2022 Language Assessment Research Conference

Plenary – Catherine Baumann

Literacy, Agency, Sustainability: Assessment and its Indispensable Role in Language Pedagogy

Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Thursday, September 15, 9:30-10:30am

Plenary Abstract

Assessment was deliberately chosen as the starting point for two major initiatives designed to spur innovative pedagogical transformation. Now, after working closely with scores of language instructors teaching dozens of languages at an enormous array of institutions, there is ample evidence that this choice was justified. Whether assessment literacy, assessment design, or assessment implementation, testing provided the insight needed by instructors to make the myriad decisions they are faced with as they design, carry out, and evaluate their curricula. The speaker will trace multiple through lines from assessments components to concrete examples of their impact on moments of curricular transformation. This talk is ultimately an argument for the foregrounding of assessment-driven language pedagogy as a means of giving practitioners the agency to embark on pedagogical innovation.

Speaker Bio

Catherine C. Baumann, Ph.D., is a Senior Instructional Professor and Director of the University of Chicago Language Center (CLC).  She received her Ph.D. in Second Languages and Cultures Education at the University of Minnesota, specializing in reading comprehension and language testing.  She directed the German language program at the University of Chicago from 1999-2019, and since 2016 has directed the CLC. Since her appointment in that role the CLC has dramatically expanded its programs. In 2016 it received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation, “Transforming Language Instruction at the University of Chicago and Beyond: Collaborative Curricula and Professional Development.” A year later she co-founded, with the Director of the CLC’s Office of Language Assessment, the Language Pedagogy Innovation Initiative. Both grants support innovation in language pedagogy through an assessment-driven reverse design approach and have directly impacted the testing and teaching practices of hundreds of instructors of languages across North America and the world. This work, as well as other curricular design and assessments related to graduate reading, heritage language learners, languages for specific purposes, online language programming, and the reframing of language learning as an invaluable complement to students’ career and academic goals comprise the efforts and goals of the CLC under her direction. She is a contributor to a variety of academic publications, and is frequently asked to consult for language programs in higher education on a variety of curricular and assessment-related issues.


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