Writing English Language Tests (Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers)

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So teachers need to make sure that students take ownership of their learning. But students also need to accept this responsibility and take control of this process. The best way to empower students is to share all the information about assessments with them, including what, how and when they are going to be assessed, how the assessment is going to be used and interpreted, and what decisions are going to be made based on the test.

Series: Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers

Also, we need to educate students on using self-assessment and peer-assessment as a way to monitor their learning process. Language teachers should also be concerned with issues of ethics Davies, Ethical issues deal with how tests are used and how tests results are interpreted. Language tests generally used ethically questionable and unstated political purposes that are often quite distinct from their stated purposes Shohamy, For example, tests are sometimes used as gatekeepers or instruments to exercise power and control Spolsky, In the last two decades or so there has been a rise in ethical awareness in language testing.


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This has resulted in an increased interest in considering all the participants in the testing process. McNamara explains that the purpose of ethical language testing is to examine the role of language testers, the power they hold, the principles and structures in the use of that power, and the limits of that power.

In a way, ethical language testing puts the burden of responsibility onto the tester Hamp- Lyons, Language teachers should set themselves high standards when they assess their students and take every step to ensure that these standards are upheld. This definition is similar to Stansfield's suggestion that language testers need to define ethics as a standard of appropriate professional practice and as a set of moral obligations.

Similarly, Davies calls for a professional morality among language testers i. English language teachers to protect both the individuals from misuse and abuse of tests and to protect the profession's members. Corson argues that ethical principles for testing should be concerned with three important issues: That everyone is treated equally; that everyone is respected; and that everyone benefits from the test. The last principle states that "language testers shall regularly consider the potential effects, both short and long-term, on all stakeholders of their projects, reserving the right to withhold their professional services on the grounds of conscience" p.


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But Davies argues that language testing professionals "have a hard task to influence other stakeholders, particularly the contracting stakeholders since the only real influences on them are their own prejudices and personal experiences" p. Language testers should, to some extent, be at least accountable for ensuring that the information they gather is used for ethical purposes. For instance, when people use language tests to exercise control rather than to provide information about the language learning process, they are being unethical Shohamy, Moreover, Shohamy claims that language tests which contain content or employ methods which are not fair to all test-takers are not ethical, and discusses ways of reducing various sources of unfairness.

She also claims that tests should be used to provide information on proficiency levels and not to exercise control and manipulate stakeholders. It is crucial that we examine ethical issues in the assessment of English language learners in Colombia. We need to examine the ways assessment instruments are used and the consequences that are brought about with such uses. In this study, we presented information about teachers' perspectives on language assessment.

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We found that there seems to be a correlation between language assessment training and perceptions about language assessment. We believe that proper education and training of teachers will help change teachers' perceptions about language assessment. If teachers have a positive view of assessment, they will be able to select or design appropriate assessment procedures for their context and students that will allow the assessments to provide useful information.

We also presented information about how teachers use language assessment in the classroom. We found that there is a tendency to use traditional assessment instead of alternative assessment. Moreover, we found that the majority of the feedback provided is in the form of a grade and is usually done at the end of the process. So from the finding in this study, we can argue that classroom assessment in English teaching in Colombia tends to be more summative than formative.

Language Assessment: Designing a Language Test

The findings of this study imply that teachers need to be familiar with different types of language assessments and the type of information they provide Hughes, Another concern is for teachers to use assessment procedures that are both valid and reliable. By valid, we mean assessment procedures that provide accurate information about what is being measured.

So a test is valid if the inferences we make based on test scores are appropriate Messick, Since we assess students for many different purposes, we need to examine whether or not the assessment instruments and procedures that are commonly used are valid and used appropriately. Davies claims that in order for a test to be fair, it needs to involve all stakeholders in the assessment process. It is crucial for test makers to interact with other groups of stakeholders so they can better understand the assessment culture and context in which a test functions.

We also need to conduct studies analyzing the real purposes of tests and compare them to the actual purposes they are used for. There is also a need for more studies examining the impact tests have on language learning and on language learners. We believe that the outcomes of research studies, such as the one we present here, may stimulate administrators, pre-service and in-service teachers, and the educational community as a whole, to update their professional development and improve their assessment practices to enhance the quality of language education and students' motivation for learning.

For now, it is important to remember that assessment is not simply measuring or assigning grades. We feel that it is more motivating and less threatening for language teachers to begin talking about assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. We also think more research is needed on how tests are developed and how all the stakeholders are involved in this process, especially when this research takes into consideration the uniqueness of the Colombian context. Finally, we want to raise the issue of professionalization of the field of language assessment in Colombia. This implies that both teachers and prospective teachers need more training in language assessment.

We feel that the responsibility to train language teachers in how to develop, use, score and interpret language assessments lies in higher education institutions that have education programs for teachers, in the institutions that have language programs and in the language teachers themselves. It is imperative that all prospective teachers take at least a course in language testing before they start teaching, and should strive to better themselves through in-service training, conferences, workshops and so forth to create a language assessment culture for improvement in language education.

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Writing English Language Tests by J.B. Heaton

Language Testing, 15 , Teachers' conception of assessment. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.

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The alternatives in language assessment. Exploring possibilities for alternative assessment in foreign language learning. The calla handbook: Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Critical realism: An emancipatory philosophy for applied linguistics? Applied Linguistics, 18 2 , Performance-based assessment and educational equity.

Harvard Educational Review, 64 1 , Language testing standards. Corson Eds. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Writing English Language Tests (Longman handbooks for language teachers)

Demands of being professional in language testing. Language Testing, 14 3 , Dictionary of language testing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Qualitative data analysis. London: Routledge. Analysis of assessment instruments used in foreign language teaching. Approaches to alternative assessment.


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Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 15 , Washback, impact and validity: Ethical concerns. Social, professional and individual responsibility in language testing.

System , 28 , The political dimension of English language testing in Australia.

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