What Does Language Testing Have to Offer?

This is a summary of a research paper done by Lyle F. Bachman (UCLA) under the name of What Does Language Testing Have to Offer?. It was published in TESOL Quarterly in 1991. The paper tackles aspects of testing language, such as, authenticity and language ability and the relationship between language ability and metacognitive strategies.

 

This research consists of two parts. The first part is Language Testing in the 1990s. Bachman illustrates briefly the history of language testing during the 90s and demonstrates a couple of theories and issues. In part two; An Interactional Approach to Language Test development, she says that there are two main categories for the purposes of Language testing; Results that can help us infer students language ability and Decisions made to place, employ or certify test takers (Gatekeepers). For example, when we want to measure a test taker’s ability according to a curriculum, we have to make sure that the curriculum is represented in the test tasks. Moreover, when we want to employ someone according to a test’s score, we have to make sure that their test includes some job-related tasks. In that way we can justify the use of the grades. 

 

Then she provides a framework for language ability, and tells us that linguists consider that language ability is of two aspects; Language Knowledge and Cognitive Process. First, Language Knowledge is of; Organizational knowledge that determines how tests are organized and Pragmatic Knowledge that determines how utterances and sentences, intentions and contexts are related to form meaning. The second aspect of language ability is Strategic Competence; and that is represented in a table of three sections: Assessment, Goal-setting and Planning. 

 

After that, Bachman mentions that there are some points in which to consider to characterise the testing Method. Importantly, to know that language users produce language performance better in context, let alone contextualized test tasks. It is important too for a teacher to realize that their students will perform better in tests and will obtain more authentic information if their tests were in context. 

 

Towards the end, Bachman provides three previous definitions of Authenticity of language tests. In short words, she explains how Authenticity means direct, and to some scholars it meant real-life situation, and lastly to others, it meant what once was called face validity. Then she defines Authenticity according to her opinion and that it consists of; Situational Authenticity and International Authenticity and then provides some steps in how to increase international authenticity in language tests.

 

Dina Sofi

 

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