BOSSA

students discuss during BOSSA
Students discuss strategies with each other

As a language instructor, you may want to find out about students' self-assessment tools available at the University. Or, you may have heard about Basic Outcomes Student Self Assessment (BOSSA) from colleagues or instructors in other programs who are using BOSSA in their language classes. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below outline how BOSSA, a self-assessment instrument used by many language programs at the College of Liberal Arts since 2014, can help you and your students.

If you would like to schedule a BOSSA session into your class, contact the Language Center at bossa@umn.edu.

What is BOSSA and how can it benefit your students?

The Basic Outcomes Student Self Assessment (BOSSA) was created for students learning a second (or third) language at the University of Minnesota in order to improve how they learn language. It gives students opportunities to practice assessing their own language ability and to reflect analytically about ways they use language to develop their language proficiency. As students learn to notice how they and others (instructors, peers, etc.) use language—vocabulary and structures in different contexts—they will start to recognize their own language strengths and challenges.

What is self-assessment?

Self-assessment is a skill students can use to reflect on what they are able to do, whether for language, or for any ability they want to develop. It's something that improves with use; with practice they'll become more accurate at assessing their own abilities.

BOSSA through integrated activities during a lab session, guides students to:

  • See what they can do now
  • Think about what they need to do to improve
  • Make a manageable plan to reach their objectives

Students learn to rate and be accountable to themselves in order to reach their language goals, whether they are personal, or for a class. It's about students becoming autonomous in their language learning.

How does BOSSA work?

BOSSA is an online self-assessment training program. This is what your students do in one of the Language Center’s labs:

  1. Record themselves speaking in response to prompts in the language they study.
  2. Listen to their recordings afterwards. Now students have a concrete point of reference and can start to notice how they use language.
  3. Use criteria (defined on a worksheet) to practice measuring how well they speak.
  4. Talk with classmates and discover what they have in common: where are they currently on their language-learning path, and where are they going? Students lead a class discussion about their strengths and challenges, and come up with suggestions and short-term goals for improvement while instructors take notes on the board.
  5. Assess their own language skills using the online Build on Language Track (BoLT) survey, and get immediate feedback estimating their proficiency level based on how they have assessed themselves.

Self-assessment, like all skills, improves with training and practice. Students may not feel comfortable or be able to assess themselves accurately the first time they try. You can remind them that the more they practice the process, the better they will become. Students can be encouraged to continue practicing at any time (both in and out of class) since they’ve learned the basic skills that go into self-assessment. By assessing themselves regularly they will become more aware and more accurate and be better able to track how they have improved in their language abilities.

After doing it a few times, students will be able to specify what they can do well, what they need to work on, and what steps they need to take in order to make improvements.