Authenticity is Known for Its Important Feature of Language Tests

Can we achieve authenticity in language testing
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   Authenticity is known for its important feature of language tests, but this notion is frequently use in relation to authentic material. In order to establish the importance of authenticity in language testing, one may define „authenticity‟. „Authenticity‟ has been much debated in both applied linguistics and the fields of education as a whole (Lewkowicz, 2000). Authenticity and Debate The statement “It is impossible to design a truly authentic language test,” a variety of issues must be addressed. From there , it poses a question what does the word “authentic” mean in the larger context of language testing?, while in smaller contexts what does the word “truly‟ means. This means that bot h of these words are constructs, where it needs to  be defined so they can measured the test for both reliability and validity in order to know what the test is actually testing , what it needs to and how well is it doing. The notion of authenticity was first established within the applied linguistics in the 1960s. This concerns materials writers such as Close (1965) and Broughton (1965) that language learners were being display to texts that are not expressed in learning the target language. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Widdowson introduced this debate on the nature of authenticity. He viewed the conceptions of authenticity in language teaching and the testing is focused on the use of genuine texts that has not been simplified and the tasks are referred to the „real world tasks‟  (Lewkowicz, 2000). In the 1990s, many scholars have agreed that language testing itself is a discipline derived from Applied Linguistics (Bachman, 1991). Davis et al. (1999) propose that authenticity in testing is when both „content and skills‟  reflect one another such as when testing students ‟ speaking ability, they may be asked t o do a „role play‟ using words  taught in class. Bachman (1991) defined authenticity using an interactional/ability approach that emphasizes on the interaction between the language user, the context, and the discourse as opposed to non-test language performance in the Real Language approach. Bachman and Palmer (1996) reached a consensus, that test takers should conform to the language  being tested over the use of tasks. This can be expressed as „relatively authentic‟ tasks.  From their definition, we can infer that authenticity cannot be achieved for sure. But they  believed that there is a „degree of communication‟, to which  the test task perform the actual taught language abilities that give common responses from testers. This might achieve in language classes when students communicate with one another, for example asking for directions as a given task that was previously taught in class. McNamara (1996) argued that performance assessment is authentic if it reflects to real life, but some might argued it is a virtual imitation and slightly achieve authenticity. All of these definitions are similar in focusing mainly on the „degree‟ of authenticity, where there is no completely authentic language test and it is located on a continuum. Spolsky(1985) stated that to achieve authenticity in testing, it must include either the language material extracted from primary resources (materials), or functions of tasks (methodology). For example, if we testing for listening, do we read the passage to the  participants, or should the passage be derived from a newspaper?. Which do you think shows the replication of a real life?. When measuring a test, do we need to measure its validity and reliability? Moreover, it is suggested that language testing has been limited by considerations of validity, refers to whether tests measure what they are suppose to measure, while reliability is when they produce similar results for more than one occasion (Finch, 2002). Validity is fundamental to achieve authenticity in language test design. According to Messick (1996), authenticity is for direct testing with specific validity standards that can  be seen through communicative behavior such as listening, reading, writing, and reading. Spolsky(1985), however mentioned that validity is only for „real‟ language  use. In the  previous paragraph that stated the findings about authenticity, we may conclude that there is authentic assessment does not occur in realistic terms. My view on this, authenticity in testing is a continuous process that uses certain validity constructs as a medium to achieve its designated purposes through the use of primary resources as materials. This definition is telling us that authenticity is used in test, whereas this assignment indicates that authenticity is an ongoing assessment that cannot achieved fully through reproduction of so called real life situations. A test is an assessment that cannot be  authentic by incorporating real life situations, while we encourage responses to lead us closely to the real test design. Issues in using authenticity in language testing and construct validity There are many reasons why language tests cannot achieve authenticity. Based on numerous literature readings on authenticity, it has been proposed by many scholars that an authentic test is what replicates to real life situations. Davis et al(1999), affirm that authenticity never fully achieved. His view is supported with four reasons. One is the test is under assessment that fails to include genuine real life situations, called the „real life‟ approach (RL) to authenticity (Bachman, 1990). In other words, Spolsky(1985) has a similar view by saying that the observation of authentic language behaviour that is made  by the participants may produce an authentic assessment. He also added a point on the  participants undertaking a test is placed under anxiety that will affect the results of the testing in a negative or positive approach. From here, it is a logical conclusion because of the „communicative context‟ in the context of an assessm ent (Stevenson, 1985). Another reason is that, other tests are constrained by language limitations, such as specific target language use (TLU), which is impractical. Nevertheless, it is useful for a student to learn the language, but it confines them in learning the TLU. Thirdly, tests are conducted in specific time, place, and participants contradicts the notion of authenticity in testing where it is perceived as a replication of real-life situations. In real life variables changes that affects the language process, whereas tests have controlled variables. This involves „face validity‟, which neglects  for having an accurate assessment (Alkubaidi, 2009). For example, when students given a discussion topic, the teacher will have to assess their speaking proficiency level, but with having the natural flow of language, how can we design the criteria to serve an effective assessment?   Similarly, Bachman (1990) viewed authenticity using the interactional model. This emphasized on the characteristics of communicative language use, the ability to communicate through learners ‟  language ability, which measure by constructs of validity. While Weir (2005) stated that we need to define the construct of measurement to an accurate procedure before designing a language test to achieve accurate validity in a test. When designing tests, authenticity will slightly achieve as constructs represents the  purpose .In my opinion, in order to achieve authenticity in language tests, the constructs should have clear objectives. These objectives must measure students‟ level of  proficiency and quantified in measurable terms. In an English Speaking Test, the examiner must assess by first expressing a scale in which of the constructs measure the learners proficiency level. Norm Referencing Testing and Criterion Referencing Testing When designing the next step for an authentic language test, we need to choose between norm referenced testing and criterion referenced testing. Criterion referenced testing would be suitable as it measures individual ability as opposed to performance in comparison to group norms. But there are difficulties in specifying domains with respect to real life approach to authenticity, identifying the characteristics of such tests and defining these characteristics in the way that is consistent with considerations that should me made with respect to validity and authenticity (Bachman, 1990). Bachman further explain this complexity, in institutional settings where domains can reasonably be specified, CR are particularly suited in achievement testing. Despite essential complexities in the present state of theory and test design, CR testing is desirable to norm referencing testing when designing an authentic language test (Brakefield, n.d) My view on this, ensuring authenticity in test should serve a purpose. In order for an authentic assessment to be achieved, the purpose of the test should be clear. Still, this
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