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Teacher Performance Assessment

Academice Language

Academic language differs from everyday language.  The differences include:

  • A defined system of genres with explicit expectations about how texts are organized to achieve specific purposes;
  • Precisely-defined vocabulary and symbols to express abstract concepts and complex ideas;
  • More complex grammar in order to pack more information into each sentence;
  • A greater variety of conjunctions and connective words and phrases to create coherence among multiple ideas;
  • Textual resources (formatting conventions, graphics and organizational titles and headings) to guide understanding of texts.

Academic language also includes instructional language needed to participate in learning and assessment tasks, such as:

  • Discussing ideas and asking questions;
  • Summarizing instructional and disciplinary texts;
  • Following and giving instructions,
  • Listening to a mini-lesson;
  • Explaining thinking aloud;
  • Giving reasons for a point of view;
  • Writing essays to display knowledge on tests.

Academic language takes the form of many genres.  Genres are generic designs applicable across multiple topics to guide the process of interpreting or constructing texts.  The designs are structured to achieve specific purposes related to a particular cultural and situational context.

Examples of genres are:

  • Representing
  • Explaining or justifying
  • Describing
  • Recounting
  • Defining, relating, or contrasting
  • Evaluating or constructing
  • Interpreting

Examples of linguistic features of genres are:

  • Related clusters of vocabulary to express the content;
  • Connector words that join sentences, clauses, phrases and words in logical relationships of time, cause and effect, comparison, or addition;
  • Cohesive devices that link information in writing and help the written text flow and hold together;
  • Grammatical structures for purposes such as comparing and contrasting ideas or supporting ideas with evidence;
  • Text organization strategies such as headings, graphics, and references.

Examples of connector words for different purposes are:

  • Temporal:  first, next, then
  • Causal:  because, since, however, therefore
  • Comparative:  rather, instead, also, on the other hand
  • Additive:  and, or, furthermore, similarly, while
  • Coordinating:  and, nor, but, so

Examples of text organization strategies for increasingly complex arguments are:

  • Simple argument:  point/proposition, elaboration
  • Argument with evidence:  proposition, argument, conclusion
  • Discussion:  statement of the issue, arguments for, arguments against, recommendation
  • Elaborated discussion:  statement of the issue, preview of pro/con positions, several iterations of point/elaboration representing arguments against, several iterations of point/elaboration representing arguments for, summary, conclusion