At the recent Kotesol conference my biggest frustration was the lack of practical stuff that I could actually use in my classroom. Academics just seemed to blab on about their research findings in a confusing kind of way that really made no sense to me. And, I consider myself a well-educated, academic kind of person conversant in stats and scientific method. So if I didn't get it....well then, you know.... Perhaps the fault is with me for choosing sessions poorly. Or perhaps it was the fault of the organizers for organizing a conference heavy on the academics when most of the people attending were actual classroom practitioners. Anyway, enough beating on that dead horse.
So, a session from Bita Tangestanifar from Sookmyung Women's University about alternative assessment was like a much needed fresh air. I'm pretty weary of the traditional speaking/written grammar and vocab test characteristic of the modern world. And I think these postmodern students might be as well. I've talked to many of my coworkers about this and their ideas don't really seem any better. One of them makes students memorize some random great American speech. Others have students prepare and memorize a conversation. Others do a presentation in groups of 4 or 5. None of these struck me as any better than what I'm currently doing for various reasons.
Bita mentioned three ways that she has done alternative assessment in her classrooms: podcasts (either alone or group), chat and penpals. The chat and penpal thing would have had significant appeal to me if I didn't teach 9 classes of 25 students. The logistics of it would just be staggering. Bita has a good thing going where she only teaches 50 or so students/semester.
However, the podcast thing seemed like something I could feasibly do in my classes. Like the students have to do 5, 2 minute podcasts over the semester. I could grade all these without going crazy. Or, they could do it in groups to make it even easier for me.
I need to think further on this whole thing, but at the very least I plan to include the podcast/chat/penpal ideas in my planned portfolio creation as a way of assessment.