Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage ST. THOMAS MORE COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

Ukrainian Language Assessment Project: Year Two

Submitted by Nadia prokopchuk, PCUH affiliate

In spring 2017, PCUH Academic Affiliate Nadia Prokopchuk embarked on a three-year project focused on assessment of student progress in Canadian Ukrainian language programs. Sparked by recent immigration trends and a greater diversity of students in Ukrainian language programs, the project places renewed emphasis on the language profiles of students entering a Ukrainian language program. Language profiles provide a snapshot of the student’s background experiences and connections to the language being learned. Factors in a student’s profile that influence language progress include: (a) prior exposure to Ukrainian, (b) current level of fluency in Ukrainian, (c) support systems for learning or maintaining Ukrainian, (d) access to language learning resources, and (e) time/hours spent studying in a Ukrainian language program.

Authentic samples of Ukrainian language progress from students with differing profiles are not readily available. As a result, teachers continue to search for answers to the following questions:

What does progress look like for a language beginner?

How should progress be assessed?

What does progress look like for a student with basic conversational skills?

How can progress be assessed for a native speaker of Ukrainian?  

An international reference scale called the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) addresses all these questions by describing language skills along a six-level scale of progression. The scale identifies what students know and “can do” at each level by using a series of descriptors for listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The scale is applicable to all types of language programs and student profiles. The Ukrainian Language Assessment Project introduces the CEFR to Ukrainian language educators and suggests that this scale be used to coordinate efforts to teach Ukrainian language learners in Canada. The following is a summary of initiatives completed in the first two years of this three-year project.

Year Two: Student Exemplars of Writing Skills (2018)

  • Ukrainian Writing Samples Collection (March – May 2018): The writing strand of the CEFR was selected as a starting point for the collection of authentic samples of student writing at various stages of language learning.  Ukrainian Bilingual Program teachers in Saskatoon contributed to the PCUH project by gathering writing samples in their classrooms, analyzing the samples using CEFR writing descriptors, and then assigning a CEFR level to each sample. Some writing samples were selected to create a professional learning document for Ukrainian language educators who want to know more about CEFR-based assessment.
  • National Ukrainian Educators’ Online Conference (NUEC and ULEC, May 2018): A conference session titled Ukrainian Language Assessment Using the CFR/CEFR – Samples of Student Skills was delivered by N. Prokopchuk, O. Kovpak, and O. Andrusyak. The presenters shared information about the process of gathering and analyzing writing samples. A few reading samples were also recorded and shared.
  • First World Forum of Ukrainian Saturday Schools: MIOK International Institute of Education and Culture (Lviv, August 2018). An online webinar titled Оцінювання мовного поступу за допомогою таблиці мовленнєвих умінь CEFR: Приклади письмових умінь канадських учнів на рівнях А1-В2 was delivered by N. Prokopchuk. The purpose was to underscore how the majority language (in this case, English) impacts Ukrainian language learning in the diaspora. Examples were drawn from the CEFR-based writing document.

On January 17-18, 2019, two professional learning workshops were delivered by N. Prokopchuk in Edmonton and Vegreville, Alberta. The workshops, titled Local Students and Fluent Newcomers: How Can Ukrainian Bilingual Educators Assess Students Equitably, were coordinated by the Ukrainian Language Education Centre (ULEC), Edmonton Catholic Schools, and Elk Island Public Schools. A total of 35 participants attended. Each workshop included a brief overview of CEFR language levels and descriptors, followed by an exploration of how the CEFR can inform resource selection and assessment practices with diverse language learners. Teachers were given a hands-on task involving assessment of student Ukrainian writing samples using CEFR scale descriptors. To conclude each workshop, teachers were invited to join the Assessment Project by contributing samples of student writing to the current CEFR-based document.

As Ukrainian language classrooms become more diverse, teachers and administrators need to find innovative ways to support two distinct target audiences – Canadian (predominantly English-speaking) students who are learning Ukrainian and students who are native speakers of Ukrainian. All students want to see signs of progress with language learning, and the CEFR provides a reporting tool that can help teachers to identify areas of progress using descriptors that are positive and encouraging.

More information about the Edmonton/Vegreville workshops can be found on the ULEC website.