Integrated Performance Assessment implemented to increase student engagement

Leah Carrier

It’s a challenging year to be Wilson High School’s only Chinese teacher. But the obstacles of communicating online have helped Yin Chang improve her teaching style.

“In the beginning, no one wanted to talk,” Chang reflected. “I’d ask them, ‘what did you do this weekend?’ And they’d just say, so simple: ‘shuìjiào [sleep].’” 

“Answering a simple question has become such a high-stress thing to do,” Maeve Lopez, a sophomore in Chang’s Chinese IV class, said.

Along with reduced student participation, Chang also noted that cheating in a virtual setting is much more prolific. Thus, vocabulary quizzes no longer seemed like a realistic method of assessing knowledge. “Last March, when we suddenly [changed to online learning], I used worksheets, but for some students, I could clearly see that they used Google Translate,” Chang said. “Language teachers can always see,” she added, laughing.

Based on these discouraging observations, Chang concluded that something needed to change. So she decided to implement a system she had heard about years ago but never attempted: Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA).

IPA is a teaching and testing method that targets three core aspects of language learning: interpretation, presentation, and interpersonal communication. Structured around three assessments per unit, Chang explained that the predictability and consistency of the IPA method have reduced student stress levels in the virtual classroom. 

“Before, they tried to really remember this word or that word, but right now it’s more relaxed…I can see students using the language without really worrying about making mistakes.”

A typical assignment in her class requires three steps: reading/interpreting a prompt, responding to the prompt appropriately, and presenting it to the class. Classwork is intended to mirror the format of tests so that practice during class directly prepares students for their assessments.

“[The] wide variety [of assessments] almost makes them easier in a way,” Lopez said. “I’m more engaged.”

Google Slides has become an instrumental classroom tool for these activities. When Chang sends students to breakout rooms, each group is assigned their own slide to work on. To check whether they’ve opened their slides and arrived in the correct place, she navigates to ‘Grid View’ and scans the number of icons present on each page. 

“So if this group has four students, I supposedly see four circles because four students are working on that,” she explained. She can also pop in and out of breakout rooms to answer questions and correct any mistakes she’s noticed.

Lopez attests that “most of the learning platforms we use are actually very good…it’s very useful that we can see our peers’ work and be able to see what we did differently.” 

While establishing this new way of teaching hasn’t been easy, Chang maintains that it is a worthy investment of her time. “Even though in the beginning I struggled a little bit because it requires lots of planning, and it’s also new to me… month by month… I can see the entire class was moving smoothly.”

“I’m very appreciative that we are together, still fighting, not getting beat down, working hard, trying to win and adapt to the situation,” she said. “That’s why I feel like I’m proud of myself, and also proud of my students.”