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ISBN: 9780776606576-03


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The Challenge of (Diagnostic) Testing: Do We Know What We Are Measuring?

From: Language Testing Reconsidered


The language testing literature is confused about the nature of diagnostic tests. Diagnosis is a frequently used but under-problematized concept and a debate is needed that might lead to a research agenda. This chapter aims to begin that debate by sketching out a possible set of dimensions of such a research agenda. How does foreign language proficiency develop? Test-based diagnosis of language development should be informed by reference to theories of language use and language ability, even though second language acquisition research has failed to deliver a usable theory of development of foreign language proficiency. Research into formative and teacher-based assessment should be explored, both in language education and in education generally, for useful insights. Above all, we need to clarify what we mean by diagnosis of foreign language proficiency and what we need to know in order to be able to develop useful diagnostic procedures.



J. Charles Alderson

J. Charles Alderson is Professor of Linguistics and English Language Education at the University of Lancaster. He was Scientific Coordinator of DIALANG 1999-2002 ( He is internationally well known for his research and publications in language testing, including 17 books, 79 articles in refereed journals and chapters in books, 19 other publications, including research reports, 165 papers presented at professional conferences and seminars, and 197 seminars, workshops, and consultancies.