* Article first published in FORTELL September 2011 issue.
Purpose and relevance of assessment
As we all know, tests have become an accepted component of formal instructional programmes throughout the world. They are considered valid, reliable indicators of students’ performance and potential and are being used increasingly to make decisions about the quality of a particular programme/course, admission to various courses and selection for jobs. Sometimes tests are justified on the basis of accountability: are students learning what they are supposed to be learning? This kind of evidence is required to make judgments about how to spend resources, whether to continue with a particular course/ textbook etc. Tests also provide an opportunity to give feedback to language students for future improvement.
Hence it is important to deliberate upon whether our language tests help us to draw inferences about the language abilities of our students that are reliable and a true indicator of their proficiency and consequently help us to make correct decisions based on those inferences? What does a particular score tell us about that student’s language ability or about classroom teaching? Do scores and grades shed light on the kind of errors our students make, provide reasons for those errors along with solutions? Do they help curriculum developers to revise textbooks or help teachers to modify their teaching practices?