Chameleon or conglomeration?

Representations of Language in EAL Assessment

S. Gardner, University of Warwick

P. Rea-Dickins, University of Bristol

This paper focuses on representations of language in the assessment of young (5-7 year old) primary school learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL).  This study is based on research located in nine inner city schools with a high density of children with EAL.

The data derive from an investigation into the language assessment practices of Language Support Teams working in the mainstream context of Key Stage One of the National Curriculum in England and Wales.  They include transcripts of whole class and small group teacher assessments from across the curriculum, interviews with mainstream teachers and members of the Language Support Teams, informal language samples and field notes recorded by teachers and their bilingual education assistants, formal written profiles of children’s language development and achievement, and relevant policy documents.

The findings indicate the extent to which different models of language are prevalent and the primary sources which have had an impact on the ways language is represented in EAL assessment.  This in turn reflects the nature of EAL assessment and the extent to which it is chameleon-like, changing to suit the audience and context, as opposed to the extent to which it is itself a conglomeration, incorporating different visions and understandings of the nature of the language assessed.