Why narrowing the speaking assessment focus can have a positive washback effect on L2 learning

The Language Gym

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Every assessment we carry out in an MFL classroom ought to have a positive washback effect on learning. In this post I argue that with pre-intermediate to intermediate students the way MFL learners are typically assessed does not impact learning as much as it ought to, due to a failure to consider the complex nature of oral skill acquisition and the cognitive demands it poses on learners.

What I mean is that most often learners are assessed using complex multi-traits or holistic scales which are designed to rate their performance across a number of dimensions of proficiency such as fluency, intelligibility,  grammatical accuracy, pronunciation, complexity, range of vocabulary, ability to comprehend and respond to an interlocutor, etc. However, this approach has the potential to have a negative washback effect on learning when we deal with novice to intermediate learners due to the huge cognitive demands it puts on them.


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