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Language Assessment Principles and Classroom Practices

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2018-07-16
  • Publisher: Pearson Education ESL

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Supplemental Materials

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Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices is designed to offer a comprehensive survey of essential principles and tools for second language assessment. Its first and second editions have been successfully used in teacher-training courses, teacher certification curricula, and TESOL master of arts programs. As the third in a trilogy of teacher education textbooks, it is designed to follow H. Douglas Brown’s other two books, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (sixth edition, Pearson Education, 2014) and Teaching by Principles(fourth edition, Pearson Education, 2015). References to those two books are made throughout the current book.


Language Assessment features uncomplicated prose and a systematic, spiraling organization. Concepts are introduced with practical examples, understandable explanations, and succinct references to supportive research. The research literature on language assessment can be quite complex and assume that readers have technical knowledge and experience in testing. By the end of  Language Assessment, however, readers will have gained access to this not-so-frightening field. They will have a working knowledge of a number of useful, fundamental principles of assessment and will have applied those principles to practical classroom contexts. They will also have acquired a storehouse of useful tools for evaluating and designing practical, effective assessment techniques for their classrooms.

Author Biography

Dr. H. Douglas Brown, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University, has written books and articles on second language acquisition, language pedagogy, and language assessment. A past TESOL president and recipient of TESOL’s Alatis Award for Distinguished Service, Dr. Brown has spoken to language teacher audiences around the world.

Dr. Priyanvada Abeywickrama, an associate professor in the MA-TESOL program at San Francisco State University, has trained teachers in Sri Lanka and the United States. She specializes in language assessment and is a frequent presenter at TESOL, AAAL, and the Language Testing Research

Table of Contents

Preface                                                                                                                                                Text Credits                                                                                                                                         Chapter 1         Assessment Concepts and Issues                                                                          Assessment and Testing

Measurement and Evaluation

Assessment and Learning

Informal and Formal Assessment

Formative and Summative Assessment

Norm-Referenced and Criterion-Referenced Tests

Types and Purposes of Assessment

Achievement Tests

Diagnostic Tests

Placement Tests

Proficiency Tests

Aptitude Tests

Issues in Language Assessment: Then and Now

Behavioral Influences on Language Testing

Integrative Approaches

Communicative Language Testing

Traditional and Alternative Assessment

Performance-Based Assessment

Current “Hot Topics” in Language Assessment

Dynamic Assessment

Assessing Pragmatics

Use of Technology in Testing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 2         Principles of Language Assessment                                                                                                           



Student-Related Reliability

Rater Reliability

Test Administration Reliability

Test Reliability


Content-Related Evidence

Criterion-Related Evidence

Construct-Related Evidence

Consequential Validity (Impact)

Face Validity



Applying Principles to Classroom Testing

Are the Test Procedures Practical?

Is the Test Itself Reliable?

Can You Ensure Rater Reliability?

Does the Procedure Demonstrate Content Validity?

Has the Impact of the Test Been Carefully Accounted for?

Are the Test Tasks as Authentic as Possible?

Does the Test Offer Beneficial Washback to the Learner?

Maximizing Both Practicality and Washback


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 3         Designing Classroom Language Tests                                                                                                      


Four Assessment Scenarios

Scenario 1: Reading Quiz

Scenario 2: Grammar Unit Test

Scenario 3: Midterm Essay

Scenario 4: Listening/Speaking Final Exam

Determining the Purpose of a Test

                                Test Usefulness

                                Reading Quiz

Defining Abilities to be Assessed

                                Grammar Unit Test

Drawing up Test Specifications

                                Grammar Unit Test

                                Midterm Essay

Devising Test Items

                                Midterm Essay

                                Listening/Speaking Final Exam

Designing Multiple-Choice Items

Design Each Item to Measure a Single Objective

State Both Stem and Options as Simply and Directly as Possible

Make Certain That the Intended Answer Is Clearly Only the Correct One

Use Item Indices to Accept, Discard, or Revise Items (Optional)

Listening/Speaking Final Exam

Administering the Test

Scoring, Grading, and Giving Feedback



Grading Giving Feedback

Exercises For Your Further Reading

Chapter 4         Standards-Based Assessment                                                                                                                       


The Role of Standards in Standardized Tests Standards-Based Education

Designing English Language Standards

Standards-Based Assessment


Teacher Standards

Consequences of Standards-Based Assessment and Standardized Testing

Test Bias

Test-Driven Learning and Teaching

Ethical Issues: Critical Language Testing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 5         Standardized Testing                                                                                                                                  


Advantages and Disadvantages of Standardized Tests

Developing a Standardized Test

Step 1: Determine the Purpose and Objectives of the Test

Step 2: Design Test Specifications

Step 3: Design, Select, and Arrange Test Tasks/Items

Step 4: Make Appropriate Evaluations of Different Kinds of Items

Step 5: Specify Scoring Procedures and Reporting Formats

Step 6: Perform Ongoing Construct Validation Studies

Standardized Language Proficiency Testing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 6         Assessing Listening                                                                                                                                      


Cautionary Observations on Assessing Language Skills Separately

Integration of Skills in Language Assessment

Assessing Grammar and Vocabulary

Observing the Performance of the Four Skills

Basic Types of Listening

Micro- and Macroskills of Listening

Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive Listening

Recognizing Phonological and Morphological Elements

Paraphrase Recognition

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive Listening

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selective Listening

Listening Cloze

Information Transfer

Sentence Repetition

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extensive Listening


Communicative Stimulus-Response Tasks

Authentic Listening Tasks


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 7         Assessing Speaking                                                                                                                                       


Basic Types of Speaking





                                Extensive (Monologue)

Microskills and Macroskills of Speaking

Designing Assessment Tasks: Imitative Speaking


Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive Speaking

Directed Response Tasks

Read-Aloud Tasks

Sentence/Dialogue Completion Tasks and Oral Questionnaires

Picture-Cued Tasks

Translation (of Limited Stretches of Discourse)

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive Speaking

Question and Answer

Giving Instructions and Directions


Designing Assessment Tasks: Interactive Speaking


Role Play

Discussions and Conversations


ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview

Designing Assessments: Extensive Speaking

Oral Presentations

Picture-Cued Storytelling

Retelling a Story, News Event

Translation (of Extended Prose)


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 8         Assessing Reading                                                                                                                                        


Genres of Reading

Microskills, Macroskills, and Strategies for Reading

Types of Reading





Designing Assessment Tasks: Perceptive Reading

Reading Aloud

Written Response Multiple-Choice Picture-Cued Items

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selective Reading

Multiple-Choice (for Form-Focused Criteria) Matching Tasks

Editing Tasks

Picture-Cued Tasks

Gap-Filling Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Interactive Reading

Cloze Tasks

Impromptu Reading Plus Comprehension Questions

Short-Answer Tasks

Editing (Longer Texts)



Information Transfer: Reading Charts, Maps, Graphs, Diagrams

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extensive Reading

Skimming Tasks

Summarizing and Responding

Notetaking and Outlining


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 9         Assessing Writing                                                                                                                                         


Genres of Written Language

Types of Writing Performance

Micro- and Macroskills of Writing

Designing Assessment Tasks: Imitative Writing

Tasks in (Hand-)Writing Letters, Words, and Punctuation

Spelling Tasks and Detecting Phoneme—Grapheme Correspondences

Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive (Controlled) Writing

Dictation and Dicto-Comp

Grammatical Transformation Tasks

Picture-Cued Tasks

Vocabulary Assessment Tasks

Ordering Tasks

Short-Answer and Sentence-Completion Tasks

Issues in Assessing Responsive and Extensive Writing

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive and Extensive Writing


Guided Question and Answer

Paragraph Construction Tasks

Strategic Options

Standardized Tests of Responsive Writing

Scoring Methods for Responsive and Extensive Writing

Holistic Scoring

Analytic Scoring Primary Trait Scoring

Beyond Scoring: Responding to Extensive Writing

Assessing Initial Stages of the Process of Composing

Assessing Later Stages of the Process of Composing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 10      Assessing Grammar and Vocabulary                                                                                                     

Understanding Form-Focused Assessment

Assessing Grammar

Defining Grammatical Knowledge

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selected Response

Designing Assessment Tasks: Limited Production

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extended Production

Assessing Vocabulary

The Nature of Vocabulary

Defining Lexical Knowledge

Some Considerations in Designing Assessment Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Receptive Vocabulary

Designing Assessment Tasks: Productive Vocabulary


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 11      Grading and Student Evaluation                                                                                                             


The Philosophy of Grading: What Should Grades Reflect?

Guidelines for Selecting Grading Criteria

Calculating Grades: Absolute and Relative Grading

Teachers’ Perceptions of Appropriate Grade Distributions

Institutional Expectations and Constraints

Cultural Norms and the Question of Difficulty

What Do Letter Grades “Mean”?

Scoring and Grading Tests and Assignments

Scoring Methods

Scoring Open-Ended Responses

Developing a Rubric

Guidelines for Grading and Evaluation


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 12      Beyond Letter Grading


Self- and Peer Assessment

                                Advantages of Self- and Peer Assessment

                                Types of Self- and Peer Assessment

                                Guidelines for Self- and Peer Assessment

                                A Taxonomy of Self- and Peer Assessment Tasks

Portfolios 130

                                Clear Purpose

                                Specific Guidelines

                                Transparent Assessment Criteria

                                Designated Time Allocated

                                Scheduled Review and Conferencing

                                Designated Location

                                Positive Final Assessments

Narrative Evaluations

Checklist Evaluations


For Your Further Reading


Appendix: Commercially Produced Tests of English as a Second/Foreign Language                                         



Name Index                                                                                                                                                                                

Subject Index 

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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