Valid Testing, Effective Teaching, and Valid Test Use

[Author(s)]:Yang Huizhong 

  Journal: Journal of Foreign Languages, 2015, Issue 1

  Author: Yang Huizhong

  Institutions: ShangHai Jiao Tong University

  Abstract: China is not only the country where examination as an institution originated, but also a big testing power where numerous testing programmes, national and local, are in active practice, involving millions of students testees every year. These are truly large scale high-stakes tests, because the future of many young people is dependent on the test results.

  There is, however, a dissatisfaction with the present status of testing practice,which results in a lot of discussions in the literature about the washback effects and also the social impact of testing. It is noticed that there is a tendency of over-generalization in the discussions. In fact,the role that testing can play in education is limited. Educational tests do not take place in the testing tubes, rather, they take place within certain social contexts. A testing programme will have its social impact only when the test results are put to use, and test use is by nature a decision-making of the social dimension, not a pure academic activity and is often beyond the control of the language tester. Therefore, it is imperative to take a systems approach to the relationship among testing, teaching, and test use. In fact there are good tests and bad tests, just as there is good teaching and bad teaching, and also proper use and misuse of test results. A number of issues are mixed up here: academic issues as well as social ones, testing as well as teaching issues, issues concerning the content of tests as well as the form of tests, etc. These need to be clarified one by one before a solution could be found.

  Testing, teaching and test use form an integrated system. They are different, though closely related, processes. People ( test stakeholders ) involved need to coordinate and each do their best to ensure the validity of testing, effectiveness of teaching and the validity of test use, before the best system effects can be achieved.

  Key Words: language testing; effective teaching; validity; washback; impact; sociology of language testing