Dealing with the Demands of Language Testing and Assessment

Fulcher, Norman Glenn and Owen, Nathaniel (2016). Dealing with the Demands of Language Testing and Assessment. In: Hall, Graham ed. The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching. Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 109–120.



A remarkable amount of teacher time is devoted to assessment and testing. Assessment is the broader term, encompassing any activity in which data is collected from learners from which we make judgments about their proficiency or progress. It includes, for example, informal classroom quizzes, and peer- and self-assessment, and is free from the restrictions imposed by formal testing (Fulcher, 2010: 67-92). Testing is the more specific term that refers to formal or standardized testing for the purposes of certification or decision-making. Tests are usually constructed and provided by examination agencies with the authority to issue certificates that are recognised for purposes such as entry to higher education, or employment. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce teachers and students of applied linguistics to the key concepts and terminology needed to understand the role of standardized language testing and of assessment in the language classroom, and to utilise the testing and assessment literature. We discuss assessment for learning, i.e. how teachers can embed assessment into classroom activities to enhance learning opportunities. We consider the politics of externally mandated testing, and the role of teachers in preparing learners to take examinations. This is a highly controversial area, and so we make recommendations for best practice based upon the concept of ‘reverse engineering’. The chapter concludes with a discussion of assessment literacy for language teachers.

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