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Prepared by Joanna I. Omer Language Testing

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1 Prepared by Joanna I. Omer Language Testing

2 3- Language Testing History of language testing.
Testing, the definition. The purpose of language testing. The general and specific objectives of testing.

3 Please God may I not fail Please God may I get over eighty per cent Please God may I get a high place Please God may all those likely to beat me get killed in road accidents and may they die roaring. Irish novelist McGahern

4 . History of language testing
Spolsky (1978) classified the development of language testing into three periods, or trends: the prescientific period the psychometric/structuralist period the integrative/sociolinguistic period.

5 History of language testing
Prescientific period (b/f 1950s) (grammar translation method) GTM, reading-oriented methods Psychometric-structuralist period (1950s-1960s) structural linguistics, behavioral psychology, discrete point tests Integrative-sociolinguistic period (a/f 1960s) communicative language ability

6 The prescientific period
grammar-translation approaches to language teaching translation and free composition tests difficult to score objectively no statistical techniques applied to validate the tests simple, but unfair to students

7 The psychometric-structuralist period
audio-lingual and related teaching methods objectivity, reliability, and validity of tests considered measure discrete structure points multiple-choice format (standardized tests) follow scientific principles, have trained linguists and language testers

8 The integrative-sociolinguistic period
Chomsky’s (1965) distinction of competence and performance Competence: an ideal speaker-listener’s knowledge of the rules of the language; performance: the actual use of language in concrete situations Hymes’s (1972) proposal of communicative competence the ability of native speakers to use their language in ways that are not only linguistically accurate but also socially appropriate.

9 The integrative-sociolinguistic period
Canale & Swain’s (1980) framework of communicative competence: Grammatical competence, mastery of the language code such as morphology, lexis, syntax, semantics, phonology; Sociolinguistic competence, mastery of appropriate language use in different sociolinguistic contexts; Discourse competence, mastery of how to achieve coherence and cohesion in spoken and written communication Strategic competence, mastery of communication strategies used to compensate for breakdowns in communication and to enhance the effectiveness of communication.

10 The integrative-sociolinguistic period
Bachman’s (1990)’s framework of communicative language ability: Language competence: grammatical, sociolinguistic, and discourse competence (Canale & Swain): organizational competence grammatical competence textual competence pragmatic competence illocutionary competence sociolinguistic competence Strategic competence: performs assessment, planning, and execution functions in determining the most effective means of achieving a communicative goal Psycho-physiological mechanisms: characterize the channel (auditory, visual) and mode (receptive, productive)

11 The integrative-sociolinguistic period
Oller’s (1979) pragmatic proficiency test: Temporally and sequentially consistent with the real world occurrences of language forms Linking to a meaningful extralinguistic context familiar to the testees Clark’s (1978) direct assessment: approximating to the greatest extent the testing context to the real world Cloze test and dictation (Yang, 2002b) Communicative testing or to test communicatively

12 The integrative-sociolinguistic period
Performance tests (Brown, Hudson, Norris, & Bonk, 2002; Norris, 1998) Not discrete-point in nature Integrating two or more of the language skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and other aspects like cohesion and coherence, suprasegmentals, paralinguistics, kinesics, pragmatics, and culture Task-based: essays, interviews, extensive reading tasks

13 Language testing, a sub-field within applied linguistics, has  evolved and expanded in a number of ways in the past decades.

14 Definitions Language assessment or language testing is a field of study under the umbrella of applied linguistics. Its main focus is the assessment of first, second or other languages in the school, college, or university context (Madsen,1983) Thornbury 2006: testing is a form assessment. It can happen at any stage of the teaching/learning process. McNamara 2000: testing is a universal feature of social life. Richards 1992: testing is the use of tests (any procedure for meaning ability, knowledge, or performance), or the study of the theory and practice of their use, development, evaluation. In general, testing is finding out how well something works. In terms of human beings, testing tells what level of knowledge or skill has been acquired. 

15 Definitions Another definition of Language Testing is that …
Language testing: is a branch of applied linguistics. It is evident that the field is interdisciplinary. That is, it draws on a wide number of perspectives associated with different disciplines.(Educational Theories, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Educational Measurement, Educational Statistics, Computer Science, and etc.). In TEFL, this is a theoretical concept, concerned with testing theories, test construction principles and methods, test results analysis and interpretation, and etc.

16 Definitions So … Learners are often given placement tests in order to ascertain their level. They may also be given some kind of diagnostic test in order to identify their particular needs. In order to monitor the learning process, learners may then be given periodic tests during their course (progress tests), and at the end of the course (achievement tests). (these are called formative and summative tests, respectively) (Thornbury, 2006)

17 ability domain measure (Brown, 2004)
So What is a test? A test is a method of measuring a person’s ability or knowledge in a given domain (lg, maths, car driving, etc.). method ability domain measure (Brown, 2004)

18 What is a test? Measure – what? How? The person Performance Domain
General ability / specific knowledge Individual ability and performance % | AA | Pass/Fail – must have result The person Appropriate? Interpretation? Relevance? Performance Competence (actual use of language) Metalanguage (e.g. grammar); Skills (e.g. infer) Domain General competence (e.g. proficiency) Specific criteria (e.g. vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar)

19 Method A test is a method –i.e. it’s a set of techniques, procedures, and items which constitute an instrument of some sort that requires performance or activity on the part of the test-taker. The method can be intuitive or informal (e.g. a holistic impression on someone’s pronunciation), or formal, explicit and structured, as with m-c tests.

20 Measure (1) Some measurements are broad & inexact; others are quantified in mathematically precise terms. The difference bt formal & informal assessment is very much associated to the quantification of data. Thus, informal & intuitive judgement made by teachers as part of everyday teaching is difficult to quantify –i.e. judgements are rendered in global terms. So we say “poor reader”, “he pronounces well”, etc.

21 Measure (2) On the other hand, formal tests, in which carefully planned techniques of assessment are used, rely more on quantification, especially for comparison either within an individual (say, at beginning & end of course) or across individuals.

22 Ability A test measures ability or competence: it samples performance but infers certain competence. E.g.: A driving test requires a sample of performance on the part of the test-taker & that performance is used by tester(s) to infer the person’s general competence to drive a car. Similarly, A lg test samples lg behavior and infers general ability in a lg.

23 Domain A test measures a given domain. In the case of a proficiency test, although the actual performance involves only a sampling of skills, that domain is overall proficiency in a lg general proficiency in all skills of a lg.

24 A well-constructed test is….
What makes a good test? A well-constructed test is….

25 What makes a good test? “A well-constructed test is an instrument that provides an accurate measure of a test taker's ability within a particular domain.” (Brown, 2003)


27 Purposes of assessment (1)
Five main reasons to carry out assessment of student language learning. Assessment is done… for placement purposes –i.e. to know exactly in what lg program or course the student needs to register; for diagnostic purposes –i.e. to detect difficulties and modify lg teaching accordingly (formative);

28 Purposes of assessment (2)
to detect student progress or achievement in lg learning –i.e. whether student lg ability has improved by the middle or the end of the lg course than at the beginning (progress) or whether students have earned what they were supposed to learn in the lg course (achievement); to establish student level of lg proficiency –e.g. so as to be accepted in an English-speaking university; For accountability purposes.

29 The Purposes of Language Testing
The main purposes of language testing are those of selection, feedback, evaluation and research. Selection for more advanced courses and institutions; 2.Providing for feedback to the syllabus so that there is some of that external validity for language teaching which the writer suggested earlier exists in language testing but not in language teaching;

30 The Purposes of Language Testing
3. The evaluation of material and methods – an important but somehow under-used activity, perhaps because of the lack of agreement on how to begin judgment on materials or a project or methods since they are so often complete in themselves and can therefore be judged only in their own terms. 4. Experimentation, where it is normal for measurement to be made during the experiment, and for further testing of a more specific kind to be carried out after the experiment is over in order to determine how meaningful ‘significant’ the results are.

31 General Objectives of testing
tests serve two purposes: Educational and Research. Educational purposes Student’s progress Effectiveness of teaching Placement Research Serve research Is served by research Two Major Uses of Language Tests 1. education: as sources of information for making decisions within the context of educational programs. 2. research: as indicators of abilities or attributes that are of interest in research on language, language acquisition, language teaching.

32 The General Objectives of Language Testing
Tests are used; In teaching as a means to ensure effective teaching, to improve teaching quality, to obtain feedback on student learning progress, to validate teaching programs, and to select certain candidates for a job or for a place on a course. In learning, tests are used to measure students’ language ability, to discover how much they have been learning, to diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses, and to motivate students in learning.

33 The General Objectives of Language Testing
In research Language tests have a potentially important role in virtually all research, both basic and applied, that is related to the nature of language proficiency, language processing, language acquisition, language attrition, and language teaching.

34 The specific Objectives and Aims of Tests
Why tests? Diagnose students strengths and needs. Provide feedback on student learning. Provide a basis for instructional placement. Inform and guide instruction. Communicate learning expectations. Motivate and focus students’ attention and effort. Provide practice applying knowledge and skills.

35 References Bachman, Lyle F Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Shanghai: SFEP. Palmer, S. and Bachman, F Language Testing in Practice: Designing and Developing Useful Language Tests. Davies, A. (1990). Principles of Language Testing. Richards, C., Richards; Platt, J. and Platt, H. (1992). Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics. Madsen, S. Harold. (1983). Techniques in Testing.

36 References 6. Heaton, J. B. (1988). Writing English language tests. Longman. 7. Nakamura, Y., & Valens, M. (2001). Teaching and testing oral communication skills. Journal of Humanities and Natural Sciences. 8. Johnson, K. and Johnson, H. (1999). Encyclopedic Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. 9. Thornbury, S. (2006). An A – Z of ELT: A Dictionary of Terms and Concepts. 10. Mc Mamara, T. (2000). Language Testing.

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