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ERIC Number: EJ876746
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 5
ISSN: ISSN-1543-4303
The Identity of Language Testing
Davidson, Fred
Language Assessment Quarterly, v1 n1 p85-88 2004
Two early publications are often cited as the genesis of the language testing field: (1) Lado's (1961) book on language testing; and (2) Carroll's (1961) fundamental considerations paper. The former is the first textbook on assessing foreign language ability. The latter is the first true statement of theory. The former is the first publication to give the calling a name; the book is entitled, simply, "Language Testing." The latter coined terminology still in use today, particularly the distinction between discrete and integrative tests. Both were honored 25 years later at a specially convened conference, attended by both authors. These two early publications indicate that language testers have two main charges: (1) to build good tests; and (2) to worry about what those tests measure--language ability. Lado helped language testers to craft test tasks, and in so doing, he got them to think about the nature of language. Carroll outlined classical concerns in language testing--such as the discrete-integrative distinction and the paramount need to assess the four skills--and in that outline, he gave language testers the genesis of their construct. Language testers seem to be dualists. They are a profession of the "how"--of method, and they are a profession of the "what"--of construct. This author believes there is third force at play in the identity of language testing. This force may undermine the uniqueness of the field, for it often decides for language testers the particular balance between the how and the what. This third force is educational and psychological measurement, and in particular, it is the embedded normative quality of large-scale tests. Human beings want stasis, which the author defines as the general hope in social decision systems to keep on running the way that they always do. They want their language programs to admit about the same number of students each year, of the same levels, with about the same needs. If they can get this sameness--this stasis--they can staff and equip their instructional system with confidence. They do not have to lay people off, and they do not have to scramble to find new classrooms. Stasis is a comfortable blanket: warm, reassuring, and familiar. Stasis is part of people's identity, and that bothers the author. He fears that drastic measures would result in worse chaos. The author calls on language testers to seek their true identity: to better understand and better measure language ability. (Contains 4 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A