Journal for Language Teaching

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Challenging Messick: Proposing a theoretical framework for understanding fundamental concepts in language testing

A Rambiritch


As applied linguists, an important part of our work constitutes the design of language courses, language tests and sometimes even language  policies. Clearly, these applied linguistic artefacts, especially language tests (which are the focus of this article) have far-reaching, sometimes negative, effects on our students. As applied linguists what is there in the literature on language testing to guide the work we do, to ensure that our
designs have some positive effect? What have the experts in the field of language testing presented us with to ensure that important questions related to the social dimension in testing (issues related to transparency, integrity, accountability, fairness and ethics) are not ignored in the design and administration of language tests? What this article will attempt to do is to show that questions about the social dimension of language testing
cannot be adequately answered by Messick (1980; 1989a; 1989b), a conventionally accepted expert in the field. Instead these questions can be answered in a “third idea, other than validity” (Weideman 2009: 239), as outlined by Weideman, an idea that does not foreground one concept but rather identifies a number of fundamental considerations for language testing.

Key words: applied linguistics, language testing, social dimension, social defensibility, validity, construct validity, theoretical analysis, framework, constitutive, regulative
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