Conducting an English Assessment Interview
A short assessment interview in Standard Australian English provides part of the data required to assess a student's Speaking Level on the Indigenous Bandscales (or in Bound for Success schools, on the Oral Diagnostic Map, which contains identical descriptors to the Bandscales).
An English assessment interview provides a sample of the language, communication strategies and behaviours which the learner is able to use in interactions with an English speaker. Interviews which provide most information are the most useful. Productive interviews require planning to ensure learners are given realistic opportunities to utilise their current competence in English to engage in conversation on activities, materials, experiences, topics which they have experienced in English.
Recording an English Assessment Interview
A clear recording of a short English assessment interview provides concrete, objective evidence to be used in the process of making an informed judgement about a learner's Speaking Level on the Indigenous Bandscales (or in Bound for Success schools, on the Oral Diagnostic Map, which contains identical descriptors to the Bandscales).
A recording provides data on the nature of the language which the learner produces in a "real time" conversation with an English speaker. It can be a major source of information about an individual's current pronunciation development, learner approximations and communicative strategies. A recording is transcribed [ie. written out in full] to enhance the accessibility of this information.
Useful recordings contain plentiful clear learner utterances which are in a format readily accessible for transcribing. Consideration therefore needs to be given to the sort of recording equipment, the aprropriateness of the interview setting, the subejct matter of the interview, as well as to whether the recording format and play back equipment are convenient for transcribing purposes.
Transcribing an English Assessment Interview
A transcript converts a recording of an English assessment interview into written text. This written rendition of the learner's interactions in conversation with an English speaker provides a source of language data much more accessible than the recording itself. The written version of the English assessment interview captures the student's current interlanguage [ie. learner variety] which can then, for instance, be easily analysed or shared with other educators.
The focussed listening required for hearing - and then rendering into writing - all the details of the learner's language also provides an excellent learning and training opportunity for educators as they seek to hear and write down precisely what the student has said. A well-transcribed assessment interview gives educators data on linguistic forms (ie. pronunciations, word endings, sentence structures etc) and behaviours (eg. body language, heisitation, repetition, attitude etc) which can provide examples of numerous areas of development as well as of learning needs.
Useful transcripts represent student's speech with as much accuracy and detail as possible. It is important to note non-standard pronunciations, learner approximations, hesitations/pauses, any words/phrases which cannot be understood well enough to be transcribed etc.
Analysing an English Language Sample
An analysis of a student language sample (eg. from an English assessment interview) assists with identifying areas of learner development - both acquired and ongoing. This information provides educators with evidence of student learning and any required language teaching focusses, as well as an additional source of data for judgements about a learner's Speaking Level on the Indigenous Bandscales (or in Bound for Success schools, on the Oral Diagnostic Map, which contains identical descriptors to the Bandscales).
There are many different kinds of language analyses which vary in their purpose and complexity. For non-specialists (eg. classroom teachers, tutors, teaching assistants etc), a straight-forward comparison between a sample of student language and its equivalent in Standard Australian English (given or checked by a speaker of both languages) to highlights areas of difference is a recommended procedure: Such differences can reveal elements of English language which a student has not yet mastered. Once these "differences" are identified then educators can plan or research appropriate language teaching activities.
Conducting Observations in an English-speaking classroom environment
Observations of a learner's communication strategies and behaviours in an English-speaking environment provide an important source of data about a student's language learning. They are an effective means for gathering attitudinal information and for monitoring how the student uses language(s) in various social settings and for different purposes. Observational data are essential for forming judgements about a learner's Speaking Level on the Indigenous Bandscales (or in Bound for Success schools, on the Oral Diagnostic Map, which contains identical descriptors to the Bandscales) as many of the descriptors refer directly to outwardly observable behaviours.
Useful observations are collected when prior consideration is given to the kind of information required for assessing student language learning on the Bandscales (or Oral Diagnostic Map in Bound for Success schools). Many educators develop their own observation sheets on the basis of their personal experiences with the kinds of information which most assist them in determining a student's level. Minimally, observational information about a student's attitude, comprehension, interpersonal interactions, classroom learning and use of home language and gestures should be jointly collected by the team of educators working with the student.
Levelling Learners on Indigenous Bandscales (or Oral Diagnostic Map in Bound for Success schools)
Indigenous learners' acquisition of English can be readily monitored utilising the Indigenous Bandscales (or Oral Diagnostic Map in Bound for Success schools).
The English language development of students whose first language [L1] is not Standard Australian English [SAE] is critical in Queensland schools as English is the language of instruction in all KLAs. As all classroom content is presented in English it is essential that language learners' acquisition of English is tracked to ensure that their proficiency is increasing: The more English a student has acquired, the more access the student has to all classroom learning. Monitoring language learning also provides feedback to educators about the effectiveness of their planning and programs.
In order to level students on the Bandscales, educators need appropriate sources of information about students' ability to interact in English, such as a recorded assessment interview, a (partial) transcript of that interview, pertinent classroom observations, a language analysis, relevant anecdotal evidence about language use etc. The educators familiarise themselves with the data and then find the Speaking Level on the Junior or Middle Schooling Bandscales which best describes this student. Students can display behaviours and language usages from more than one level, but their assigned level is where most of the "descriptors" (in bold) cluster. Once educators believe they have found the most fitting level, they should again check the levels on either side to ensure the validity of their judgement.