I just found this inspiring math teaching blog, which has me somewhat down about my own teaching and classes. Dan's posts on keeping data in particular have me thinking quite a bit.
I've long maintained that traditional language programs simply ignore the fact that most students are learning virtually no conversational skills. You march the kids through a set of tests and drills designed to teach the language and assume it's worked (or it hasn't), but you don't measure whether they can converse. So what do I do -- I measure whether kids can converse. But that's costly in terms of classroom time and teacher resources, and so I can't actually do it nearly as frequently as I'd need to for it to be really effective.
Looking at the math blog has me thinking about the discrete skills that go into language -- whether that be recalling a piece of vocabulary of conjugating a verb or understanding how enclitic pronouns work. And I'm wondering whether it wouldn't be worth charting student's abilities with respect to these skills much as Dan does for his math students.
Of course, working toward that chart could start to look like that textbook march I was lambasting a paragraph ago... after all, having all the grammatical puzzle pieces that go into language is not the same thing as using language. However, if used with a linguistically informed approach to teaching the skills, and used alongside authentic assessments of actual linguistic skill (could answer comprehension questions on article / could converse for 2 minutes / etc), maybe just maybe something like what Dan's describing would be transformative in a language classroom (maybe, just maybe, in mine).
Does anyone know of any language teachers doing anything like this -- graphing student achievement, remediating quickly, making sure students have actually learned the concepts we think we're teaching... I'd like to think it would be commonplace.