Assessment and reporting

Assessment in junior cycle modern foreign languages

Assessment in education involves gathering, interpreting and using information about the processes and outcomes of learning. It takes different forms and can be used in a variety of ways, such as to test and certify achievement, to determine the appropriate route for learners to take through a differentiated curriculum, or to identify specific areas of difficulty (or strength) for a given learner. While different techniques may be employed for formative, diagnostic and summative purposes, the focus of the assessment and reporting is on the improvement of student learning. To do this it must fully reflect the aim of the curriculum.

The junior cycle places a strong emphasis on assessment as part of the learning process. This approach requires a more varied approach to assessment in ensuring that the assessment method or methods chosen are fit for purpose, timely and relevant to the students. Assessment in junior cycle MFL will optimise the opportunity for students to become reflective and active participants in their learning and for teachers to support this. This rests upon the provision for learners of opportunities to negotiate success criteria against which the quality of their work can be judged by peer, self, and teacher assessment; and upon the quality of the focused feedback they get in support of their learning.

Providing focused feedback to students on their learning is a critical component of high-quality assessment and a key factor in building students’ capacity to manage their own learning and their motivation to stick with a complex task or problem. Assessment is most effective when it moves beyond marks and grades, and reporting focuses not just on how the student has done in the past but on the next steps for further learning. This approach will ensure that assessment takes place as close as possible to the point of learning. Final assessment still has a role to play, but is only one element of a broader approach to assessment.

Essentially, the purpose of assessment and reporting at this stage of education is to support learning. Parents/guardians should receive a comprehensive picture of student learning. Linking classroom assessment and other assessment with a new system of reporting that culminates in the awarding of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will offer parents/guardians a clear and broad picture of their child’s learning journey over the three years of junior cycle. To support this, teachers and schools will have access to an Assessment Toolkit. Along with the guide to the Subject Learning and Assessment Review (SLAR) process, the Assessment Toolkit will include learning, teaching and assessment support material, including:

  • formative assessment
  • planning for and designing assessment
  • assessment activities for classroom use
  • judging student work – looking at expectations for students and features of quality
  • reporting
  • thinking about assessment: ideas, research and reflections
  • glossary of assessment terms.

The contents of the Assessment Toolkit will include a range of assessment supports, advice and guidelines which will enable schools and teachers to engage with the new assessment system and reporting arrangements in an informed way, with confidence and clarity.

Assessment for the JCPA  

The assessment of junior cycle modern foreign languages for the purposes of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will comprise two Classroom-Based Assessments (Oral communication and The student language portfolio), an Assessment Task linked to the Student Language Portfolio and a final examination. The Assessment Task and the final examination will be assessed by the State Examinations Commission. 

Rationale for the Classroom-Based Assessments in MFL  

Over the three years of junior cycle, students will have many opportunities to enjoy and learn the target language across the strands. They will engage in language activities and tasks such as

  • communicating in the target language
  • listening, reading, speaking and writing for a range of meaningful purposes
  • gaining insights into the target language culture/s
  • learning how the target language works.

Through these activities they will develop knowledge, understanding and skills in language, culture and literacy, thereby achieving the learning outcomes across the strands.
Junior cycle MFL will have two Classroom-Based Assessments. Classroom-Based Assessments will relate to the students’ work during second and third year of junior-cycle education. Classroom-Based Assessments are similar to the formative assessment that occurs every day in every class. However, in the case of the Classroom-Based Assessments, the teacher’s judgement is recorded for the purpose of subject learning and assessment review, and for the school’s reporting to parents and students.

Classroom-Based Assessment 1: Oral communication  

The purpose of this Classroom-Based Assessment is for the student to demonstrate the skills of oral production and oral interaction. However, other skills may be developed, e.g. reading, writing, listening, or basic research. In completing the oral communication activity, students may use any one of the following formats: interview, role-play, presentation (accompanied by a question-and-answer session), or conversation in response to stimulus material.
For this oral communication, the student will focus on an aspect of the target language country/countries) or culture; or on a simulation of an experience in a target language country; or on a topic or stimulus of interest.
Students may work individually, in pairs or in groups. However, where students have collaborated to complete the activity, the teacher should ensure that each student makes a meaningful individual contribution.

Evidence of learning

In completing the first Classroom-Based Assessment, students demonstrate their level of fluency, accuracy and range of vocabulary, in line with their age and stage of language learning. Their spoken production and interaction will demonstrate their level of comprehension and engagement.
 

Classroom-Based Assessment 2: The student language portfolio  

Over the three years of junior cycle, each student develops a language portfolio. The student language portfolio focuses on the process of language learning and places the learner at the centre of teaching, assessment and learning. It provides the MFL student with an opportunity to set personal learning goals across the five skills in strand one, to engage with and reflect on their language learning as outlined in strand two and to develop and document their socio-cultural awareness, thereby supporting the learning outcomes in strand three. Using the student language portfolio supports formative assessment in the MFL classroom and facilitates students in showcasing their language-learning achievements.
The student language portfolio will include a broad range of items, such as written texts, projects, audio-visual materials, learning logs, student reflections and learning goals. It is recognised that in this context the student’s created texts  may be presented in different formats—handwritten, digital, multi-modal, and so on. Students learn a lot from the process of language acquisition when they are taught how to use a portfolio to document and reflect on their learning. They need to develop confidence in interaction and an awareness of the process of language acquisition.
The second Classroom-Based Assessment offers students a chance to celebrate their achievements as language learners in a variety of media by choosing three pieces from those compiled over time and presenting them for assessment.

Evidence of learning

In completing the second Classroom-Based Assessment, each student selects three texts for assessment from their portfolio. The three pieces the student selects will reflect the integrated development of the three strands, with one of the pieces selected to be in an oral format. The pieces should also reflect a variety of presentation modes.

 

Features of quality  

Features of quality support student and teacher judgement of the Classroom-Based Assessments and are the criteria that will be used by teachers to assess the pieces of student work. Features of quality will be provided in the assessment guidelines for junior cycle MFL.
All students will complete both CBAs.

CBA Completion of the assessment SLAR meeting
Oral communication Towards the end of second year One review meeting
The student language portfolio End of first term in third year One review meeting

 

Assessing the Classroom-Based Assessments  

More detailed material on assessment for reporting in junior cycle MFL, setting out details of the practical arrangements related to assessment of the Classroom-Based Assessments, will be available in separate assessment guidelines. These will include, for example, the suggested length and formats for the oral communication CBA, and guidelines for using and presenting the student language portfolio for the second CBA. It will also provide features of quality for both CBAs and support in using ‘on-balance’ judgement in relation to the features of quality. The NCCA’s Assessment Toolkit will also include substantial resource material for use and reference in ongoing classroom assessment of junior cycle MFL, as well as providing a detailed account of the Subject Learning and Assessment Review process.

Inclusive assessment practices  

This specification facilitates inclusive assessment practices whether as part of ongoing assessment or Classroom-Based Assessments. Where a school judges that a student has a specific physical or learning difficulty, reasonable accommodations may be put in place to remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the student’s performance in Classroom-Based Assessments. The accommodations e.g. the support provided by a special needs assistant or the support of assistive technologies should be in line with the arrangements the school has put in place to support the student’s learning throughout the year. 

The Assessment Task  

Students complete a formal written Assessment Task to be submitted to the State Examinations Commission for marking along with the final examination for modern foreign languages. It is allocated 10% of the marks used to determine the grade awarded by the State Examinations Commission. The Assessment Task is specified by the NCCA and related to the learning outcomes on which the second Classroom-Based Assessment is based. The Assessment Task is devised from some or all of the following elements:

  • A short stimulus in written, audio, audio-visual or multi-modal format to prepare for the written task.
  • A written task that tests the students in
    • their ability to outline and/or discuss their experience of compiling a portfolio of language learning
    • their understanding and evaluation of that experience
    • their capacity to reflect on the skills they have developed
    • their understanding of a cultural aspect of the target language country about which there will be evidence of learning in the student’s portfolio.

As the key purpose of the Assessment Task is to encourage student reflection on the process of language learning, the questions and answers will be in the language of schooling[1].


[1] The language of schooling is the principal language of teaching and learning in the school.

 

Final assessment  

There will be one examination paper at a common level, set by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). Students will sit this written examination paper of up to two hours duration at the end of the third year. They will be required to engage with, demonstrate comprehension of, and respond to stimulus material, which will include an aural stimulus. In any year, the learning outcomes to be assessed will constitute a sample of the outcomes from the tables of learning outcomes. The aural component will be allocated 35% of the marks used to determine the grade awarded by the State Examinations Commission.