Sunday, April 5, 2015

Summary of Assessing Language through Computer Technology

Chapelle, Carol A. (2006). Assessing Language through Computer Technology (Cambridge Language Assessment). Cambridge University Press.

No offense to the authors, but if you need something to help you get to sleep at night, read this book!  The contents were quite dry with a focus on the research of computer-assisted language testing (CALT), which is scant (or at least was at the time this book was published, 2006). 

Regardless, the book provides an overview of some of the pressing topics and issues in CALT, with a call for more research.  Here are the main takeaways:

Chapter 1:  The Technology Thread

High-stakes computer based language tests (not typically used in the US, expect perhaps for TOEFL?) may disadvantage learners; however, the benefits of computer-based placement and diagnostic assessments are the opportunity for response analysis, feedback, and recordkeeping, all of which are not as feasible with traditional paper and pencil assessments

Evaluative tools for computer-based tests (not language testing specific) may not apply spoken language (i.e., listening and speaking assessments)

With computer-based tests, new methods:
  • Computer-adaptive tests
  • Inclusion of multimedia (linguistic and visual input)
    • Situational authenticity: features of context (setting, participants, content, tone, genre) – example – video of a college lecture = academic context
    • Interactional authenticity: interaction between test taker’s language knowledge and communicative task
  • Automatic response analysis
Tests in which examinee produces language – increases interactional authenticity – rather than just select responses – greater measure of use of strategic competence

Some issues: clarifying test constructs (e.g., in-test tools also “test” examinee’s strategic use of these options); scoring (test developer needs to make precise decisions about correctness of the many potential answers that are to be provided – like a scoring rubric for each question – when the computer scores the test items)

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