By Janna Fox, Mari Wesche, Doreen Bayliss, Liying Cheng, Carolyn E. Turner, Christine Doe, University of Ottawa Press
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What we need is a diagnostic framework that can interface with the CEFR, or a future revised and updated version of it, that can help us to explore how learners develop from 32 CHALLENGE OF DIAGNOSTIC TESTING ALDERSON one CEFR level to the next and how we can best diagnose problems in such development. Formative and Teacher-Based Assessment Since teachers are usually the ones who work most closely with learners, it makes sense to look at how they go about assessing their learners' strengths and weaknesses, and to explore what we can learn from them about diagnosis.
One of the problems the Project encountered was that, while the CEFR provided material to help define a number of content categories for item writer checklists, the Project had to complement the CEFR itself with material from the more detailed publications of the Council of Europe (the Way stage, Threshold, and Vantage levels), as well as from many other sources when designing the detailed task and test specifications — see Huhta, Luoma, Oscarson, Savaraga, Takala, and Teasdale (2002). However, detailed analysis of the results of the piloting on the English DIALANG tests (Alderson, 2005) reveals that there are virtually no significant differences across CEFR levels in terms of the difficulty of the diagnostic sub-skills that DIALANG endeavoured to test.
We therefore need to complement our understanding of development by looking at other areas of assessment — in particular teacher-based formative assessment — for insight into what can be diagnosed, as well as to general education for current ideas on what facilitates and enhances learning. Taking account of these areas of 38 CHALLENGE OF DIAGNOSTIC TESTING ALDERSON education will doubtless enhance our understanding of what we might diagnose, but at the end of the day we need to account for the learning of language, and therefore we must work together with applied linguists, in particular second language acquisition researchers, in a joint search for variables that will help us describe, diagnose, and possibly explain foreign language development.
Language Testing Reconsidered by Janna Fox, Mari Wesche, Doreen Bayliss, Liying Cheng, Carolyn E. Turner, Christine Doe, University of Ottawa Press