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The CLA Language Center works with instructors to support the development and implementation of useful assessment tools and processes to improve the teaching and learning of languages in the College of Liberal Arts.

To this end, we support the development of a variety of assessment options. We work with language departments and programs to identify learning objectives and to develop means to determine whether these objectives are being met.

We are interested in exploring ways in which students can demonstrate their ongoing development of linguistic competence and cultural understanding. In addition to our summative Language Proficiency Exam (LPE), administered by our Language Testing Program, formative options might include performance assessments such as the Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA), Dynamic Assessment, and Exploratory Practice.

Basic Outcomes Student Self Assessment (BOSSA)

As a language instructor, you may want to find out about students’ self-assessment tools available at the University. Or, you may have heard about BOSSA from colleagues or instructors in other programs who are using BOSSA in their language classes. Read on, to learn how BOSSA, a self-assessment instrument used by many language programs at the College of Liberal Arts since 2014, can help you and your students.

What is BOSSA and how can it benefit your students?

Basic Outcomes Student Self-Assessment (BOSSA) was created for students learning a second (or third) language at the University of Minnesota in order to improve how they learn language. It gives students opportunities to practice assessing their own language ability and to reflect analytically about ways they use language to develop their language proficiency. As students learn to notice how they and others (instructors, peers, etc.) use language – vocabulary and structures in different contexts – they will start to recognize their own language strengths and challenges.

What is self-assessment?

Self-assessment is a skill students can use to reflect on what they are able to do, whether for language, or for any ability they want to develop. It’s something that improves with use; with practice they’ll become more accurate at assessing their own abilities.

BOSSA through integrated activities during a lab session, guides students to:
  • See what they can do now,
  • Think about what they need to do to improve, and
  • Make a manageable plan to reach their objectives.

Students learn to rate and be accountable to themselves in order to reach their language goals, whether they are personal, or for a class. It’s about students becoming autonomous in their language learning.

How does BOSSA work?

BOSSA is an online self-assessment training program. This is what your students do in one of the Language Center’s labs.

  1. They record themselves speaking in response to prompts in the language they study.
  2. They listen to their recordings afterward. Now students have a concrete point of reference and can start to notice how they use language.
  3. They use criteria on a worksheet to practice measuring how well they speak.
  4. Next, students talk with classmates and discover what they have in common: where they are on their language-learning path and where they are going. Students lead a class discussion about their strengths and challenges, and come up with suggestions and short-term goals for improvement while instructors take notes on the board.
  5. Students are now ready for the last step — they assess their own language skills using the online Build on Language Track (BoLT) survey, and get immediate feedback estimating their proficiency level based on how they have assessed themselves.

Self-assessment, like all skills, improves with training and practice. Students may not feel comfortable or be able to assess themselves accurately the first time they try. You can remind them that the more they practice the process, the better they will become. Students can be encouraged to continue practicing at any time (both in and out of class) since they’ve learned the basic skills that go into self-assessment. By assessing themselves regularly they will become more aware and more accurate and be better able to track how they have improved in their language abilities.

After doing it a few times, they’ll be able to specify what they can do well, what they need to work on and say “I can do this pretty well, but I need to work at that. So here’s what I’m going to do to get better.”

How does BOSSA help me as an instructor?

Language instructors have said that they would like students to be more mindful, to take the initiative, and to be more autonomous. Since 2014 nearly 6,000 students have used the BOSSA protocol. Data from student feedback surveys show that, through using self-assessment, students develop awareness of their own language proficiency levels, and what they need to work on. BOSSA helps students reflect on how they learn languages. They are guided to think about language learning in a new way, where they take charge and set personal goals.

What students have to say about BOSSA:

  • “I think that BOSSA is great. It was a huge wake-up call for where I was in my language learning. This has definitely helped with my proficiency and confidence.”
  • “I think it [BOSSA] helps you be more critical of your own work. I think that’s an important part of learning a language because, at the end of the day, you’re the one who needs to make the changes because you’re the one speaking. Someone can give you corrections, but if you don’t apply them or try to make it better, you won’t get any better than you were before. It’s a nice way to evaluate how you think you did.”

Through BOSSA students have an opportunity to evaluate what they can do with the language they are learning. By learning to assess their abilities for themselves, students take more responsibility for their own learning.

How can you schedule a BOSSA session in your class?

Contact the Language Center at bossa@umn.edu