Language Monitor/alx

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Language Monitor
Contributors Christian Köppe, Mariëlle Nijsten
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source Köppe and Nijsten (2012)[1][2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Also Known As: Formative Assessment (Formative Assessment)

You have designed a course with a focus on both content and language, identified the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language)and used this for Input Selection (Input Selection). You have chosen specific learning activities to stimulate Metatalk (Metatalk), support language learning with Commented Action (Commented Action) and are aware that you are a Language Role Model (Language Role Model). You now want to assess whether your learning activities have had the expected result: an improvement of the students’ foreign language skills.


Judging the progress students make with language acquisition is not possible during lecturing, but without judgement you don’t know if the students make progress with language acquisition.

Student Visibility. Even if you are a good educator, it will be nearly always the case that some of your students are more visible and some are less visible. Especially for the less visible ones it is hard to determine their learning outcome during the course execution.

Memorized Phrases. If students use parts of the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) during lectures or written assignments, one cannot be sure if they just repeated them as heard before or if they really have grasped the meaning.

Content Focus. Students might be too focused on the content part of the course and neglecting the opportunities to improve their foreign language skills too.

Language Unawareness. If only the understanding of the content is assessed, students do not become aware of their language shortcomings.


Therefore: Implement regular assessments on the language skills of the students to determine whether they grasped the content and whether their language skills have improved, and use these outcomes to intermittently adapt your course.

Continuously monitoring students’ progress in both areas allows you to redesign your classes based on what students have demonstrated. Such monitors are also referred to as ’assessments of learning’ or ’formative tests’. The means of assessment influences the way students study for their tests. If a test only covers the course content, students will put less effort in expressing themselves properly in the foreign language. This is not the teachers aim, as improvement of language skills will help students better understand the course content. Formative tests should assess both content and language in such a way that students will gain an insight in their current knowledge and will be motivated to close any gaps that have become apparent. Formative tests may include: class room observations, presentations, assessments of team products, posters, reports and the like. Met also suggests the form of small conferences as a good source for data [4]. The best assessments are based on ’rubrics’, a matrix of a range of criteria and 3-4 categories describing different levels. Both the language and the course content are among the criteria.

Another way of applying this pattern is comparing the results of two different Language Status Quo (Language Status Quo), determined at the beginning and at the end of a course or the beginning of the next course. These are called summative tests. They cannot be used to motivate students during courses or to alter the course’s learning activities during the course. They are however much less time-consuming to create than formative tests using rubrics, as they often consist of close ended questions, reports or presentations exam style, resulting in a single mark.

A Language Monitor (Language Monitor)can also be applied using self assessments of the students. Butler reported some positive effects of regular self assessments among young learners of English, including an increased confidence in learning English and a greater ability in assessing their actual level of English [5].

One of the results of applying this pattern are insights into how to adapt the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) objectives in future lessons and units [4].

Mariëlle Nijsten and Christian Köppe used this pattern by taking the Language Status Quo (Language Status Quo) at two different moments and comparing the results of these. This way an increase in both the abilities of speaking and writing could be observed.


  1. Patlet first mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 1. In Proceedings of the 17th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2012) (p. 10). New York:ACM.
  2. Pattern published in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 2. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2012). New York:ACM.
  3. Patlet also mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). Towards a Pattern Language for Teaching in a Foreign Language. In Proceedings of the VikingPLoP 2012 conference. Saariselkä, Finland.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Met, M. (1994). Teaching content through a second language. Educating second language children: The whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community, 159-182.
  5. Butler, Y. G., & Lee, J. (2010). The effects of self-assessment among young learners of English. Language Testing, 27(1), 5-31.