Given the potentially high validity of performance tests and the potential for dealing with several of the factors in testing associated with test bias, there is good reason to consider performance assessment as an effective tool in gathering effective information, in reducing the adverse impact of testing, and developing defensible information for any educational program.
If the reader is interested in reviewing some of the instruments developed for the assessment of oral communication skills, the sources listed in the reference section may be of use. (Further information can be found by contacting the Speech Communication Association.)
Assessing oral communication skills is not an easy task. If a department is attempting to assess the learning of its students as a means to gather information about the quality of the program, the problems compound. However, it clearly is possible to develop an assessment program that gathers useful, valid, reliable, and unbiased information. If the reader is already engaged in such a program or is contemplating starting one, here are some key points to keep in mind.
First, be very clear about the skills, objectives, or both that the assessment program will tap. The clearer skills and objectives are, the easier it becomes to select or develop appropriate methods. Second, evaluate possible instruments against clear criteria. This will help ensure that the instrument or procedure selected is the most effective. Third, do what is possible to ensure an optimum level of validity, reliability, and lack of bias. Fourth, plan the assessment procedure carefully so that the process itself does not interfere with its own effectiveness. With effective planning, it is possible to establish and maintain a useful and productive program to assess communication knowledge and skills.
The discipline of speech communication has made great strides in the development of assessment programs, but progress still needs to be made. However, the lessons learned thus far may be helpful to individuals who are working to establish new assessment programs.
Backlund, E ( 1981, November). The development of a speaking screening test for in-coming freshmen: Inter-rater reliability. Paper presented at the annual convention of the Speech Communication Association, Anaheim, CA.
Backlund, P., Gurry, J., Brown, K., & Jandt, F. ( 1982). "Recommendations for assessing speaking and listening skills". Communication Education. 31( 1), 9-18.
Brown, K., Backlund, P., Gurry, J., & Jandt, E ( 1979). Assessment of basic speaking and listening skills: State of the art and recommendations for instrument development. Boston: Bureau of Research and Assessment, Massachusetts Department of Education.