Washback in Language Testing: Research Contexts and Methods

Washback in Language Testing: Research Contexts and Methods

Washback in Language Testing: Research Contexts and Methods

Washback in Language Testing: Research Contexts and Methods

Synopsis

"Washback" refers to the influence of language testing on teaching and learning. This volume, at the important intersection of language testing and teaching practices, presents theoretical, methodological, and practical guidance for current and future washback studies. In the field of language testing, researchers' major interest has traditionally been focused on issues and solving problems inherent in tests in order to increase their reliability and validity. However, the washback effect goes well beyond the test itself to include factors, such as curriculum, teacher and learner behaviors inside and outside the classroom, their perceptions of the test, and how test scores are used. Only recently have researchers started to empirically investigate the phenomenon of washback. This volume of such research serves two essential purposes by: providing an overview of the complexity of washback and the various contextual factors entangled within testing, teaching, and learning; and presenting empirical studies from around the world that offer insights into the effects of washback in specific educational contexts and models of research on which future studies can be based. The extensive use of test scores for various educational and social purposes in society nowadays makes the washback effect a high-interest phenomenon in the day-to-day educational activities of teachers, researchers, program coordinators/directors, policymakers, and others in the field of education. Washback in Language Testing: Research Contexts and Methods is a valuable resource for those who are interested in the application of findings to actual teaching and learning situations or conduct washback research in their own contexts, including educational and psychological testing experts, as well as alternative assessment people in all fields, and for policy- and decision-makers in educational and testing organizations.

Excerpt

Washback and the impact of tests more generally has become a major area of study within educational research, and language testing in particular, as this volume testifies, and so I am particularly pleased to welcome this book, and to see the range of educational settings represented in it. Exactly ten years ago, Dianne Wall and I published an article in the journal Applied Linguistics which asked the admittedly somewhat rhetorical question: “Does Washback Exist?” In that article, we noted the widespread belief that tests have impact on teachers, classrooms, and students, we commented that such impact is usually perceived to be negative, and we lamented the absence of serious empirical research into a phenomenon that was so widely believed to exist. Hence, in part, our title: How do we know it exists if there is no research into washback? Ten years on, and a slow accumulation of empirical research later, I believe there is no longer any doubt that washback does indeed exist. But we now know that the phenomenon is a hugely complex matter, and very far from being a simple case of tests having negative impact on teaching. The question today is not “does washback exist?” but much rather what does washback look like? What brings washback about? Why does washback exist?

We now know, for instance, that tests will have more impact on the content of teaching and the materials that are used than they will on the teacher's methodology. We know that different teachers will teach to a particular test in very different ways. We know that some teachers will teach to very different tests in very similar ways. We know that high-stakes tests— . . .

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