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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2022 - Winter 2023)

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Book review: Authentic and broadened assessment in modern Greek language learning

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University

Exploring Alternative Assessment Techniques in Language Classrooms
Konstantina Iliopoulou,  Alexandra Anastasiadou, Georgia Karountzou, and Vasilios Zorbas
Nova Science Publishers
130 pp. 

Konstantina Iliopoulou,  Alexandra Anastasiadou, Georgia Karountzou, and Vasilios Zorbas’s Exploring Alternative Assessment Techniques in Language Classrooms (2022) describes an action research study from 2016 – 2017 in which an authentic assessment was applied to Greek language learning classrooms in a school, as a way to expand awareness of educational possibilities.  This approach involved expanding assessment from the teacher to include peer learners, parents, and others in the community.  With the centrality of measurable (and often objective) assessments to learning, changing assessments in the Greek educational system is thought to strike a fundamental potential change to the status quo, locally and perhaps even socio-politically.  Assessments should help students “become active citizens and capable of building a better world” (p. vii).  The teaching of Greek involves the learning, too, of democratic processes, with its origins from ancient Greece.  This work describes the research with a narrative and experiential approach.  

Figure 1.  Ancient Greek Letters in Stone (by Greg Montani on Pixabay)

Figure 2.  Classroom (by Wokandapix on Pixabay)

For people, language acquisition involves a fairly long developmental process.  Language has to be acquired for reading, speaking, writing, listening, and other social and interactive fluencies.  Modern Greek is important for learning the other school subjects.  A full linguistic repertoire may take a full childhood and early adulthood to acquire.  

Empowering Students and Others in the Learning

Beyond the traditional empowerments from language learning, an alternative authentic assessment method expands the capabilities beyond the classroom and school walls.  The co-authors / co-researchers write:  

The present research aims to empower students to question the quality of their evaluation in the Greek language both in school and in society, so that they will manage to demand equality in evaluation, develop critical thinking and take initiatives to defend not only themselves but also all the people who are oppressed, by seeking to create a fairer society which prioritizes meritocracy. (p. viii)

The researchers ensure that the assessments are sound, in pedagogical and scientific validity ways (p. vii) but also that the individuality of all students are taken into account.   The teaching and learning aspires to student centeredness, in a democratic context, in which each student is a citizen (in a general sense) and has social responsibility. All people in the polity need to be informed and to engage constructively and fairly autonomously, informed by democratic values.  

The Action Research Rationale in the Modern Greek Language Classroom

The research team describes their decision-making in selecting action research as their approach.  Here, “researchers reflect on their own practices in order to fully comprehend and do justice to them and verify the real context which they seek to explore” (p. ix), the classroom and the social power structures surrounding formal high school learning.  
The researchers also consciously included stakeholders in a participatory research design, by including them in “decision making along with educational design and realization of the predetermined aims” (p. 10).  They also determined to use the socio-critical pedagogy of peace to inform their “critical-emancipatory action research” (p. x). 
The goal is to improve practices, with a conscious infusion of democracy and democratization in the learning, and with broad consciousness raising.  After all, there are special connections between democracy and ancient Greece.

Figure 3.  Math and Greek Symbols (by Pixapopz on Pixabay)

Understanding the Authentic Assessment Challenges

“Research Rationale” (Ch. 1) opens with the centrality of assessment in learning contexts, often with a focus on high technology and comparability (requiring standardization and objectivity).   The evaluation of learning has to be seen as valid by the various stakeholders, and it has to be generally understood by students.  Authentic evaluation focuses
on “the criterion instead of the rule” so focusing on strengths of weaknesses of the learners but not comparing and classifying learners.  [This seems to be more about a “personal best” approach than a class ranking one.]  

Authentic evaluation enables learners to show their knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) “in any way they themselves deem suitable” (p. 5).  This enables accommodation of learners’ personal differences to enable actual fairness, without a one-size-fits-all approach.  Projects are evaluated “holistically” (Guba & Lincoln, 2001, as cited in Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 6).  Authentic learning develops higher order thinking skills and supplements “traditional teaching methodologies” (p. 6).  This approach enables students to engage in effective self-evaluation” (p. 6), perhaps well into a lifelong learning context. For learner motivation, they need to “develop self-reflection, self-determination and self-evaluation” and engage socially also in heterogeneous learning groups (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 7).  

In different time periods, educators use different practices.  One early challenge was how to ensure comparability of authentic evaluation across different successive school years.  They had to assess how practical their respective approaches would be, not only for teachers but administrators.  How could they convey the importance of authentic evaluation to learners who might not respect such processes?  How could they be accurate in capturing learner proficiency in qualitative and quantitative ways?  How could they train teachers to engage in qualitative descriptive analysis assessment?  How can teachers identify and assess their own subjectivities and manage those in the work (through metacognition and self-awareness)?  

Peer assessment is important in this context, for both formative and summative purposes (to enhance the learning and to assess the capabilities of the learner).  

Peer assessment assumes that the students’ awareness of their fellow students’ strengths and weaknesses  is similar to the one of their teacher, (and that) they may recognize some of their personal traits more easily than the instructor and judge more objectively than their teacher.   (p. 11).  

By engaging in peer assessment, learners are also developing a sense of self-assessment of their own skills.  The researchers write:  

The more students grow older, the more they tend to become cynical and question evaluation, but if they actively participate in the process and feel that their own opinion is taken into account in the final grade they receive, then they feel that their attitudes are objective. (p. 12)  

To enable proper assessment, it helps to use clearly defined criteria, to which learning activities are designed purposefully.  Some rubrics are shared within the text along with other materials used in this action research in live classrooms (from 2016 – 2017).  [It is unclear why it took so many years to reach publication.] 

Teaching Methodologies for Teaching Greek in High Schools

“Critical Review of the Teaching Methodology and the Evaluation of the Greek Language in High Schools” (Ch. 2) suggests that book learning alone is highly limited.  Language is naturally diverse, with various local dialects.  There is the power of everyday spoken language.  There is the study of produced texts but also learners themselves producing their own texts (p. 15) and finding their own voices.  Beyond formal learning in the accredited classroom, there is nonformal learning and informal learning (non-accredited course learning, learning out in non-learning
activities in the world).  

The researchers conceptualized a cross-thematic curriculum.  An evaluation of the learning system showed reliance on open- and close-ended questions “aiming at the numerical evaluation of the students’ performance” (Iliopoulou & Zagga, 2021, as cited in Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 17).  They found that qualitative evaluations were rare and that there were “no safe guidelines about the way of conducting this type of assessment” (p. 18).    

Action Research and Critical Pedagogy

“Critical Pedagogy” (Ch. 3) is about identifying structures of power and to challenge the status quo for a fairer and more socially just society.  Their action research would use a dialectic approach to use both objectivity and positivism, as well as subjectivity and interpretivism. Their work would entail “identifying a specific situation which could
be considered problematic, investigating the causes of this problem and implementing various alternative practices in order to rectify the problem” (Mills, 2001, as cited in Iliopoulos, Anastasiadou, & Karoutzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 23).  The target changes would be applied in the real.  

The teacher-researchers explain the two-fold nature of action research:  

…it is self-reflective deploying the exploration of personal choices and stances, and on the other hand it intervenes in the process seeking not only the interpretation but also the evolution of the situation under
consideration.  (p. 24)

The work develops the teaching and administrator professional’s role as part of the process.  There should be benefits for all stakeholders, including the institutions under which the research occurs, and the larger field of education (p. 29).  Action research involves a liveness. There is an immediate intervention through the alternative assessment techniques.  

The work is also social and collaborative based on those in the workplace setting.  These include “external associates who act as critical friends serving a facilitating and advisory role, offering help only when asked to” (p. 27).  Another external participant to the research was a facilitator, who “drew our attention to critical theories” for perspective and for authenticity (p. 98).  The researchers surfaced their own implicit theories that affected their work in order to raise their own biases to consciousness.  

The research is described as a spiral or even cyclical process, comprised of four parts:  observation, design, action-observation, evaluation/critical reflection” (Katsarou & Tsafos, 2003: 75, as cited in liopoulos, Anastasiadou, & Karoutzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 27).  

On the one hand, the work is its own case study; on another hand, there are aspects of this work that may be adopted by others.  

Action Research Setup

“Research Design and Process” (Ch. 4) describes how the co-researchers designed various authentic forms of alternative evaluation of the learning around the Greek language. They emphasized the need for student awareness to
change their thinking about learning assessment but described struggles in this awareness acquisition.  They write:  

In this framework assessment is expected to cease to validate the selective role of schools, to stop classifying learners on an imaginary scale which is arbitrarily contrived, but to engage them in the process, by simultaneously activating their creative, critical thinking. (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p.  33)  

The liberatory pedagogy is about sending learners out in the world with increased engagement and communications skills, in part.  

The defined research questions include:  “What are the evaluative requirements in the Greek language class which are in line with the students’ interests and needs?  Can appropriate assessment parameters leading to a liberating pedagogy be set?”  (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 33)  They asked further:  “What
pedagogical tools can be used to successfully design a relevant evaluative method?” And:  “Which authentic evaluation practices best represent learners’ needs and create a learning environment ideal for such an intervention?” (pp. 33 – 34)  They used critical questions developed by another research team to design the intervention:  

How did this situation arise?
Which parameters of the specific situation are the most important?  
Which factors influence the situation and how?  
Are there any other fields influenced by our research?  
Will our research have an impact on any aspects of the classroom, the school, the families or society in general?  
What are the broader social and political dimensions that must be considered with respect (to) our research question?
What are the relationships among the classroom reality, the external factors, the individuals’ decisions and any other component of the setting under consideration?  (Altrichter, Posch, & Somekh, 2001, 87
– 89, as cited in Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, pp. 34-35)

The questions inform how to capture the appropriate research data (and defines what is actually research data). 
This chapter continues in an embodied, situated, and experiential way. The data collection occurs by the researchers making observations, recording those in a journal, capturing other stakeholders’ ideas through semi-structured interviews, conducting classroom observations, and other approaches.  They maintained the flexibility to pivot in terms of research alternatives and new actions as new information came in.  They interpreted the respective dynamics of the teaching and learning space. 

The team paid special attention to “traditional and authentic evaluation, their pedagogical dimension, students’ initiative, management of learning problems, the amount of students’ homework, recognition of the function and the necessity of evaluation” and such foci on the main research (p. 37).  Some of their interventions involved independent forms of authentic evaluation, such as “descriptive evaluation from the teacher and the students within a cooperative
setting,” “peer evaluation of group work and the individual contribution of the group members by means of holistic rubrics,” and “student self-evaluation” (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 39).  They also used prior student assessment data to set baselines. They developed a supportive culture in the classroom.

The action research work was conducted over three action cycles.  The first cycle involved teachers-researchers’ descriptive analysis of student progress, the second cycle involving peer evaluation, and the third one learner self-evaluation (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 40).  

The data was collected and then evaluated in the “creative stage of the analysis” (Altrichter, Posch, & Somekh, 2001, p. 181, as cited in Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 41).  The steps included the following:  “reading the data (careful examination), selecting and categorizing the data, presenting and interpreting the data, (and) drawing conclusions, i.e. finding the problem and the degree of its existence and diffusion (the answer to the first research question)” (p. 41).  The research included many of the stakeholders, including parents and guardians, the school management, and other colleagues (p. 44).

The Action Research…in Action

In “Conducting the Research” (Ch. 5), the research is broadly inclusive so that the young language learners are supported by their families and larger communities.  They write:  

While teachers are responsible for guiding, supporting and helping them grow intellectually, they (families) are also the ones who will either reward or punish them based on the grade they assign.  In other words, we observed that the shift of interest from the essence of the educational process to obtaining high grades tends to become a dominant social behavior, as a result of which the efforts to produce substantial educational work are hindered. (p. 45)  

The researchers then created an exploratory program of student evaluation in the Greek language courses, implemented the program, assessed how it was functioning, critically considered the interventions, and revised their approaches in real time (p. 47), while valuing innovation and focusing on democratic and emancipatory values.  This was a multi-phase longitudinal study from 2016 to 2017.  

In their work, they had to acquire permission from the principal, colleagues, and the parents, to enable the action research.  They describe ethical step-by-step approaches.  They share part of their journal entries:  “Once the Ayasmos (holy water blessing—religious ritual) ended, we asked the principal to have a discussion in person with the students’ parents and he granted us permission to do so” (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, pp. 49 -

The research work changed social relationships. For example, “teachers who implement action research in their classrooms have the opportunity to interact with and listen to students in a context completely different from the established one”; perhaps in theirdata collection through “interviews, questionnaires, written and oral assessments,” they build more “authentic and substantial” relationships with their students (p. 56).  

Along the way, the researchers share evocative details.  In terms of peer review, the students “talked about risk, confidence, maturity, intelligence but also embarrassment or even fear to grade their friend” (Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 57).  

The shared research journal entries are very human.  For example, they share moments of frustration and challenge, such as a time when the students participating in the action research did not consider that the lessons were learning ones.  They considered that the alternatives were perhaps some peripheral and temporary approach.  As one example, students read “a newspaper article on refugees / immigrants which the students created through their own texts” of student poetry, a refugee diary page, an interview with an immigrant, a created article on the challenges immigrants face, and a “tracing (of) the phenomenon of migration and asylum seeking” (p. 65).  
During the research, the authentic assessment approach was able to change the social reality:  

We firmly believe that self-assessment forms are not merely a means of assessment and a teaching tool, but can also contribute to changing attitudes and perceptions, which is, perhaps, the most important aspect of its implementation in the education system. Teachers who adopt it, have already developed a philosophy of acceptance, respect, understanding, but also a firm belief in the value of the student as an
individual.  Consequently, they are not the ones who would merely impart their knowledge on the students, but the ones who believe that the student is at school, mainly to learn through discovery (and not merely be tested and graded on numerical scales) and develop social skills.  At the same time, students who are encouraged to assess their own performance are called upon to challenge and gradually alter deeply ingrained predispositions of learning.  (pp. 70 – 71)

Foremost, students learned to “operate within a supportive framework of cooperation with their classmates” and to “act not as units but as a team” (p. 80).  

The research was debriefed with a survey and then “a) an interview with the students, b) a meeting with the parents,
c) a meeting of the teachers’ association, d) a discussion with the critical friend, e) a discussion with the facilitator, f) reflection” (p. 78).  The researchers shared some of their self-criticisms in their work (p. 82).  They question how long the authentic evaluation changes would hold.  

Suggestions from the Action Research

“Findings and Suggestions” (Ch. 6) ends on a sobering note.  Their innovative work is somewhat pitted against those “of the positivist, empirical-analytical example in the field of social sciences as far as the limited possibilities for generalizing and comparing its results are concerned” (Cohen et al., 2008, as cited in Iliopoulou, Anastasiadou, Karountzou, & Zorbas, 2022, p. 89).  Action research can be achieved solidly based on the power of “reflective rationalism upon which action research is funded” (p. 89).  Complex problem-solving may be most effective when it involves “specialized and even individualized solutions,” not a one-size-fits-all approach (p. 89).  The researchers
report on whether they were able to “overturn the current evaluation practices” in an “asymmetric power” structure in the school educational system (p. 91).  

Figure 4.  Action Research in a School (by m_ming on Pixabay)

Better Teachers, Better People

This work does offer a model for possible adaptive future change.  The  teacher-researchers write of self-growth in a journal entry 11/6/2017:  

We should neither see the progress of students as separate from our own improvement, nor should we consider ourselves experts (that is, that we do not need to improve further, because we are teachers).  (p. 94)

Whatever readers may take away from this work, keeping the well-being of learners top-of-mind is critical.  The researchers ask some ethical questions of themselves:  “How morally correct is it for students to participate in this research process, when they do not realize, due to their age, that they themselves are the subjects of this research?  How is it legitimate for every teacher to organize such a research?” (p. 101)

Finally, they propose the importance of research-action in formal education policy. 


Konstantina Iliopoulou,  Alexandra Anastasiadou, Georgia Karountzou, and Vasilios Zorbas’s Exploring Alternative Assessment Techniques in Language Classrooms (2022) lauds considered avant-garde approaches to teaching in
the language classroom.  They propose practical and inclusive methods for alternative evaluations of student work, with perhaps less of a focus on grades and more of a focus on the core knowledge and skills acquired, for liberated and emancipated and aware learners. 

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer / researcher at Kansas State University.  Her email 

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