There are several ways vocabulary knowledge can be assessed depending on the level of knowledge to be assessed and the purpose of assessment. For example,
there may be concern that a student is struggling with general vocabulary knowledge or that they may require additional support to build deeper knowledge of words. A combination of assessments can provide a more complete picture of the extent of knowledge of a word (Beck et al., 2013).
Measures of general vocabulary knowledge are often standardised assessments that provide an overall score which can be compared with normative data to find out how a student is tracking compared to others of the same age. Such measures can be useful in the context of assessing broader reading skills to identify if poor general vocabulary knowledge may be a barrier to reading comprehension. Most standardised vocabulary assessments are only available for use by people with specialist qualifications such as speech-language pathologists and educational psychologists. Two standardised assessments that can be used by qualified teachers are:
1. Renfrew Word Finding Vocabulary Test (Renfrew, 2010)
2. CUBED Narrative Language Measures (Peterson & Spencer, 2016)
Standardised vocabulary measures are designed to assess generic vocabulary knowledge so they are less sensitive to knowledge of specific words. To assess the acquisition of vocabulary taught in the classroom, a curriculum-based assessment will be more useful.
Informal observation of students’ use of vocabulary in their interactions with the teacher and other students, and in their writing, can provide a general idea of a student’s acquisition of vocabulary words being taught. However, to gain a better understanding of an individual student’s skills or to confirm informal observations, Beck et al. (2013) recommend several test formats that can be used with words that have been taught.
These sorts of assessments do not have a norms or standard scores so in order to assess growth, teachers will need to administer them before and after instruction.
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