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TSL 3123

LANGUAGE
ASSESSMENT

TOPIC 3
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF
ASSSESSMENT

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
Define practicality, objectivity, washback effect,

authenticity and interpretability


Describe positive and negative effects or washback
of tests
Demonstrate an understanding of the features of
authentic test items and discuss its importance
Discuss how interpretability can be ensured in
language testing
(Main reference - Brown, H. Douglas, 2004.
Language Assessment: Principles and
classroom practices. )
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CHARACTERISTICS OF
A TEST
How do you know if the test is effective?

To answer this question, you need to identify five


criteria for testing a test
Practicality
Objectivity
Authenticity,
Washback

effect
Interpretability
To understand these principles lets read the
story on page 26.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF A TEST
Should be applied to assessments of all kinds in

general.
Questions to ponder:
Can it be given within appropriate administrative

constraints?
Is it dependable?
Does it accurately measure what you want it to
measure?
Is the language in the test representative of real-world
language use?
Does the test provide information that is useful for the
learner?

PRACTICALITY
When do you say that this test is practical? When
It

is not expensive (within budget)


The time is appropriate
It is easy to administer (clear directions)
The scoring and evaluation procedures are clear
and efficient.
Does not exceed available material resources
Applying the practicality principle read page 40

OBJECTIVITY
Refers to the degree to which equally competent

scorers obtain the same results.


Most standardised tests of aptitude and achievement
are high in objectivity.
The test items are objective type (e.g. MCQ), and the
resulting scores are not influenced by the scorers
judgement / opinion.
In fact, such tests are usually constructed so that they
can be accurately scored by trained clerks and scoring
machines.
Highly objective procedure are used the reliability of
the test results is not affected by the scoring
procedures.

OBJECTIVITY
For classroom assessments constructed by teachers or

performance-based assessments, objectivity plays an


important role in obtaining reliable measures of
achievement.
Teachers may not only use objective tests, but also
other methods of assessment that require judgemental
scoring.
Therefore, to ensure high objectivity:
Select assessment procedures most appropriate for the

learning goals being assessed.


Make the assessment procedure as objective as possible
e.g. carefully phrasing the questions and providing a
standard set of rules for scoring.

AUTHENTICITY
The degree of correspondence of the characteristics

of a given language test task to the features of a


target language task (Bachman & Palmer, 1996).
Lewkowicz (2000) discussed the difficulties of
operationalising authenticity in language
assessment:
Who can certify whether a task or language sample is

real-world or not?

Chun (2006) asserts that many test types fail to

simulate real-world tasks.

4- Authenticity

If you are claiming that your test is authentic then you are

saying that this task is likely to be enacted in the real


world *

A reading passage is selected from real world sources


that the students are likely encountered or will encounter.

Are the items contextualized rather than isolated?

the sequencing of items that show no relationship to one


another lacks authenticity

How can you determine somebody's language


performance in reality in the task does not correspond to
reality?

Authenticity matters mainly in productive, communicative


tasks.
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AUTHENTICITY
AN AUTHENTIC TEST
contains language that is as natural as possible.
has items that are contextualised rather than isolated.
includes meaningful, relevant, interesting topics.
provides some thematic organisation to items, such

as through a story line or episode.


offers tasks that replicate real-world tasks.
Applying the Authenticity principle
Read page 44 45

AUTHENTICITY
The authenticity of test tasks in recent years has

increased noticeably.
Many large-scale tests nowadays offer simulation of
real-world tasks in speaking and writing components, of
which the performance of these productive skills were
not included previously.
Reading passages are selected from real-world sources
that test-takers are likely to have encountered or will
encounter.
Listening comprehension sections feature natural
language with hesitations, white noise, and interruptions.
More tests offer items that are episodic in that they are
sequenced to form meaningful units, paragraphs, or
stories.

WASHBACK EFFECT
The effect of testing on teaching and learning e.g.

the extent to which assessment affects a students


future language development.
Messick (1996) reminded us that the washback
effect may refer to both the promotion and the
inhibition of learning (beneficial versus
harmful/negative) washback.

WASHBACK EFFECT
A TEST THAT PROVIDES BENEFICIAL WASHBACK
positively influences what and how teachers teach.
positively influences what and how learners learn.
offers learners a chance to adequately prepare.
gives learners feedback that enhances their language

development.
is more formative in nature than summative.
provides conditions for peak performance by the
learner.

WASHBACK EFFECT
In large-scale assessment, washback refers to the

effects that tests have on instruction in terms of how


students prepare for the test e.g., cram courses and
teaching to the test.
The current worldwide use of standardised tests for
gate-keeping purposes can lead students to focus on
gaining an acceptable score rather than on language
development.
Positively, many enrollees in test-preparation courses
report increased competence in certain languagerelated tasks (Chapelle, Enright, & Jamieson, 2008).

WASHBACK EFFECT
In classroom-based assessment, washback can

have a number of positive manifestations, ranging


from the benefit of preparing and reviewing for a test
to the learning that accrues from feedback on ones
performance.
Teachers can provide information to students on
useful diagnoses of strengths and weaknesses.

WASHBACK EFFECT
Washback also includes the effects of an assessment on

teaching and learning prior to the assessment itself, i.e., on


preparation for the assessment.
The challenge to teachers is to create classroom tests that
serve as learning devices through which washback is
achieved.
Washback enhances a number of basic principles of
language acquisition: intrinsic motivation, autonomy, selfconfidence, language ego, interlanguage, and strategic
investment.
To imply that students have ready access to you to discuss
the feedback and evaluation you have given.

WASHBACK EFFECT
Ways to enhance washback:
To comment generously and specifically on test

performance.
Through a specification of the numerical scores on the
various subsections of the test.
Formative versus summative tests:
Formative tests provide washback in the form of information
to the learner on progress towards goals.
Summative tests provide washback for learners to initiate
further pursuits, more learning, more goals, and more
challenges to face.

INTERPRETABILITY
The concept of interpretability appears in the

literature with different names: interpretability,


comprehensibility, intelligibility, transparency, etc.
Interpretability concerns the meaningfulness of
scores produced by an instrument.
how interpretable are the scores of the instrument?
The interpretability of a test's scores flows
directly from the quality of its items and
exercises.
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INTERPRETABILITY
Interpretability consideration is especially important

when persons other than the designers of the test


are to interpret the results. In order to be
interpretable, the measuring instrument must be
supplemented by the following:
detailed instructions for administering the test,
scoring keys,
evidence about the reliability, and
guides for using the test and interpreting results.
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Samples of English Tests to


Evaluate using the five
principles
of language testing
http://www.nysedregents.org/Grade3/EnglishLangu

ageArts/samplelisteningselection.pdf
http://www.henry.k12.ga.us/wle/home/crct/first%
20grade/English%20test2.pdf
http://www.henry.k12.ga.us/wle/home/crct/first
%20grade/Grammar%20and%20Mechanics
%20Test.pdf

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TUTORIAL
Pairwork:
Study some commercially produced tests and
evaluate the authenticity of these tests/ test items
Discuss the importance of authenticity in testing.

ISL
Look up materials on commercially produced
tests.
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References
Brown, H. Douglas, 2004. Language Assessment: Principles

and classroom practices. Pearson Education, Inc.


Chitravelu, Nesamalar, 2005. ELT Methodology: Principles
and Practice. Penerbit Fajar Bakti, Sdn, Bhd.

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