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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Investigating teachers’ perceptions of the usefulness of Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) in Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) programme Mohammadian Haghighi, Fatemeh


The growing tendency towards student-centred communicative approach to language pedagogy has given rise to alternative modes of assessment such as Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA), which is compatible with student-centred SLA theories and pedagogical practices in ESL classrooms (e.g., Fox, 2014; Ripley, 2012). In Canada, since 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has allocated funding to different projects across the country to implement PBLA as an assessment tool in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) programme. Since language assessment tools have a remarkable role in determining learners’ progress through the LINC programme, and due to the significant impact of assessment tools on newcomers’ professional and educational possibilities in Canada, this study investigated instructors’ perceptions of the usefulness, challenges and benefits of PBLA in the LINC programme. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with ten LINC instructors who have been using PBLA for at least three months. Data were analyzed drawing on Bachman and Palmer’s (1996) concept of test usefulness (validity, reliability, authenticity, interactiveness, impact and practicality) as a theoretical framework for the study. The findings showed that although PBLA has numerous benefits for language learners, when it comes to its implementation, it presents many challenges for LINC teachers. Some of these challenges include: Challenges in developing real-life, CLB-aligned instructional and assessment tasks, difficulties in assessing portfolios and providing feedback, etc. According to the participants, PBLA is better to be used for formative assessment rather than summative assessment. In terms of test usefulness framework, according to the findings, validity and reliability of PBLA as a summative assessment tool is questionable. Regarding authenticity and interactiveness, except for teachers who were teaching lower CLB levels other teachers found PBLA an authentic and interactive method of assessment. As for the students, based on the findings, positive impacts of PBLA on learners’ lives outweigh potential negative impacts. Finally, concerning the practicality of PBLA, a number of issues regarding PBLA implementation were raised. It should be noted that since I had a small number of research participants, the findings of this study may not be generalized to other LINC instructors and LINC programmes across Canada.

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