What Is the Construct? The Dialectic of Abilities and Contexts in Defining Constructs in Language Assessment
Understanding the roles of abilities and contexts, and the interactions between these as they affect performance on language assessment tasks, has remained a persistent problem in language assessment. Approaches to this problem over the past half century have led to three general ways of defining the construct, or what we want to assess: 1) ability-focused, 2) task-focused, and 3) interaction-focused. While the different theoretical perspectives that underlie these approaches are not mutually exclusive, they are based on different sets of values and assumptions. Because of these differences, the conundrum of abilities and contexts and how they interact in language use and language assessments is, in my view, essentially a straw issue theoretically, and may not be resolvable at that level.
Lyle F. Bachman
Lyle F. Bachman is Professor and Chair, Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL, University of California, Los Angeles. His current research interests include validation theory, assessing the academic achievement and English proficiency of English language learners in schools, assessing foreign language proficiency, interfaces between second language acquisition and language testing research, and epistemological issues in applied linguistics research.