Assessment of EAP Literacies in Diverse and Multilingual Classrooms

Assessment of EAP Literacies in Diverse and Multilingual Classrooms

Poonam Anand (University of Bahrain, Bahrain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2722-1.ch015
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Older views of the English for Academic Purposes Literacies (EAPL) assessment have been in line with the assessment of the four-skills second language (L2) competencies. However, the new understanding is that literacy is not just a cognitive competence of reading and writing but also a set of other purposeful social processes. This understanding makes EAPL assessment multifaceted by calling upon a set of supra-linguistic behaviors, i.e., cognitive and social skills in addition to L2 competencies. This chapter starts with a brief history and the current state of theoretical constructs (of what is actually assessed) of EAPL assessment. It then centers its discussion on different academic literacies models, and the critical issues in measuring EAPL. The author highlights different strategies for planning assessment in the practical applications of academic literacies constructs. The chapter ends with the presentation of useful steps in creating EAPL assessments.
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In any educational endeavor, the tripartite relationship of teaching, learning, and assessment are of critical importance. This chapter concentrates on the assessment of the English for academic purposes literacies (EAPL), which is defined as the assessment of second language and literacies of multilingual international students (henceforth considered as L2 learners) at an entry level English for Academic Purposes program in higher educational context. The chapter starts by distinguishing second language tests and academic literacies assessment. It then presents a historical overview of language assessment and assessment of academic literacies, specifically in the context of English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Of particular importance are the definition and construct of academic literacies assessment. Based on this review, the chapter then presents practical applications of the discussed EAPL construct.

EAPL refers to teaching, learning, and assessment of English that covers a wide range of general as well as discipline-specific topics which aim to help students, “to develop their academic literacy skills to facilitate their effective participation in academic communities” (Hamp-Lyons, 2011, p. 100). Two key considerations need to be taken into account: 1. students need an understanding of how knowledge is created, presented, and debated in any discipline, in addition to linguistic support; and 2. academic literacies (reading, writing, and reasoning in any discipline) are difficult for native and non-native speakers alike (Wingate & Tribble, 2012).

Depending on their uses, roles, purposes, and contexts, English language tests and assessments can generally be divided into two types: internally mandated and externally mandated (Davidson & Lynch, 2002). Externally mandated summative assessment occurs at the end of a particular unit of instruction (e.g., chapter, unit or semester), and its purpose is to primarily categorize students’ performances. Internally mandated assessment, on the other hand, can be administered at the beginning or during the course of a unit of instruction.

Internally mandated tests, also referred to as formative assessment (i.e., assessments for learning or classroom-based assessments), are related to “the needs of the teachers and learners working within a particular context and … are generally ecologically sensitive” (Fulcher, 2010, pp. 1-2). Such forms of assessment are an essential component of classroom work and are used to inform teaching and learning and ultimately to raise the standards of achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998). In addition to diagnosing difficulties in individual learners, internally mandated tests can also be used for placement or achievement purposes.

On the other hand, summative assessment (or assessment of learning), is externally mandated by a group of people who often “do not know a great deal about the local learning ecology [context], and probably don’t even know the teachers and learners who will have to cope with the required testing regime” (Fulcher, 2010, p. 2). Such tests (e.g., General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations in England and the College English Test (CET) in China) are high-stakes in nature and are used by policymakers or other stakeholders to make judgments about proficiency and achievement of learners at the end of a study period where learners are expected to have reached a particular standard.

Other than stakes, test purposes are also one of the important considerations in using any language test. Proficiency and achievement are two important test purposes of an English for Academic Purposes assessment. A proficiency test measures general ability in language and not specific content, course, curriculum area, or skills in the language. It is based on what learners can do with the language (Fulcher, 2010). An achievement test, on the other hand, is directly related to a language course and aims to measure what has been taught. These tests are based on a detailed course syllabus and objectives and are usually administered at the end of a course or a unit of study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formative Assessment: Assessment that takes place during an instructional cycle. It can be used for enhancing and informing teaching and learning in classroom.

High-Stakes Tests: Tests that are viewed as powerful measures to change the course of student’s progress in an EAP program. One example of high-stakes tests is proficiency tests for universities in Anglophone universities where failure can mean expulsion from the program.

Multimodality: Combining different individual modes such as discipline-specific texts, audios, images, and videos to create meaningful communication that encourages interaction and learning in an EAP context.

Performance-Based Assessment: A more valid construct of EAPL, performance assessment tasks are authentic tasks that use real-world contexts. They require learners to work independently and use 21 st century skills such as higher-level thinking and problem solving. These tasks also help teachers in providing constructive feedback to students about their strength and weaknesses. Examples of performance based EAPL tasks include searching and selecting relevant sources, taking notes, writing essays, and making presentations.

Washback: All the intended (or positive) and unintended (or negative) effects of assessment on teaching and learning in the classroom.

Needs Assessment: Assessment that helps teachers elicit information about students’ needs and design effective course materials.

Summative Assessment: Assessment that takes place at the end of a teaching cycle to measure students’ learning e.g., achievement testing.

Integrated Skills Assessment: Assessment that incorporates several skills within one test to determine whether a student can tackle the complexity of real-world tasks in academia that require multiple skill sets. Within an EAP program, integrated skills tests require students to produce written or oral work that incorporates meaningful uses of source evidence, both conceptually - to comprehend, synthesize, and present ideas from sources – and through writing – to conform with stylistic convention for presenting ideas from sources, and acknowledging those sources.

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