Assessing English language proficiency

Teachers need to understand their students' levels of English in order to successfully scaffold support in the learning of language to support access to curriculum content.

Initial and ongoing assessment can be conducted using a variety of teaching and assessment tools and must cover a range of purposes and domains of language. Language assessment must include the assessment of listening, speaking, reading/viewing and writing.

Assessment data can be mapped to the English as an additional language or dialect Learning Progression and the ESL scales and these tools should be used to assist in determining the starting points in planning for teaching. Advice from the EAL/D Learning Progression and ESL scales levels will assist teachers to plan appropriate support, including differentiated instruction and assessment.

Differentiating assessment for EAL/D learners involves applying the principles of scaffolding for EAL/D. Differentiated assessment means selecting tools and strategies to provide each student with the best opportunity to demonstrate his or her learning. It involves rethinking the standard practice of having all students do the same assessment tasks at the same time, regardless of their individual learning needs or the learning they have already demonstrated.

Differentiated assessment for EAL/D may include; providing additional time, allowing students to create a visual representation of their learning, providing a reader or bilingual support person, allowing students to use a bilingual dictionary.

Oral language assessment tasks are available in the following focus areas:

EAL/D Learning Progression

NSW public schools students from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) are required to have their English language proficiency described using the ACARA EAL/D Learning Progression.

The ACARA EAL/D Learning Progression has been developed for use by teachers who are not EAL/D specialists. It describes a progression of language learning typical of EAL/D students. It helps teachers identify the English language proficiency of the EAL/D learners in their classrooms and address their specific learning requirements. Teachers can use this progression to:

  • understand the broad phases of English language learning that EAL/D students experience
  • identify where EAL/D students are located on the progression for listening, speaking, reading/viewing and writing skills
  • monitor the linguistic progression of EAL/D students.

Using the tool, students are identified as being in one of the four phases: Beginning, Emerging, Developing or Consolidating.

More information is available at ACARA EAL/D teacher resource.

Phase of students

To determine a student's phase teachers will need to consider examples of work across all four modes of language, including listening and speaking, to identify the elements that are outlined in the learning progression.

The document Using the EAL/D Learning Progression (PDF 59KB) outlines the steps required to determine and report on the English language proficiency phase of EAL/D students. It includes characteristics of the learning statements and phase overviews to assist in mapping students' level of need as either Beginning, Emerging, Developing or Consolidating.

Descriptors by mode and year are provided below:

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