Towards a framework for assessing English through drama : a dynamic assessment approach

Michelle Reyes RAQUEL, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Copyright © 2012 The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Abstract

When students learn a second language, their ability is assessed either summatively (their final performance), or continuously (through completion of mini-tasks such as script-writing to assess writing skills, or reading aloud to assess pronunciation). Although these assessment methods are effective in taking a ‘snapshot’ of students’ current proficiency level, they only reflect what students demonstrate in performance and do not take into account other second language gains that develop as they engage in other activities in the learning environment. This study aims to examine the feasibility of adopting Dynamic Assessment (DA) as a framework for the teaching and assessment of English learnt through participation in full-scale theatrical productions. DA is a development-oriented assessment approach that aims to promote L2 development by directing teaching and assessment to the development of students’ potential ability. Using a case study, I investigated the interactions of Hong Kong Chinese tertiary students engaged in performing scripts for an audience. The data reveals that directors, as mediators, used an interactionist approach to DA in the process of preparing students to perform in a theatrical production. Teaching and assessment of English is a dialectic activity that is critical for students’ development of dramatic and English skills. Furthermore, this assessment framework views linguistic expression in the context of aesthetic expression in contrast with other assessment approaches that view it as a dichotomy. The collaborative dialogue between directors and actors in this case study serve as a basis for the development of a DA framework for the teaching and assessment of English through theatre productions.