In the pursuit of second language test assessment: A fruitful cooperation between Purdue University and Universidad del Norte

The Language Institute at Universidad del Norte (UniNorte) plays a crucial role among its undergraduate students who regardless of their major, must get certified in a second language. Additionally, the Institute works closely with the Ministry of Education to improve the English level of the community through different initiatives. One of these programs, is the development of a suggested English curriculum to be implemented in local public schools. Overall, the Institute reaches over 12,000 students in Barranquilla, and therefore faces a tremendous challenge when assessing their level of language acquisition due to the heterogeneity of the community.

A fruitful meeting. (Left to right: Rodrigo Rodríguez, Ph.D Student in the English Department at Purdue University; Lourdes Rey, Director of the Foreign Language Department at UniNorte; Nayibe Rosado,Director of the Spanish Department at UniNorte; April Ginther, Director of the Oral English Proficiency Program and Associate Professor of the English Department at Purdue University; Pía Osorio, Director of the Language Institute at UniNorte; and Jeannie Caicedo, Director of International Cooperation and Development at UniNorte)

A former UniNorte professor and current doctoral student at Purdue University, Rodrigo Rodríguez, catalyzed a collaboration between Pía Osorio, director or the Language Institute at UniNorte, and his Purdue academic advisor April Ginther, Director of the Purdue Oral English Proficiency Program and Associate Professor of the English Department. Dr. Ginther is an expert on language testing and assessment. This cooperation aims to develop a strategy that facilitates Language Testing and Assessment of the participating community throughout the teaching process. Test assessments are complex, as explained by Dr. Ginther: "They have to be sensitive and specific to the testing population, while providing sufficient information about how much the population actually knows about a specific subject."

Rodriguez and Dr. Ginther visited UniNorte in December 2016 with the objective of strengthening the relationship between both institutions, and together, outline a strategic plan of action. A set of workshops were provided by the Purdue team; "one was called 'Test Development-Reality' and covered the basics on how to effectively integrate social, administrative and economic aspects for the development of tests and assessments" explains UniNorte-Fullbright scholar, Rodrigo Rodriguez, "We also shared an introductory workshop about Classical Test Analysis using an in-house developed test, called Competencias Comunicativas, which is an assessment tool designed for an introductory course of reading and language skills, and serves more than 3,000 freshmen yearly". The rest of the workshops were "Assessing reading", "Assessing Speaking", and "Assessing Writing", where a variety of methodologies were covered, ranging from the use of reading as a tool to increase vocabulary and fluency, to rubrics design and their use.

A second visit is scheduled for July 2017, where more specific topics about classroom assessment will be addressed. "We are thrilled to have Professor Ginther and Rodrigo Rodriguez collaborating with us" says Pía Osorio. "We have developed an assessment plan and we are constantly moving forward". Likewise, Dr. Ginther is eager to cooperate with the Language Institute at UniNorte, "The idea is to work as a team and reinforce the collaboration between both institutions" explains professor Ginther as she recalls her delightful experience in Colombia.

Purdue professor and Director of the Oral English Proficiency Program, April Ginther, leading a Test Assessment workshop at Universidad del Norte

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