Teacher-based or Interactional? Exploring Assessments for Children's Pragmatic Development

Document Type : Original Research Article


1 Hosei University and Temple University Japan, Japan.

2 West Island School, Hong Kong.


Despite an upsurge of interest in teaching pragmatics in recent years, the assessment of L2 pragmatic competence appears to have attracted little attention. Assessment in this area seems to center on either formal or interactional assessment (see Ross & Kasper, 2013). Using qualitative analysis, this preliminary study explores the benefits and limitations of the teacher-based and interactional assessment of young learners’ pragmatic development facilitated through dialogic intervention into pragmatics using the visual presentation of narratives. The teacher-based assessment instruments included: a) formality judgment tasks (FJTs); b) discourse completion tasks (DCTs); c) student-generated visual DCTs (SVDCTs); d) pre-designed assessment rubrics; and e) the teacher’s written reflections. The outcome of these instruments was compared with the analysis of f) audio- and video-recorded classroom interactions. The data from five Japanese learners aged 7-12 studying in Hong Kong are reported. The analysis of the data demonstrated that multiple teacher-based assessments used at different points during the instruction revealed enhanced pragmatic awareness and production of the target requests on the learners’ part. However, the teacher-based assessment instruments sometimes resulted in an incomplete or inconsistent data set and occasionally yielded overly generous or inaccurate assessments. In contrast, the interactional assessment, though it tends to be impractical in everyday teaching contexts, revealed the teacher’s ongoing mediation and the dynamic process of joint knowledge construction, including teacher or peer scaffolding, the learners’ response to the mediation, collaborative meaning-making, stages of other-regulation, and emerging signs of self-regulation. Some of the teacher-based assessments offered an opportunity to explore a broader repertoire of pragmatic knowledge in the learners that may not surface in interactive oral discourse. Teacher-based and interactional assessment can thus be viewed as complementary in terms of credibility and practicality as they inform each other regarding the learning outcome and the process of knowledge co-construction.