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TitleAssessing Interpersonal Communication Using Conversations
SourceCASLS Activity of the Week

Daniel Trego is a Spanish Instructor and the Coordinator of Technology-Enhanced Instruction in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies at Michigan State University where he is involved in the development and implementation of online and hybrid curriculum. His interests include second language acquisition and the creation and use of multimedia in the classroom. Betsy Lavolette is Director of the Language Resource Center at Gettysburg College. Her research interests are in computer-assisted language learning and language pedagogy. Angelika Kraemer is Executive Associate Director of the Center for Language Teaching Advancement at Michigan State University. Her research interests include computer-assisted language learning, program development, and community engagement and service-learning.

Introduction: In a large class, it can be logistically difficult to do formative assessment of students’ interpersonal communications skills. Conversations is a tool that allows you to assess all students simultaneously during class or collect students’ responses outside of class time. Because this tool allows students to practice before submitting their responses, it can help to lower test anxiety as well as give students more opportunities to use the language.

The activity that we describe below is a mid-stakes formative assessment, but Conversations can also be used for preparing for oral exams, collecting introductory information from students, and placing students. The activity is designed for Spanish but can be transferred to other languages.

Purpose: Mid-stakes formative oral assessment

Target function: Students’ ability to tell a salesperson what they are looking for and ask a salesperson basic questions such as if something comes in another size, what the price of something is, and if there is a sale or discount.

Target audience: End of first semester college-level Spanish (Novice-mid)

Format: Individual

Time: 40 minutes to prepare students; 5 minutes for students to record their oral responses

Materials: Conversations (free CLEAR account required for instructor only), access to computer with webcam & headphones for each student. Computers must have Flash installed.


Teacher preparation:

  1. Create a Conversation. Detailed instructions for creating one are available in text and video form on the CLEAR website. (See an example of a Conversation using the target function at

  2. Embed the Conversation in your learning management system. Alternatively, you can embed the Conversation in a Mashup (another CLEAR tool) and link to it. (Instructions for how to do this are in the links in Step 1.)

Student preparation:

  1. Before the next class, students assess themselves for the target function as follows.

2: Student can perform this function with ease.
1: Student can perform this function, but not easily.
0: Student cannot perform this function.

During class:

  1. Prepare the students to perform the target function. See example presentation (translated into English for the sake of this example).

  2. Students use Conversations to interact with a salesperson to buy a sweater for their professor. They should be instructed to get a medium and pay no more than $15.

After class:

  1. Listen to students’ responses in Conversations and grade them as follows.

2: Student can perform this function with ease.
1: Student can perform this function, but not easily.
0: Student cannot perform this function.

Thank you to Le Anne Spino and to the Spanish Basic Language Program at Michigan State University for sharing their materials and likeness.

Publishdate2015-03-16 02:15:01