Commentaries on Validity Issues in Foreign and Second Language Assessment

Tsutagawa, Fred Seizo; Seong, Yuna P.

In empirical applied linguistics research, the primary goal and concern is to operationalize key variables (i.e., measured constructs) in a valid and reliable way, generate scores for the measured variables through quantitative and/or qualitative means (e.g., various kinds of pre- or posttests, surveys, or coded observations), treat those scores appropriately, and allow for proper hypothesis testing of the research questions under investigation (Purpura, Brown, & Schoonen, 2015, p. 37). If the consequences of the research are “low stakes” in that the participants in the study are generally not directly impacted by the results (i.e., decisions are not made on the results to either advance or demote them in some way), the research can be published, our knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon in question deepened, and the story can essentially end there. But if there are important “high stakes” decisions to be made about the participants based on the results, decisions that can potentially impact their lives directly, it becomes imperative that our procedures and theoretical constructs have been thoroughly examined and are valid. That is why in the subfield of second and foreign language assessment, where high stakes decisions such as university admission or classification as an English language learner (ELL) in the U.S. K-12 public school system do take place based on the various test results, a higher standard needs to be adhered to in the development and implementation of the test instruments, potential interpretations of the results, and any possible subsequent uses of the results. Consequently, in second and foreign language testing, validation frameworks have been thoroughly developed and discussed to ensure that best measurement practices and high professional standards are followed (American Educational Research Association [AERA], American Psychological Association [APA], and the National Council on Measurement in Education [NCME], 1985, 2014), and that is why second/foreign language testers subject test scores to rigorous validity evaluation so that claims made about the measured constructs can be deemed meaningful and appropriate for their intended purpose(s), and their intended use and interpretation in decision making can also be justified (Purpura et al., 2015).


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Also Published In

Working Papers in Applied Linguistics & TESOL

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Published Here
January 26, 2018