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Validating Analytic Rating Scales

A Multi-Method Approach to Scaling Descriptors for Assessing Academic Speaking

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Armin Berger

This book presents a unique inter-university scale development project, with a focus on the validation of two new rating scales for the assessment of academic presentations and interactions. The use of rating scales for performance assessment has increased considerably in educational contexts, but the empirical research to investigate the effectiveness of such scales is scarce. The author reports on a multi-method study designed to scale the level descriptors on the basis of expert judgments and performance data. The salient characteristics of the scale levels offer a specification of academic speaking, adding concrete details to the reference levels of the Common European Framework. The findings suggest that validation procedures should be mapped onto theoretical models of performance assessment.
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2 Performance assessment of second language speaking

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2  Performance assessment of second language speaking

The following three chapters provide the theoretical context of the study, including the relevant literature on performance assessment in general and rating scale development and validation in particular. Chapter two outlines performance assessment of second language speaking with a particular focus on rating scales as essential components in this process. After an introductory section that begins with some terminological clarification and gives a brief overview of the historical development of language performance assessment, chapter two examines how speaking a second language under performance conditions has been conceptualised by eminent writers in the field. It provides a chronological and comparative account of the different ways of describing speaking ability in performance assessment, including Carroll’s (1961) integrative approach, which is based on Lado’s (1961) skills and elements model, and models in the tradition of communicative language competence, most notably Canale and Swain’s (1980) model and Bachman and Palmer’s (1996) more comprehensive account of communicative language ability. The focus of this part is on the different ways in which performance has been conceptualised.

After discussing different approaches to describing the speaking construct, the literature review proceeds to models of performance assessment, which have been suggested in recent years to account for variables in addition to speaking ability that may shape performance. The approach is comparative and critical again, drawing attention to the conceptualisations of rating scales and their effects on performance assessment. It will be argued that the scoring instruments constitute an...

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