The 35th Language Testing Research Colloquium
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Title: Defining and assessing writing ability: Best practices and current issues in classroom and large-scale writing assessment
Date: Monday, July 1 - Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Instructors: Sara Cushing Weigle (Georgia State University) and Lynda Taylor (CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire)
The assessment of student writing is an essential task for language teachers to diagnose writing needs and measure achievement. Furthermore, teachers frequently need to prepare their students for externally mandated large-scale writing assessments, and thus they need to have an understanding of the uses and misuses of such tests. However, many teacher training programs do not require students to take a course in assessment or evaluation, and courses on teaching writing often devote only a limited amount of time to the discussion of assessment.
In this workshop we will explore the essential considerations in classroom and large-scale writing assessments. Topics to be discussed will include: how to define and describe the construct of writing for assessment purposes; how to design effective tasks for testing writing skills; how to develop assessment criteria and scoring rubrics to evaluate written performance; the computer scoring of writing; and the nature of portfolio assessment. We shall consider how the outcomes from writing tests can help to provide useful diagnostic and remedial feedback on learners' writing performance in support of teaching and learning. We shall also consider the sorts of evidence needed to support claims about the quality of writing tests and we shall explore some of the methodologies that enable such evidence to be gathered in a transparent and systematic manner.
Prof. Sara Cushing Weigle is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. She has published research in the areas of assessment, second language writing, and teacher education, and is the author of Assessing Writing (2002, Cambridge University Press). She has been invited to speak and conduct workshops on second language writing assessment throughout the world, most recently in Egypt, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Austria. Her current research focuses on assessing integrated skills and the use of automated scoring for second language writing.
Dr. Lynda Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Language Assessment at the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA), University of Bedfordshire, UK as well as Consultant to University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, where she was formerly Assistant Director of Research and Validation. She received her Ph.D. in English and Applied Linguistics from the University of Cambridge and has extensive experience of theory and practice in language learning, teaching and assessment. She regularly presents at international workshops and conferences and has published widely in academic journals and volumes, including several recent titles in Cambridge's Studies in Language Testing series.
Monday, July 1
Session 1: 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.Introduction - reflecting on the writing process and product
Session 2: 10:50 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.Defining and describing a construct of writing ability
Session 3: 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.Designing and producing writing test tasks
Session 4: 3:20 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Hands-on tasks and activities

Tuesday, July 2
Session 5: 9:00 a.m. - 11 a.m.The rating process and the meaning of writing test scores
Session 6: 11:20 a.m. - 12.45 p.m.Research and validation issues in writing assessment
Session 7: 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.Round-up & discussion
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