Exploring Instructor and Student use of an American Sign Language E-Assessment System

Exploring Instructor and Student use of an American Sign Language E-Assessment System

Simon Hooper (Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA), Charles Miller (University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA), Susan Rose (University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN, USA) and Michael M. Rook (Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2013010103
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In this paper, the authors examine how instructors used an online assessment environment designed to evaluate the performance of undergraduate students enrolled in American Sign Language (ASL) courses. 640 undergraduate ASL students at a large Midwestern university participated in this study. The findings suggest that instructors varied greatly in the manner in which they used the e-assessment system both in terms of the amount of time spent evaluating student assessments and in the proportion of total assessments scored. Furthermore, students’ responses to an open-ended survey on their experiences with the system generated useful insight to guide future design. Finally, implications for the design and integration of world language e-assessment environments are discussed.
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An important question in world language education concerns maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of instruction. Technology is viewed as a primary avenue to support language acquisition and the teaching and learning process. Improved hardware processing capabilities and increased bandwidth speeds, paired with the availability of powerful but inexpensive peripherals, create a largely untapped potential to transform language instruction. However, to date, few examples exist that demonstrate how affordances such as connecting students and teachers, and supporting assessment in the target language, can be harnessed to support instruction (Miller, Hooper, & Rose, 2005).

Technology integration questions are particularly germane in American Sign Language (ASL) education, a field that has experienced dramatic growth in recent years (Welles, 2004) and faces particularly complex challenges in measuring learner performance (Kemp, 1998). A common approach to assessing ASL involves evaluating videotaped recordings of student performance, a practice that becomes increasingly unmanageable as course enrolments increase. Although five or ten videos may not represent a problem, implementing a system that is valid and reliable for larger groups becomes challenging. When thousands of students are involved in a program each academic year, ensuring that students receive timely (or immediate) formative feedback to improve performance becomes difficult (Miller, Doering, & Scharber, 2010).

Adding to these management issues is the inherent communication problem between ASL instructors, most of whom are deaf, and students, the vast majority of whom are hearing. ASL is often taught through immersion approaches in which communication between students and instructors is encouraged only in the target language. Hence, when communication between an instructor and a student occurs in writing (e.g. providing written feedback), communication occurs in a non-native language (i.e. English) for at least one party. Such communication often limits the message sophistication and may exacerbate student frustration.

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