Assessing learner knowledge

Authored by: John M. Norris , Lourdes Ortega

The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415479936
eBook ISBN: 9780203808184
Adobe ISBN: 9781136666896


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Second language acquisition (SLA) researchers are interested in understanding how learners acquire an additional language (henceforth L2) after they have acquired a first language (L1) or languages. The topics investigated vary widely and focus primarily on factors that are thought either to enable or inhibit the rate, route, and ultimate attainment of L2 acquisition. Particular questions posed in SLA are shaped by the theoretical lenses that a given researcher chooses to adopt, the increasing diversity of which is well-reflected in the chapters in this Handbook. Nevertheless, despite SLA’s theoretical breadth, most L2 research involves the assessment of learner knowledge. In this chapter, we examine key issues SLA researchers face in utilizing assessments of learner knowledge. By “assessment” we mean a systematic and replicable technique that allows researchers to elicit, observe, and interpret indicators of L2 knowledge (however defined), with underlying standards of practice that govern its development and use.

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