A Guide to Language Testing: Development, Evaluation, Research

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Antirealists, on the other hand, usually hold that the constructs we claim to test are not independent of the language tester or the act of testing. There is much room for disagreement here. In this chapter I set out the realist and antirealist positions, realizing that there are many gradations between the two.

I argue that extreme positions on the cline are untenable. I make a case for realism in the pragmatist tradition, which is not to be associated with the naive realism that is the target of constructivism. I also recognize the role for critical research, especially where language testing is misused or abused. I begin by describing the realist position, and then move on to antirealist stances.

With Bachman , pp. I then discuss two key issues upon which language testers are in fundamental disagreement because of their philosophical positions. I then briefly indicate the research each position generates, and outline the challenges they face. Finally, I suggest a way forward based on classical pragmatism. Realists hold to the Enlightenment view that the scientific method is the most productive in empirical research whether quantitative or qualitative , as expressed by Popper , p.

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In the field of the empirical sciences, more particularly, he constructs hypotheses, or systems of theories, and tests them against experience by observation and experiment. The applicability of realism to social sciences has also been championed by educationalists such as Dewey, for whom the scientific method is simply the method of experimental enquiry combined with free and full discussion—which means, in the case of social problems, the maximum use of the capacities of citizens for proposing courses of action, for testing them, and for evaluating the results.

Putnam, , p. Theories and evidence that provide the basis for decision making need to be assessed using generally accepted criteria. Simplicity Ockham's razor : The requirement that the theory does not use more abstract terms or constructs than are necessary to explain the evidence available. Coherence: The need to construct theories that are in keeping with what is already known, as well as for the theory itself to be internally coherent.

Comprehensiveness: The requirement that our theories account for as much of the available data and facts as possible.

Understanding assessment – what every teacher should know

However, the logic of the key criterion of testability assumes an evidential approach to validation, which in turn presupposes that the evidence exists. In language testing this leads to two claims. First, that individuals have a stable language competence and capacity for use that endures for some time even though it is subject to change through learning or attrition , and that responses to test items or tasks can be translated into numbers that are indexical of that competence.

Second, that score meaning can be generalized and extrapolated to relevant domains for a reasonable period of time, and with a known degree of probability: our theory makes predictions about the likelihood of future events. First, there had always been an interest in measurement in the United Kingdom Edgeworth, , , and in Ballard , p. In point of fact they are neither new nor American. They have been the common property of the race since the dawn of history.

Ballard cites research by Cyril Burt, as well as the adaptation of the Binet tests. Most researchers who hold a realist position do not hold positivist views or espouse the verifiability principle Jordan, , p.

Evaluation How-to Overview

Such a position is nominalist, and therefore profoundly antirealist. Constructionism or social constructionism is a postmodern approach that does not ask about truth, but wishes to uncover the historical and cultural reasons that led to the currently dominant version of truth.

This may take the form of deconstructing text where no form particularly scientific has any special status Derrida , or uncovering the power structures that are claimed to marginalize people while legitimizing the power of the elite Foucault. Constructivists hold that our tests and what they measure are contingent upon the social context in which they are designed and used. All shades of constructionism are therefore critical , and the basic assumptions are laid out by Hacking : 0.

X is taken for granted. X appears to be inevitable. X need not have existed. X could have been different. X is bad. We would be better off if X were changed, or if X did not exist. To be a constructivist, it is necessary to subscribe to at least 0 and 1 , and it is 1 that gives constructionism its edge: Our current beliefs and practices, including our theories and constructs, are contingent.

If a constructivist also holds 2 , she is usually committed to unmasking the evils of X in order to undermine the power or authority that is associated with it, or wishes to reform aspects of X. When a constructivist also holds 3 the attacks on X are usually strident, foregrounding injustices, marginalization, or subjugation of peoples.

Testing is seen as the mechanism through which the elite exercise power and maintain their position Foucault, , pp. There are no facts, everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive; what is relatively most enduring is—our opinions. This carries a number of implications. First, no utterance consisting of conventional signs—or words can be evaluated in terms of whether it succeeds or fails to correspond to some external reality. Reference from conventional signs to the real world as described by Frege is no longer of concern.

Second, dualism is abolished. What is language? This nominalism which constructivism shares with positivism!

LING | Language Testing and Assessment in Society | University of Southampton

They simply cannot be known, explained, or predicted. Although I have classed instrumentalism as antirealist, it may be more appropriate to call it nonrealist , because instrumentalists hold that, if a test assists in useful decision making, that is really all that matters. For instrumentalists the issue of whether the terms of theories refer to any real entity is simply irrelevant. They accept Hume's fork, and hold that nondeductive subjective inference is always subject to question and error.

One argument for instrumentalism is provided by Laudan a in his critique of realism, in which he uses historical evidence to undermine the premise that successful theories have terms that refer. For example, atomic theory failed to be empirically successful for hundreds of years, while the miasmatic theory of disease transmission was: it led to policies of moving people away from ports and introducing quarantine.

Thus, theories are evaluated primarily on the grounds of the degree to which they enable us to predict phenomena and manipulate our environment in useful ways, as we can never be certain that our terms refer. Each of the three positions described in the introduction have impacted upon language testing, leading to incommensurable stances that are explored in the next section.

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I have selected two themes for discussion. My rationale is that these best illustrate fault lines that are directly related to philosophical beliefs. Bachman , pp. This is very close to a correspondence theory of truth—the natural home of the realist. Some researchers explicitly work within this paradigm rather than just assume it to be the case: We argue that the validity of any given teaching, learning, and assessment task—whether it is representative, authentic, and generalizable—is just a more complex version of the problem of determining whether a representation of a given state of affairs is true or not.

We provide two logical arguments. Both of them show the construal production and interpretation of surface forms of discourse in order to represent faithfully and truthfully certain changing states of affairs in the real world is the necessary and sufficient basis for any validity to be found in any teaching, learning, and assessment tasks whatever. Badon et al. Based on Oller's theory of pragmatic mapping, the validity question becomes whether the construct to be measured exists, and whether variation in scores is causally linked to variations in the construct.

It is therefore necessary to develop tasks which require test takers to refer to objects and events in the real world, and use language to control and change events. For this reason we add the further observation that realist approaches do not abandon context. Rather, The authenticity, representativeness, and consequent generalizability of teaching, learning, and assessment tasks depends on their incorporation of the sign systems, social actions, and realia found in actual contexts of discourse.

While codes, contexts, and interactions must be distinguished in theory, in practice they interact holistically. For realists, context is real , not constructed, and so, while it is important to maintain a connection between the world and conventional signs, realists must also take seriously implicature and illocutionary intent. That is, construct theorists are said to really be constructivists with a scientific air about them.

For example, they may admit that a number of models could fit their data, and the theoretical terms could vary by model. In contrast, Blackburn , p. This position is best represented by Borsboom and colleagues, who argue: Realism, in the context of measurement, simply says that a measurement instrument for an attribute has the property that it is sensitive to differences in the attribute; that is, when the attribute differs over objects then the measurement procedure gives a different outcome. Validity in this formulation is equivalent to the existence of what the test measures, and goes back to the strongest scientific claims for testing made in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Constructivism is incommensurable with all shades of realism. Constructivists challenge the primary claim that there are facts or traits in the real world that exist independently of the mind of the researcher or test taker. The world itself is constructed. The trail of the human serpent is everywhere. McNamara argues that they do not. It is worth noting here that the deconstruction of such test constructs applies no less to constructs in other fields of applied linguistics, notably second language acquisition.

There is also a growing realization that many language test constructs are explicitly political in character and hence not amenable to influences which are not political. McNamara, , pp. Trending Searches. Cart 0. Item s Added To cart Qty. If you are a new user Register login. Help Center. Exchange offer not applicable. New product price is lower than exchange product price. Exchange offer is not applicable with this product. Exchange Offer cannot be clubbed with Bajaj Finserv for this product. Please apply exchange offer again. Your item has been added to Shortlist. View All. Return form will be sent to your email Id:.

Academic Texts. Communication Books. Compare Products. You have reached the maximum number of selection. You can select only upto 4 items to compare. View Order. Hover to zoom. In the light of this practical experience, the history of language testing and assessment, with particular reference to the case of English over recent decades, will be explored. A weekly lecture will provide an overview and a guide to the research and literature on for each topic.

The weekly seminar will include a mix of practical tasks on tests and policy documents which reference tests normally in the early weeks of the module and student presentations normally in the later weeks of the module. Extra, G. Spotti, P. Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

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