Rethinking and shifting discourses and practice of “testing”: From accuracy to engagement with situated contexts

Co-authored book chapter published in the edited volume Pathways to paradigm change: Critical examinations of prevailing discourses and ideologies in second language education.

The chapter presents a reflective analysis of the discourse and practices regarding the written test in three coordinated introductory/intermediate language programs (French, German, and Spanish) at a large public university. Written tests that students complete in class are specifically targeted because this type of assessment tends to reflect traditional ideologies and practices, focused on measuring accuracy and declarative knowledge, at odds with calls for teaching (and assessing) language and culture as integrated and situated practices (Kramsch, 2014; MLA, 2007; National Standards, 2015). This chapter examines how the collective imagined conceptualizations of paper-based written tests affect discourse, design, and Graduate Teaching Assistants’ (GTAs) professional development. The analysis starts by considering the terminology used in each program, as it conveys specific ideologies about testing. To evaluate how successful the programs’ written tests are in reflecting the pedagogical approach, their role and position are examined, followed by a comparative analysis of three recent tests. The contribution then goes on to describe the current procedures for written test development and offers both a reflection of challenges encountered and possibilities for written tests in coordinated language programs going forward. The chapter concludes with general recommendations to engage into a rethinking and reframing of what testing language in the classroom means.

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