Claims, evidence, and inference in performance assessment

Authored by: Steven J. Ross

The Routledge Handbook of Language Testing

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415570633
eBook ISBN: 9780203181287
Adobe ISBN: 9781136590863


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The assessment of performance in understanding and using a second language potentially spans an extraordinary range of domains, tasks, testing techniques, scoring procedures, and score interpretations. The notion of “performance” is usually associated with overt simulation of real-world language use, but it also extends to both recognition of well-formed utterances and sentences, as evidenced in assessment methods such as grammaticality judgments, picture identification, and the ubiquitous multiple-choice item. Performance on these types of instruments is primarily passive and indirect, tapping into learners’ declarative knowledge about a second language. Test takers need only indicate their capacity to identify what is well-formed in the target language. Indirect methods of assessing language proficiency have for many decades been found wanting in terms of content, construct, and predictive validity, but have survived primarily because of their relative cost-effectiveness and familiarity.

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