Evaluation and testing: a brief review

As I have already mentioned, standardising and quantifying skills runs counter to an interest in individual learners in various ways. Additionally, standardised tests can only partially reveal specific skills. Nevertheless, these tests are taken very seriously, especially in business contexts, for example, in awarding places on Master’s programmes, internships and even regular positions.[1] No matter the integrity of many test providers - who also offer preparatory courses and materials -, they are entangled with strong economic interests. This prompts another question, answerable only on an ideological basis: To what extent should more or less autonomous educational institutions (as well as learners) subject their educational aims to the requirements of external testing centres?

Without going into too much detail here on skill and competence evaluation, the topic leads us back to the issue of weighing “specialist knowledge” against

“language and communication skills” (see Forner and Habscheid 2006). Should specialist knowledge be evaluated in the same way as language skills? How should a learner be assessed if they give a presentation that convinces on the language level, displaying very few “errors” in pronunciation or grammar, but does not use specialist terminology correctly? And: How would this performance compare to another satisfactory in terms of content and terminology but riddled with traditional “errors” on the language level and/or pragmatic failures (see Krause 2014)?[2] The European Framework of Reference cannot help answer these questions. Again, the decision made by the assessing person or institution will be an “ideological” one that cannot be based solely on “objective” research results.

  • [1] Some particularly important tests for English: http://www.cambridge-exams.de/; http://www.cam-bridgeenglish.org/exams/business-certificates/; http://www.etsglobal.org/Global/Eng/Tests-Prepara-tion/The-TOEFL-Family-of-Assessments; French: http://www.ciep.fr/en/delf-dalf; http://www.centre-delanguefrancaise.paris/diplomes/ etc.
  • [2] We would also like to mention here some other studies dealing with “errors” in LSP or business-language learning: Lavric (in print); Stegu and Wochele (2007); Fischer, Lavric, and Stegu (1994);Lavric (1988).
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