ULO-Logo-Web-Cardinal@2x_1coed_v_cmyk1 copyimgres

Learning as Evidence: Improving ELLs’ Argumentation Skills through Formative Assessment Practices

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Offered by Stanford University & Oregon State University, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Education.

Course Duration: October 1 to November 29, 2015

Course Instructors
  • Sara Rutherford-Quach, Lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Education
  • Karen Thompson, Assistant Professor, College of Education, Oregon State University
  • Steven Weiss, Senior Research Associate, Understanding Language/SCALE

Register Here


Course Description

Formative assessment is an instructional practice to gauge where your students are in their learning by gathering evidence of their learning, assessing the evidence, and planning the next steps in instruction. The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, the Next Generation Science Standards, and new English Language Proficiency Standards all include a focus on argumentation, requiring that students construct claims supported by evidence and/or reasoning. In this course, we will explore how formative assessment practices can be targeted in improve student argumentation skills, an essential, cross-disciplinary practice.

Participants in this course will use a range of practical tools for gathering and analyzing language samples that show how students currently construct claims supported by evidence and/or reasoning, as well as identifying next steps in students’ development. These tools support formative assessment and instructional planning. Focal topics include: articulating claims; linking evidence and/or reasoning to claims; and evaluating evidence and/or reasoning. We will also explore similarities and differences in argumentation across content areas and grade levels. This course will enable teachers to collaborate with other educators and build professional relationships that result in an online community focused on improving students’ abilities to engage in argumentation across content areas. This course is offered jointly by Stanford University and Oregon State University.

Course Objectives

The main objectives of this course are for participants to:

  1. Recognize and engage in the essential components of formative assessment
  2. Develop a practical understanding of argumentation
  3. Use the entire formative assessment process to focus on language to help ELLs develop argumentation skills
  4. Use the Argumentation Analysis Tool to analyze student arguments, focusing on structure and language use
  5. Learn and implement teaching strategies for building students’ capacities for argumentation
  6. Collaborate with other educators and build professional relationships
Course Organization

This MOOC is organized around four sessions. The content for each session will become available on a particular date.

  • Orientation (October 1-October 4)
  • Session 1: Introduction to the formative assessment process and how to focus on language while practicing formative assessment (October 5-October 18)
  • Session 2: Argumentation, its role in the new standards, and associated language demands (October 19-November 1)
  • Session 3: Using the formative assessment process to interpret students’ argumentation skills (November 2-November 15)
  • Session 4: Implementing and adjusting instructional strategies to improve student argumentation (November 16-November 29)

For each of these sessions, course participants will be asked to complete a series of tasks such as watching videos, reading articles or book chapters, and completing individual and team assignments. For the sequencing of the course to be effective, the tasks for Session 1 must be completed before Session 2 begins, and so on. Yet unlike a traditional classroom, there is no specific time or day that participants must log on or “attend” class; participants are free to complete the session tasks at their own pace as long as they finish them in the allotted time.


In order to participate in the course, you will need to have access to a classroom in which you or the teacher you are observing are able to collect short samples of students engaging in argumentation two different times.

Time Commitment

We anticipate that the course will take approximately 30 hours of time to complete. The course will be organized into four sessions, each spanning approximately two weeks. We anticipate that each session will take approximately 7-8 hours to complete, spread out over the approximately two-week time span.

Statement of Accomplishment

While this course is not currently available to take for continuing studies credit, participants who complete the course (i.e., finish the requirements) will receive a statement of accomplishment. Please check with your employer as to whether this statement of accomplishment may be used for professional development credit.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email