Measuring L2 Proficiency

Having just published Measuring L2 Proficiency edited by Pascale Leclercq, Amanda Edmonds and Heather Hilton, we asked the editors to tell us a little bit more about how the book came about.

Measuring L2 ProficiencyAs all teachers, trainers and researchers know, assessment in any field and for any type of knowledge or skill can be difficult. For the person being assessed, performance can vary as a function of time of day, moment during the test, individual characteristics, and so on. On the side of the assessor, not every aspect of a given skill can be feasibly tested. Thus, performance on specific items or questions is generally intended to provide the assessor with a general idea of an assessee’s abilities. Most testing situations are thus required to assume that performance as measured with assessment tool X at time t is representative of general ability for a given skill or set of knowledge. However, as both teachers and students can attest, this assumption is often problematic.

Within the field of second language acquisition, proficiency assessment is a necessary building block for almost any research project. However, it has received relatively little direct attention. For example, institutional proficiency level (e.g., first year university students versus third year university students) are assumed to reflect a difference in language proficiency. Although we, as teachers, certainly hope that this is the case, most research projects do not attempt to verify this assumption, meaning that claims of development made in such studies are open to questioning.

As language teachers and researchers interested in how individuals acquire language, we have long been interested in assessment practices in both the language classroom and in the field of second language acquisition. In both contexts, a learner is on their way to acquiring a second language, a highly complex skill involving both knowledge of the new language and the ability to use it (involving both automatic and controlled processes). Assessing such a complex skill has long been recognized as a difficult enterprise. Our book grew out of challenges that we have personally encountered in both teaching and research contexts. We wanted to bring together researchers working in both of these contexts in order to reflect on how to create valid, reliable but also feasible assessment tools for language teachers and researchers alike.

The Common European Framework of ReferenceIf you would like more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also like The Common European Framework of Reference edited by Michael Byram and Lynne Parmenter.