Crucial to the assessment process is preparing students to take tests and helping them to participate in their own assessment. Teachers have many resources and tools available, both electronic and paper based, to meet these objectives. One tool is computerized testing, and a useful resource is the rubric.
Computer-based testing (CBT) and computer-adaptive testing (CAT) have become more popular recently in language assessment. CBT presents items to the test taker in a fixed and linear fashion. Many software programs are available to help teachers format CBT tests and to save test content in different formats; these include Hot Potatoes (Version 6.3, https://hotpot.uvic.ca/) and Question Tools (http://www.questiontools.com/). There is no shortage of tools, applications, and websites to support authentic assessment (see Dyer’s (2018) 75 digital tools and apps at https://goo.gl/wkexJF).
CAT, on the other hand, presents items to the learners according to their previous answers and response patterns (Embretson & Reise, 2000), individualizing the assessment process. The Education First (EF) Standard English Test (SET) or, simply put, EFSET (https://www.efset.org) is an example of a standardized CAT English language proficiency test. EFST comes in two modes–Quick and Certificate. The Quick version is a timed 15-minute, 20-item measure composed of 10 multiple-choice (MC) reading and 10 MC listening questions, each requiring 7 and a half minutes to complete. On the other hand, the Certificate mode is a timed 50-minute measure composed of 3 reading and 3 listening tasks, each requiring 25 minutes to complete. EFSET’s (2014) design process, validity argument, and CAT model suggest that it can be a highly reliable measure of English language proficiency.
Computerized tests are different from paper-based tests (PBT) in several ways. Aside from potential physical advantages with CBT tests in access and security (which may not be universal (Brown, 2016)), some studies have shown that CAT can support students’ motivation, engagement, lack of anxiety, and higher gains (Ghaderi, Mogholi, & Soori, 2014). However, the testing contexts and purposes are so diverse that sometimes PBT tests are better options. For instance, research (e.g., Dooey, 2008) shows that high anxiety levels resulting from lack of familiarity with the technology can negatively affect students’ performance. Therefore, care should be exercised not to test computer skills in addition to (or exclusive of) language skills (Kirsch, Taylor, Jamieson, & Eignor, 1998); however, it is widely believed that the spread of computer technology in society will diminish this mode effect (Lesson, 2006). Students should therefore practice using computerized testing programs before they are actually tested (Brown, 2016); many test publishers (e.g., Kaplan, Cambridge, Barrons) provide practice tests and tips.
This information will better enable teachers to use computerized tests for language classrooms to meet the goals for authentic assessment and to meet other CALL principles.
Using Rubrics for Assessment
As academic standards become more specific and demands for implementation more strident, many language and content educators are designing rubrics, and having their students design rubrics, to evaluate student achievement. Rubrics are commonly defined as “a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria or what counts, and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor (Reddy & Andrade, 2010, p. 435). Pickett and Dodge (2001, https://www.cs.csustan.edu/~lamie/sed590/CSUS%20Rubrics.htm) note that rubrics can be created in a variety of forms and levels of complexity; however, they all contain common features which
- focus on measuring a stated objective (performance, behavior, or quality)
- use a range to rate performance
- contain specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met.
They also add that using rubrics in assessment offers certain advantages. For example, they
- enable more objective and consistent assessment
- force the teacher to clarify his/her criteria in specific terms
- clearly show the students what is expected and how their work will be evaluated
- promote student awareness of the criteria to use in assessing peer performance
- provide useful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the instruction
- provide benchmarks against which to measure and document progress
Developing good rubrics takes time and practice, but these benefits make them useful and effective assessment tools in CALL classrooms.