Impact of Language on Assessments

Mallory E. Lawler
Concordia University-Portland

Impact of Language on Assessments

            Language assessments are often based on the state standards in addition to the language proficiency descriptors. A large impact on the student’s success on the assessment relies on the mastery of the skills presented in the standards and the descriptors. In order to ensure that the student’s abilities allow them to be successful on the assessment the teacher needs to present these skills in a variety of ways through utilizing different strategies (Gottlieb, 2006). This can be done with the use of activities such as sentence frames and visual aids.

It is important for the teacher to prompt students with challenging questions in order to expose them to vocabulary and sentence structures that are beyond their proficiency level (Freeman & Freeman, 2011). Visual aids may also be extremely beneficial to help the students gain confidence with the vocabulary and better understand the words that are exposed to them. Once they have become stronger in identifying vocabulary, sentence frames can be utilized to prompt them to reproduce the vocabulary that has been mastered. Sentence frames are beneficial because they do not require the students to form the entire sentence rather; the student must produce the essential vocabulary words to complete the sentence. Once the student becomes more proficient in the language he or she can begin to form these sentences independently.

Visual aids and sentence frames can also be presented on assessments. Using these support systems regularly within general instruction will allow the students to become familiar with the format. Using them on assessments allows for the teacher to assess the content knowledge rather than the student’s ability to decipher challenging questions or become frustrated by sentence structure. The student can focus on the meaning of important vocabulary terms in addition to the major ideas and content being assessed without being hindered by language barriers.



Freeman, D.E., & Freeman, Y.S. (2011). Between worlds: Access to second language acquisition      (3rd ed). Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.

Gottlieb, M. (2006). Assessing English language learners: Bridges from language proficiency to  academic achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.