Assessing ELLs

Just as we want to consider all of our student when we design our course, the way we assess students merits consideration.


Things to consider as you assess coursework:

  • Be aware that some aspects of English can take decades to master (e.g., collocations: Does it really ruin the effectiveness of the primary argument in a student’s paper if, on page 12, she says, “In the other hand,” instead of “On the other hand”?
  • Understand that the goal is not for ELLs to sound like native speakers.  Just as in spoken English, an “accent” in student writing should be seen as part of their diverse identity rather than a problem to be fixed. This, we should emphasize, does not mean that educators need to overlook sloppy editing. Instead, professors might distinguish issues that impede communication from minor issues with wording that a native speaker might not use.
  • Aim for positive, or at least neutral, language in grading. “Word choice” helps point out an area for improvement in a more encouraging way than “Awkward” or “What???”
  • Use a rubric tailored to each assignment!  The time invested in creating them pays off when grading, and, more importantly, they help create understandable and equitable assessments. Students should have access to the rubric along with assignment instructions. 
  • As you build your rubric, determine: Is language a part of this assignment that I will assess?
    • If yes, which aspects (grammatical accuracy, flow, spelling, etc.)? Add those to rubric.
    • If no, do not count off points for language, especially just for ELLs.