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The Power and Impact of Standardised Tests

Investigating the Washback of Language Exams in Greece

Lambrini Loumbourdi

Standardised tests and language certification exams have been a popular topic in the field of assessment for many years now. The washback effect of such tests, that is how and to which degree language tests influence teaching and learning, has been the focus of several research projects in various contexts with different results, but at the same time of significant importance. Investigating the impact and consequences of tests is a great step towards creating better and fairer tests. This book focuses on a research study of the washback effect of the FCE test (First Certificate in English), developed and administered by Cambridge English Language Assessment (formerly ESOL). The context of the study is Greece, where unique socioeconomic elements and characteristics have rendered language certification increasingly important and have significantly contributed to the quality and quantity of the washback effect produced.
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Chapter 3 The Research Methodology

Extract

This part is dedicated to the research methods used to explore the effect that the FCE test has on teaching, learning and students’ perceptions of themselves and the test. More specifically, a further analysis in the multifaceted nature of the washback effect is ventured, explored from different parameters, namely its quality and quantity.

The basis of each contemporary research related to washback is the complexity of its nature as Watanabe (2004) asserts. Almost every researcher now starts his/her investigation by taking this principle as a basis. This should be the foundation of this project too. Another important aspect includes the ‘targets’ towards which washback is directed, in other words the processes and participants that washback influences. By the term ‘process’, we refer to the amount and nature of activities and procedures that teaching and learning entails, and the methodology used and followed in these two areas. By the term participants we refer to all the stake-holders involved in the process described earlier. This distinction is more or less pointed out by most researchers when doing washback studies (Hughes 2003, Tsagari, 2006, 2012; Watanabe, 2004) and this is where their investigation was aimed at.

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the context of the investigation is quite important. Not all instruments used in previous research are applicable to the current research or any other similar research. As Tsagari points out: ‘The studies resulted in varying conclusions about the absence and presence of washback and its degree (positive or negative)...

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