Test Fairness in Second Language Assessment

Banerjee, Heidi Liu

Fairness, an essential quality of a test, has been broadly defined as equitable treatment of all test-takers during the testing process, absence of measurement bias, equitable access to the constructs being measured, and justifiable validity of test score interpretation for the intended purpose(s) (AREA, APA, & NCME, 2014). Given that test fairness is closely related to the interpretations and uses of test scores as well as the claims made from those interpretations and uses, it is critical to obtain and weigh validity evidence to support or refute the score interpretations, their uses, and the potential socio-political consequences in order to evaluate fairness (Chalhoub-Deville, 2015; Haertel & Herman, 2005; McNamara & Roever, 2006). The purpose of this article is to describe how test fairness has been conceptualized in second language assessment through the lens of validity theories. First, I will describe construct- and interpretive-argument-based validity theories and how they accommodate the integration of test fairness. Then, following Xi (2010), three major approaches to conceptualizing test fairness in relation to validity will be discussed. As observed by Xi (2010), all three major approaches share a common caveat in that they do not provide concrete steps to prioritize evidence in fairness investigations. In an attempt to build a more comprehensive fairness argument that allows for systematic investigation of test fairness, Xi (2010) proposes a new approach to conceptualizing fairness within a validity framework. Her contribution to the understanding of fairness issues in language testing will be presented as part of the conclusion of this article.


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