‘'Learners bared their souls in this topic': Investigating the washback effect of L2 examiners' assessment literacy through an SFL lens

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Abstract

Neoliberal testing discourses foreground teachers' responsibility for student failure, but they sometimes ignore that testing practices can "cripple the quality of education" (Popham, 2009, p. 4). Washback research has been significant in illustrating test design effects on pedagogy, teachers' attitudes, and classroom-based assessment (Green, 2013). However, washback is rarely interrogated from the other side; that is, the relationship between examiners' assessment literacy, their understanding of language learning theories, and what counts as writing proficiency. I draw on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) to investigate examiners' assessment literacy associated with extended writing for an English additional language (L2) question paper because writing has capital in post-schooling contexts. The data will consist of three question papers (2017 to 2019), one national assessment rubric, and examiners' diagnostic feedback to improve writing pedagogy. The provisional findings illustrate theoretical gaps between examiners' assessment literacy and textbased approaches as encapsulated in the curriculum policy. As a result, on the one hand, this paper will contribute to shedding light on the quality of the latest 2017 to 2019 NSC L2 question papers while also highlighting the washback effect of examiners' assessment literacy. Finally, the paper illustrates the test materials should make explicit the meanings associated with social context, purpose and draw on language as a semiotic resource in test design, rubric, and diagnostic feedback. It can contribute to positive washback because teachers and learners draw on past question papers for examination preparation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage Testing
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

Keywords

  • assessment literacy
  • Systemic Functional Linguistics
  • genre-based pedagogy
  • exit examinations
  • high stakes tests
  • washback
  • academic writing
  • EMI writing
  • academic discourses
  • metalanguage

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