I think that most world language teachers will agree with me that interpersonal assessments (assessments on which two or more students interact with each other) are very hard to get right, but they are arguably the most important. Most of us have learned that there has to be some type of problem for the students to solve; otherwise, the students spit information at each other without actually having to interact. However, they also need to be prompts that allow/require both (or more) students to communicate.

Twice in my very short career (and I am sure this number will increase), I have had to have the students redo an interpersonal assessment because my prompt just did not fit the bill. This week, I gave the students an interpersonal assessment that I thought was going to be amazing, and it totally flopped…and it was totally my fault. We all make mistakes, right?

What went wrong?

So, the students did an interpretive reading on tapas in Spain, and we have been working with that material for a while. On the original interpersonal assessment that I developed, the students were given a hotel name and a tapas bar, and they were leaving from the same place; they had to discuss how long it would take, how they would get there, what metro line they would take, what tapas they wanted to eat, and they only had a certain amount of euros, so they had to make sure that they did not overspend. The problem was that one student was pretty much saying everything because my prompt wasn’t interpersonal enough. One person could easily just agree, state the tapa he/she/they wanted and be done with it.

How did I remedy this?

Unfortunately, I did not realize how bad my prompt was until after one of my classes had already taken the assessment. But I was not willing to assess students who only said two sentences because the teacher (that’s me!) gave them a terrible prompt. Surprisingly, the students were not mad at me when I made them redo it with the new prompt. They were actually happy about it. Weirdos (just kidding. I love them).

To fix the prompt, each student had a different hotel. This made the world of difference because they had to listen to each other, and they each had different information to share. If they decided that they were going to go “tapa-ing” at 8 PM, then they had to make sure that they arrived there at the same time. They pulled up Google Maps and were able to figure out the fastest route from their individual hotels to the restaurant. Once they did that, they needed to decide what time they, personally, were going to leave to get there on time. For example, if the metro said it would take 18 minutes, then they had to leave at 7:42 to get there for 8:00. Here is the link to the assessment if you want to take a gander at the prompt.

The results

The results have been amazing so far. Students are asking each other clarifying questions and negotiating meaning in their videos. In the first prompt, there was really no reason for them to clarify anything. However, once they were leaving from different places, they had to make sure they would get there on time at the same time. At first, I worried that the prompt would be too hard, but it wasn’t. They did such a great job communicating with each other. If we are really focusing on our students’ ability to communicate as opposed to their ability to speak perfectly, then our students can accomplish tasks like these without being discouraged by a bad grade because of their language accuracy.

I am very happy with this assessment, but I would love to improve it, so feedback would be awesome!

This post first appeared on October 24, 2017 on the “Working Toward Proficiency” blog. http://workingtowardproficiency.blogspot.com/2017/10/ 

Timothy is a third-year Spanish teacher in the Andover Public Schools. He holds a BA in Spanish and…