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Validating Analytic Rating Scales

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


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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3 Rating scales


3  Rating scales

3.1  General characteristics

The past few decades have seen a tremendous increase in the number of language proficiency scales developed for various purposes. North and Schneider (1998: 217) point out that a general trend towards more transparency and comparability in educational contexts and the movement towards greater international integration, which entails the pragmatic requirement to define levels of attainment in language learning, have led to a proliferation of language proficiency scales. While some twenty or thirty years ago, most scales were directly or indirectly related to the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) scale, an intuitive six-band holistic rating scale originally developed for military purposes, or its succeeding generations of scales, including the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale or the scale developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), today a large number of scales exist that are independent of the FSI approach. Examples include the Eurocentres Scale of Language Proficiency (North 1991, 1993), the Finnish Scale of Language Proficiency (Luoma 1993), and the Association of Language Testers in Europe Framework (ALTE 2006).

The different backgrounds and purposes of such scales are reflected in the labels given to them. Alderson (1991: 71), for example, lists the terms “band scores, band scales, profile band, proficiency levels, proficiency scales, proficiency ratings” as labels typically given to such scales. While the terminology may vary, the scales all represent an attempt at describing an underlying hierarchical structure of discernible levels of language...

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