Investigating the impact of language tests in their educational context

Investigating the impact of language tests in their educational context

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Investigating the impact of language tests in their educational context

Introducing language assessments as part of educational reform at national or institutional level is increasingly frequent with two predominant aims: increasing language proficiency and reaching a wider range of learners who can benefit from the reform. However, ‘,good examinations are not guaranteed to produce positive results and bad examinations do not necessarily produce bad ones’, (Wall 2005:xiv). How can education providers then assess effectively whether their language education reforms work as intended?The paper outlines the ',impact by design', approach (Saville 2009, 2012) to researching language test impact and discusses how it can help examination and education providers foster beneficial effects from their tests and avoid or mitigate harmful consequences. It is based on four maxims that collectively allow for the monitoring of positive and negative impacts in new educational assessment projects.The approach will be illustrated with two case studies carried out in state and state-subsidised schools in Asia (Vietnam) and Europe (Spain) which implement bilingual programmes in conjunction with international external examinations. A mixed methods research design was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data from learners, teachers, parents and decision-makers. The findings will be discussed with reference to the main features of impact by design and the initiative objectives.

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