SAAL-NTU Seminar by Professor Albert Weideman

Event Date 03 Sep 2018 (Mon), 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM
Venue HSS Meeting Room 2 (HSS-03-93) (Location Map)
Organiser Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics (Email :  Tel/Fax : 65138261)

Event Info

SAAL-NTU Seminar

A Skills-Neutral Approach to Academic Literacy Assessment

Professor Albert Weideman
University of the Free State


This paper will address a concern with post-admission assessments of academic literacy that take a skills-based view of language ability. It will build on the experience at four South African universities with the design of assessments of academic literacy over the past 12 years. It will argue that if the test designer views the ability to use language for academic purposes not as composed of separate and supposedly separable skills, but as an interactive and functional competence to achieve certain goals, there will be design gains. Examples will be given of how a definition of academic literacy may be more adequately conceptualized, thus contributing to the theoretical defensibility of the design as a valid measure of academic literacy. The paper demonstrates how the test construct can subsequently be operationalized in the development of appropriate assessment tasks. It presents a model of test design as a process that has five distinct phases, of which the last two are iterative, providing an opportunity for further refinement. Not only does a skills-neutral approach offer gains in respect of the theoretical defensibility of the assessment instrument: data will be presented to demonstrate the consistency or reliability of the results obtained, and of how empirical measures contribute further to the responsible interpretation of test results, as well as to the utility of the test in respect of diagnostic information. The paper will conclude by showing how the design principles of reliability, theoretical defensibility, interpretability and usefulness relate, with others, to a theory of applied linguistics.

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