Overview of the Volume

This book addresses issues related to LOA in language classes through tapping into a wide range of themes, including the underlying theoretical framework, requirements and conditions, research results of LOA projects worldwide, reports on using LOA in different instructional contexts, and practical guidelines for practitioners interested in using LOA in their classes. This project has brought together a group of international experts who share the same interests to reflect on different LOA practices. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first edited volume of its kind to focus specifically on learning-oriented language assessment. Following this perspective, the volume includes two main parts:

  • • Part I: Theoretical and conceptual foundations of LOA
  • • Part II: LOA in classroom contexts.

Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations of LOA

The first part addresses some LOA theoretical orientations by focusing on how theories of learning have informed LOA activities, conceptualization of assessment literacy in an LOA setting, research methodologies used to collect and analyze LOA data, and the nature of learning and feedback within this paradigm. In Chapter 2 Nick Saville provides a discussion of the underlying theoretical frameworks for LOA. He offers a historical perspective on the role of large-scale examination in shifting the attention to policy-related and accountability issues. He argues that LOA and other related movements have emerged as a reaction to the negative washback of summative, large-scale exams. Following this historical overview, Saville presents LOA perspectives from different parts of the world, including the UK, the USA, and Asia-Pacific. He then discusses a number of LOA models (Carless, 2007; Jones & Saville, 2016; Turner & Purpura, 2016) that share a common goal by focusing on assessment- based evidence used to support learning. The final part of the chapter looks into the affordances of technology within an LOA framework.

In Chapter 3, Glenn Fulcher reflects on the concept of language assessment literacy (LAL) within an LOA framework. The chapter starts with a discussion of the concept of validity and proposes a reconceptualization of it within an LOA setting. Fulcher raises some interesting discussions about the need to separate any validity conceptualization of LAL for LOA from efforts made by the testing industry that usually uses it for aligning language learning activities to proficiency frameworks. He argues that these efforts could hamper our attempts to develop a unique identity for LOA that is distinct from traditional models. This idea might be in conflict with current efforts by the testing industry to espouse LOA activities with their own assessment practices. However, I believe it opens venues for more discussions that could bring the two competing paradigms closer. For the purpose of differentiating between LOA and traditional paradigms, he identifies in this chapter seven “critical variances”: (1) context, (2) tasks and items, (3) roles in design and evaluation, (4) performance, (5) distributions, (6) interpretations, and (7) generalization and extrapolation. The final section of the chapter includes a list of assessment literacy skills that Fulcher identifies as critical in the context of LOA: (1) task design for effective learning; (2) self- and peer-evaluation; (3) timely feedback; (4) effective teacher questioning; and (5) scaffolding of performance.

Heidi Liu Banerjee in Chapter 4 taps into issues related to the “complexity and multi-dimensionality” of conducting research about classroom-based assessment. She delves into the challenges researchers encounter when working on LOA projects, especially how learning takes place in the context of planned (or unplanned) assessment and how LOA contributes to the learning process. She surveyed a large number of LOA publications to investigate the approaches employed to tap into relevant issues. She found out that LOA researchers mainly used three approaches: conversation analysis (CA) based on observations, content analysis mainly based on interviews, and analysis of narratives based on narrative inquiry. Banerjee offers in the final section of the chapter a roadmap for researchers interested in investigating LOA issues in their future projects.

In Chapter 5, Neus Figueras takes a relatively different perspective about the efforts in the European context to implement a “holistic approach” to language education. In order to achieve this purpose, she taps into the dynamic interaction between teaching, learning, and assessment by discussing the differential impact of assessment at all levels of education in Europe. In this chapter, she reports on the efforts of the Council of Europe and the development of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). She also refers briefly to other proficiency frameworks, such as ACTFL Guidelines and Canadian Benchmarks. Upon acknowledging the limitations of these frameworks in easing the tension between assessment and learning, she reports on the work of Van Lier (1996), the Assessment Reform Group (2002), and Pellegrino et al. (2016) as examples of efforts to address this concern. She concludes the chapter with a list of issues to consider when implementing LOA: concepts (constructs and validity), methodologies, and practice.

Daniel Lam in Chapter 6 offers a conceptual understanding of feedback within an LOA framework. The chapter sets out to answer a very basic, albeit important, question: What makes useful feedback? In his attempt to answer this question, Lam compares different types of assessment data, including test scores, score descriptors, and evaluative and descriptive feedback. This issue is further discussed by providing an analysis of data from two Cambridge English projects that aimed at designing feedback strategies for interactional competence (IC). This analysis attempted to investigate how LOA data could be employed to inform instructional practices. The chapter also provides some guidelines for designing feedback activities for LOA by focusing on issues such as learner engagement and how LOA information could be used in a traditional classroom or in an online setting. The final section of the chapter touches on the potential challenges for using LOA-oriented feedback in both formative and sum- mative contexts.

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