The Art of Teaching Spanish: Second Language Acquisition from Research to Praxis

By Rafael Salaberry; Barbara A. Lafford | Go to book overview

8
Testing Spanish
Rafael Salaberry    University of Texas-AustinAndrew D. Cohen    University of MinnesotaOne of our major goals is to consider the design and administration of Spanish tests for students at U.S. universities in light of the social implications attached to any specific testing (and teaching) framework. A second goal is to substantiate the need for test administrators to engage in the type of reflective practice (Schön 1983) that will lead them to adapt and modify as needed currently available tests to make them more appropriate to accomplish their specific teaching/learning objectives. Currently, numerous methods are being used for assessing language in Spanish courses, including
traditional fill-in-the-blank grammar tests;
nth word or rational-deletion cloze tasks;
multiple-choice and open-ended reading comprehension questions on a seen or unseen text;
listening comprehension checklists of various kinds;
structured and open writing tasks, usually in response to a prompt;
structured or improvised oral interviews.

All of the above testing activities, as well as others, are regularly used in Spanish courses taught in most universities in the United States. The fact that these methods of assessment are used rather routinely, however, does not necessarily mean that they are reliable (i.e., that their use would produce the same results each time) or valid (i.e., measuring what they purport to measure). In fact, it may be a challenge to obtain an accurate measure of language ability in the classroom. Yet the construction of reliable and valid assessment measures can have crucial relevance in supporting learners in their efforts to develop Spanish language skills. Hence, it behooves language teachers to enhance their knowledge of what assessing Spanish language ability can entail and to update their knowledge of ways to assess this ability.


1.0 Methods to Assess Classroom Learning

In this section we will briefly describe some selected theoretical aspects of language testing in classrooms, concentrating on the qualities of a test and the models of language competence that inform the field of language testing.


1.1 Assessing the Usefulness and Relevance of a Test

Just as assessment may benefit from the use of multiple measures of language proficiency like the ones described in the previous section, so the worth of any assessment

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