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Testing & Assessment in English Language Teaching - EDU00066M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Bill Soden
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Language teaching is often indirectly influenced by formal testing and more directly influenced by classroom-based assessment, while knowledge of testing is often necessary to understand and carry out research into language teaching. This module provides an introduction to key concepts and principles in language testing and assessment. It covers theoretical approaches to assessment and testing of language skills in the contexts of General English and English for Specific / Academic Purposes (ESP/EAP).

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To provide an overview of ELT assessment ranging from informal classroom assessment to the theory and practice relating to more formal standardised tests.

  • To develop understanding of key concepts and debates in language testing with reference to communicative language testing and testing languages for specific purposes.

  • To explore recent trends in testing, with reference to technology.

  • To provide opportunities for students to review and critique aspects of internationally recognised tests.

  • To develop an understanding of the issues involved in designing test items and creating tasks for performance tests.

  • To demonstrate the role of testing in research by reference to relevant research studies.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the difference between formative and summative assessment, and the different types of tests and assessment approaches available according to purposes and contexts.

  • Understand key concepts of such as validity, reliability, washback and authenticity and how to apply them when evaluating or critiquing tests.

  • Be more familiar with debates and issues surrounding integrated language testing and testing Language for Specific Skills (LSP) with reference to approaches used in established internationally recognised tests.

  • Be able to adapt or design tests for specific teaching contexts.

  • Be more familiar with current and emerging trends in language testing and research into testing.

Module content

Module Structure (session by session):

This module will consist of tutor-led sessions with workshop style activities and tasks. Students will be expected to actively contribute to discussions each week, usually via a class blog, and demonstrate they have completed homework tasks. Weekly student presentations will also be a feature of the module.

Session 1: Testing – assessment - teaching: Key concepts and terminology.

The session explores the relationship between, testing assessment and teaching, emphasizing formative and summative purposes as the key to understanding this relationship. The paradigms of norm referenced and criterion referenced testing are introduce and reference is made to various types of test (e.g. placement, proficiency) related to their purposes and contexts of use.

Session 2: Exploring validity and washback.

The session deals with theoretical concepts related to validity, including content, construct, pragmatic and consequential validity. It also covers the important effect of tests on teaching and learning, exploring the complex nature of washback and the debate on aligning tests with content. Reference will be made to international tests (e.g. Cambridge CAE/ IELTS test /the Pearson Test of English).

Session 3: Creating tests-indirect tests and item writing.

The various advantages and drawbacks of a range of test methods and item types will be considered. There will be a review of good practice and what to avoid in designing items for MCQ/ cloze/ short answer/editing/matching etc. and the opportunity to practice using some of these item types in small-scale tests.

Session 4: Subjective testing-speaking.

The focus will be on direct tests of performance in general, with reference to assessing different spoken genres. Issues around design of rating scales and dealing with inter/intra rater reliability will be discussed. An example of the paired interview approach (Cambridge CAE) will be taken as a means to exploring problems in task design.

Session 5: Testing reading and listening.

The discussion will focus on test specifications relating to genre, skills, strategies and performance. A cognitive process approach (Weir) will also be discussed in relation to Cambridge FCE reading examinations.

Session 6: Testing writing.

The session takes a critical look at the use of band descriptors in assessment of writing (with reference to IELTS) and speaking (with reference to Cambridge Proficiency examination) and associated feedback processes. Students will use criteria to assess writing to re-visit issues of rater reliability.

Session 7: Technology and online testing.

The focus will be on the use of technology in testing. Specific reference will be made to the recent trend towards tests integrating different skills, and a focus on the reading to write construct ,with examples from the Pearson Academic English Test.

Session 8: Classroom assessment issues.

The formative / summative distinction will be revisited and there will be a focus on alternatives to formal tests, such as portfolio assessment, peer and self-assessment and teacher observed assessment of classroom tasks.

Session 9: Testing for specific purposes.

The session will address the difference between testing and assessing general English and ESP/EAP. The importance of target language use and the relationship between language ability, specific purpose/ content knowledge and task design will be discussed.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The assessment for this module has a 3,500 word length.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. This will include oral feedback in class, responses to posts on the VLE discussion board and written comments on work. You will have the chance to obtain feedback on your writing during the module, and you will have a short one-to-one meeting with a module tutor to discuss assessments.

You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets as well as them being readily available on the VLE. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information

Indicative reading

Alderson, J. C., Clapham, C., & Wall, D. (1995). Language Test Construction and Evaluation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, D. (2004). Language Assessment. White Plains: Pearson Education.

Brown, H,D,. & Abeywickrama,P. (2010). Language assessment: Principles and classroom practices. New Jersey. Pearson.

Chapelle, C.A., & Douglas, D. (2006). Assessing Language through Computer Technology. Cambridge: CUP.

Cheng, L., Watanabe, Y., Curtis, A. (2004). Washback in Language Testing. Mahwah, N.J; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Douglas, D. (2000). Assessing Languages for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: CUP.

Green, A. (2014). Exploring language assessment and testing. Abingdon, Routledge.

Hughes, A. (2003). Testing for Language Teachers. 2nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Huot, B.,& ONeill, P. (2009). Assessing Writing: A critical sourcebook. Boston/New York: Bedford St.Martins.

Fulcher, G., & Davidson, F. (2007). Language Testing and Assessment: An advanced resource book. London: Routledge.

Fulcher, G. (2010). Practical Language Testing. London: Hodder Education.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.