Methods of Assessment

answer - 22. What are the problems of assessing communication in a L2?

It is neither possible nor desirable to separate speaking skills from listening skills in many tests of oral production. They are interdependent skills.

The above situation increases the difficulty to analyse precisely what is being tested at any one time. Without tape-recording (to check back) the language is transient. The examiner is making subjective judgements quickly under great pressure.

Limited time. It is often impossible to administer this kind of oral test with large numbers of students.

The nature of language: interaction based - even letter-writing is affected by interaction factors in a real situation.

Unpredictability (Processing of unpredictable data in real time = vital aspect of using language); Context - of situation: physical environment, role/status, formality

Purpose (every utterance is made for a purpose); Performance (successive approximation); Authenticity (Candidate's ability to come to terms with the unknown i.e. the unsimplified authentic text.) Watered down items don't measure communicative ability.

Behaviour-based (behavioural outcomes: primacy of content over form in language. A test of communicative ability will have to be criterion referenced against the operational performance of a set of authentic language tasks.)

Performance Tests: Global Task + Enabling Skills, but what if a candidate can handle all the enabling skills individually but cannot mobilize them in a use situation e.g. driving a car. Need for performance tests.

Summary of problems & book recommendations

  1. Which performance operations; level of proficiency anticipated; enabling skills involved in performing tested individually or together; specifying content; format.
  2. How do we avoid hopelessly subjective measures of production and how do we set receptive tasks appropriate for different levels of language proficiency?

Note: B.J. Carroll's 1977 specification:

PROBLEM AREAS/SOLUTIONS : The test-curriculum relationship (A purposive test framework: Van Ek/Munby); the test content and procedures; levels of performance; methods of data analysis