From traditional to performance-based assessment: Student perceptions and implications of a new achievement assessment in introductory Japanese courses

Namiko Uchida, Purdue University


Communicative language teaching in the early 1980s led to greater emphasis on the development of communicative ability and also increased interactive practice in classroom learning. However, in many communicative language programs today, large portions of periodic assessment do not necessarily reflect this pedagogical focus; instead, the traditional pencil-and-paper format is still in common use. Traditional written tests typically emphasize grammar and written language, and multiple-choice and cloze test items are often employed. In such formats, students are not required to demonstrate the oral skills they have acquired in the classroom; therefore, traditional written tests are not appropriate indicators of the students’ ability to use the language in real-life situations. There may be one or two oral tests in a semester, but that would not be enough to outweigh the grammar/written language emphasis. Furthermore, oral assessments are not typically given with sufficient frequency to track the development of students’ oral skills because they generally require significant amount of time for administration. To improve such situations, a computer-assisted achievement assessment called the “Performance-Based Test” (PBT) was designed at Purdue University with the focus on promoting students’ speaking skills. In order to argue for the need for the PBT and validate it, this study compared it with the traditional written test. In this study, both tests were administered to Japanese 101 (Study 1) and 102 (Study 2) students in order for them to experience both test formats. Then, at the end of the semester, a survey was conducted to elicit students’ perceptions of the tests and how each format related to their learning goals. Study 1 results showed that students preferred the PBT, felt motivated to prepare for it, and felt a sense of accomplishment upon completion. Students also stated that the PBT is better aligned with their learning goals and reflects their knowledge and abilities more adequately than the traditional written exam. Study 2 obtained similar results. The number of students who preferred the PBT and felt a sense of accomplishment was significant. They also answered that the PBT is better alighted with their learning goal than the traditional written exam. Based on these findings, this study suggests that the PBT is a viable alternative with a number of advantages over the traditional written exam since this method corresponds to the course objectives and students’ learning goals to improve their speaking skills.




Fukada, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Asian Studies|Pedagogy

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