationally. Most of these assessments are fee-based, and complete inforamtion about each can be obtained by contacted the organization.

Among the external evaluation options are the following:


  • ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners | link

    Outlines levels of proficiency for foreign language content standards in U.S. classrooms. ACTFL also offers Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

  • Lingua Folio | link

    A reflective learning and self-assessment tool based on the European Language Portfolio that uses "I can do..." statements as a basis for program success. From the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL).

  • Early Language Learning Oral Performance Assessment (ELLOPA) | link

    Face-to-face listening and speaking assessment for primary grades children. From the Center for Applied Linguistics.

  • SAT II: Chinese with Listening | link

    A Subject Area Test (SAT) of understanding spoken and written Chinese for college-bound high school students. From The College Board.

  • Advanced Placement Examination in Chinese Language and Culture | link

    Test of listening, speaking, reading, and writing ability for college-bound high school students from The College Board.

  • Student Oral Performance Assessment (SOPA) | link

    Face-to-face listening and speaking assessment for elementary and middle grades students. From the Center for Applied Linguistics.

  • Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency (STAMP) | link

    Online assessment measuring listening, speaking, reading, and writing for students in Grade 7 and beyond. From Language Learning Solutions.

  • Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) | link

    Face-to-face or telephonic assessment of speaking ability for high school students and beyond. From American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Language Testing International

  • Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) | link

    China's national standardized test designed and developed by the HSK Center of Beijing Language and Culture University to evaluate the Chinese proficiency of non-native Chinese speakers.

  • Center for Applied Linguistics, Directory of K-12 Foreign Language Assessment Instruments and Resources | link

    Contains a searchable database of over 200 detailed descriptions of assessment instruments and resources as well as annotated lists of the latest internet and published assessment resources. Includes descriptions of language assessments that are currently being used in elementary, middle, and secondary school foreign language programs around the country. 

  • Center for Applied Linguistics, Research Guide: Second Language Proficiency Assessment | link

    Provides information on all aspects of assessment, from large-scale norm-referenced tests to classroom-based assessments. Information on assessment digests, listservs, web-sites, conferences, books, articles, professional guidelines, tests, et al.

  • Virginia PALS | link

    The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) is the state- provided screening tool for Virginia’s Early Intervention Reading Initiative, and is used by 98% of school districts in Virginia on a voluntary basis. PALS consists of two screening instruments, PALS-K (for students in kindergarten) and PALS 1-3 (for students in grades one through three), which measure young children’s knowledge of important literacy fundamentals, including phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, knowledge of letter sounds, spelling, concept of word, word recognition in isolation, and oral passage reading. 


How do you assessment student communicative, interpersonal and presentational skills? What has worked, and what hasn't? Please share your perspectives on the comment board below.