Where am I? where am I going, and how do I get there? Increasing learner agency through large-scale self assessment in language learning

Gabriela Sweet, Sara Mack, Anna Olivero-Agney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


This chapter explores the efficacy of Basic Outcomes Student Self Assessment (BOSSA), a fully integrated standardized second language self-assessment protocol. Designed for large-scale, sustainable use across languages, levels, and modalities, BOSSA supports learner awareness as a path to agency and empowerment. BOSSA shifts the focus from the traditional teacher as center of knowledge (the only one who evaluates) to a learner-centered space where the students work in community to actively support and develop their language skills. The collaboratively created protocol was validated through piloting over several semesters, operationalizing self assessment at the University of Minnesota and transforming the language classroom experience for more than 10,000 students in ten languages. Incorporating qualitative data from focus groups with students and instructors as well as quantitative data from student-reported benefit and self-assessment surveys, researchers found that a self-assessment protocol that pairs a proximal performance opportunity with training and practice with self assessment can successfully support learners, instructors, and language programs in large-scale contexts. In addition, it provides a workable response to the increasing calls for integrating research-driven practice and transdisciplinary approaches as essential elements of second language teaching and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducational Linguistics
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media B.V.
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameEducational Linguistics
ISSN (Print)1572-0292
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1656

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grants from the Center for Educational Innovation, University of Minnesota, and the Language Flagship Program Initiative of the National Security Education Program, U.S. Department of Defense.

Funding Information:
From this backdrop, some practical questions emerge: how do language educators begin to conceptualize teaching practice in this more complex instructional worldview, and how can we make the best use of limited resources to address these issues and integrate evidence-based practices? This chapter describes a collaborative project that situates self assessment as an approach to addressing many of these current concerns. The chapter begins by providing a background of self assessment and the Basic Outcomes Student Self Assessment (BOSSA) project, and continues with a detailed description of the components of BOSSA and its large-scale use to support language acquisition in higher education contexts. In keeping with the call to integrate and further develop evidence-based practice, we present data from several different aspects of the project, exploring issues of learner agency, awareness of the language learning process, and the levels of accuracy students reach in evaluating their language abilities. For the latter, we have collected data comparing student performance on American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) tests with student self-assessed ratings. Some of these data presented here were collected through the Proficiency Assessment for Curricular Enhancement (PACE) project which began in Fall 2014 at the University of Minnesota, funded by a grant from The Language Flagship Program Initiative of the National Security Education Program, U.S.D epartment of Defense, and designed to maintain a culture of assessment (Vanpee & Soneson, this volume), self assessment, and curricular improvement in the second language learning process, as well as a systematic program of proficiency assessment and professional development (Soneson & Tarone, this volume). Finally, we identify future directions for maximizing the benefit of self assessment for language learners in large-scale contexts, taking into account administrative challenges and examining the issue of long-term sustainability in terms of program accessibility, instructor training, and protocol delivery.

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019.


  • Accuracy in self evaluation
  • Active learning
  • Cross-language applicability
  • Empowerment
  • Integrated performance tasks
  • Learner awareness
  • Standardized learner-centered reflection protocol
  • Sustainable use
  • Transdisciplinary approach


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