• Destiny Yarbro

Multiple Intelligence Theory in the Language Classroom: Authentic ASL Assessment Practices


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With “the majority of language classroom delivery still based on unilateral ways of teaching” (Silva & Duarte, 2011), there is an increase of research on “authentic” language learning activities in order to “bridge the gap between real world and classroom tasks” (Ozverir & Herrington, 2011). I believe that part of bringing authenticity to the language classroom is providing “authentic measures of assessment” (Armstrong, 2018, p.129).

As I explored in a recent post this last week, project-based assessments allow for this kind of authentic measurement. After all, a multiple choice exam or essay question cannot measure the nuances of a language and the student’s ability to function in unscripted conversations. But project-based assessments, also called portfolio-or exhibition-based assessments, support students from diverse backgrounds (Cunningham, 2018) to show their understanding of a topic in any one of a myriad of ways (Peterson & Neill, n.d.).


Multiple Intelligence Theory for ASL Assessments


Armstrong (2018) explores various ways students “can show their knowledge” in his book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (p.136). Rather than assigning a one-size-fits-all project, he suggests giving students a list of project ideas so they are empowered to choose how they want to show what they have learned. I will brainstorm project assessment ideas for the American Sign Language classroom by focusing on the eight different approaches to learning that Gardner (1983) termed as “modalities of intelligences” and Armstrong termed as “smarts”.



Word Smart Interpret your favorite slam poem into sign language.

Number Smart Give a presentation on each of the VGC Classifiers.

Picture Smart Draw representations of the non-manual markers in sign language.

Body Smart Perform a dance that incorporates signs into the dance moves.

Music Smart Interpret your favorite song into sign language.

People Smart Record yourself in a video chat with a Deaf friend.

Self Smart Learn how to pray or recite your personal mantras in sign.

Nature Smart Compose an ASL poem using VGC to show the beauty of nature.



Rather than relying on standardized examinations which UNESCO (2015) says largely cater to students who do well with reading, project assessments enable students to choose their own method which nurtures their love of learning and prepares them for the workforce (p. 3). After all, rarely are employees expected to complete standardized tests, but most are consistently completing project-based assignments. An increasing number of companies have even changed their hiring process to align with this understanding. For example, this last week I applied to a company that, rather than having me send in a cover letter (i.e. an essay question), had me complete 8 example assignments to show my skills. The skills of planning, creating, and completing a project are vital in today’s world.


Much-Needed Shift to Authentic Assessments in the Language Classroom


I see project-based assessments representing a shift from summative to formative assessments, from standardized testing to student portfolios, from high-stakes examinations to low-stress exhibitions. In the language learning classroom, these projects allow students to orient to their language goals by providing ways to show their ability to communicate, interpret, or translate, depending on what they hope to use the language for in the future. Most importantly, I see these types of assessments as a way for teachers to nurture a love of learning, promote diversity, and support students in their individual strengths and weaknesses.




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