Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Elena Shohamy - The Power of Tests (Pt 2) [unfinished]

 This part introduces "studies and cases" of the uses of tests. PP45-9 discuss the intentions and effects of tests. The latter is familiar territory, first delineated by  Messick, 1981. There's a concise discussion of washback, effects and consequences. Of more interest to me is a short section regarding intentions. "There are very few studies that have systematically examined the rationale, intentions and expectations for introducing tests." There may be "very few", but references there are none. A distinction is drawn between overt and covert intentions, the former being, obviously, a decision maker's published rationale for a test. The latter will be unpublished. The real rationale for introducing any given test will be discussed behind closed doors.

I shall call it Test User's Intention in order to give it a name. It's a significant issue for my research because it may be considered that the test use, that is, the UK government, gives the overt rationale for testing, say, applicants for spousal visas as integration. "this is about building a more integrated, cohesive, one-nation country", (Nixon, 2016), whereas, it might be suggested, the covert rationale is to limit migrant numbers. [I've seen that suggestion made in a paper. Where?]

The search <"language test" policy "test user" intention> in Google Scholar gave 90 results, most of which (eg Hall, 2009) offered only transitory hope of relevance.

[NB: I'll have to come back to this: a research-paradigm assignment is calling, and Inter Library Loans are demanding the return of Shohamy, 2001.]


Hall, G. (2009). International English language testing: a critical response. ELT Journal, 64(3).

Hamid, M. O. (2015). Policies of global English tests: test-takers’ perspectives on the IELTS retake policy. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1-16.

Messick, S. (1981). Evidence and Ethics in the Evaluation of Tests. ETS Research Report Series, 1981(1), i-41.
Nixon, G. (2016, February 12). Transcript of Interview with David Cameron: BBC Today Programme, 18/01/2016. Interviewer Sarah Montague. Retrieved from
Shohamy, E. (2001). The power of tests: A critical view of the uses of language tests. Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman.