Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices

H. Douglas Brown / Priyanvada Abeywickrama  
Total pages
March 2010

Product detail

Title no longer available



Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices, offers a clear, comprehensive survey of the essential principles of assessing second language learning, as well as the critical tools teachers need to evaluate performance fairly and effectively.  This invaluable resource joins Brown's classic texts, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching and Teaching by Principles, in providing indispensible guidance for second language instruction.

Language Assessment provides a working knowledge of the principles of assessment and their practical application in the classroom. This concise, comprehensive treatment of all four skills includes classification of assessment techniques ranging from controlled to open-ended item types, while a discussion of standardized tests examines their design, purpose, validity and utility.

Additional key features:

  • Clearly framed fundamental principles for evaluating and designing assessment procedures
  • A focus on classroom-based assessment at all levels of proficiency
  • A thorough examination of standards-based assessment and standardized testing
  • A wealth of practical examples to illustrate principles and guidelines
  • An exploration of the ethics of testing in an educational and commercial world
  • Comprehensive treatment of alternatives in assessment
  • A chapter devoted to guidelines and practical suggestions for assigning grades
  • End-of-chapter exercises and suggested additional readings

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Assessment Concepts and Issues 

Assessment and Testing

          Measurement and Evaluation

          Assessment and Learning

          Informal and Formal Assessment

          Formative and Summative Assessment

          Norm-Referenced and Criterion-Referenced Tests

Types and Purposes of Assessment

            Achievement Tests

            Diagnostic Tests

            Placement Tests

            Proficiency Tests

            Aptitude Tests

Issues in Language Assessment: Then and Now

            Behavioral Influences on Language Testing

            Integrative Approaches

            Communicative Language Testing

            Performance-based Assessment

Current “Hot Topics” in Classroom-based Assessment

            Multiple Intelligences

            Traditional and “Alternative” Assessment

            Computer-based Testing

Other Current Issues


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 2:  Principles Of Language Assessment



            Student-Related Reliability

            Rater Reliability

            Test Administration Reliability

            Test Reliability


            Content-Related Evidence

            Criterion-Related Evidence

            Construct-Related Evidence

            Consequential Validity (Impact)

            Face Validity   



Applying Principles to the Evaluation of Classroom Tests


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 3:  Designing Classroom Language Tests

Four Assessment Scenarios

Determining the Purpose of a Test

Designing Clear, Unambiguous Objectives

Drawing Up Test Specifications

Devising Test Items

Designing Multiple-Choice Items

Administering the Test

Scoring, Grading, and Giving Feedback



            Giving Feedback


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 4:  Standards-Based Assessment

The Role of Standards in Standardized Tests

Standards-Based Education

Designing English Language Standards

Standards-Based Assessment


            Teacher Standards

The Consequences of Standards-Based and Standardized Testing

            Test Bias

            Test-Driven Language and Teaching

Ethical Issues: Critical Language Testing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 5:  Standardized Testing

Advantages and Disadvantages of Standardized Tests

Developing a Standardized Test

Standardized Language Proficiency Testing


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 6:  Beyond Tests: Alternatives in Assessment

The Dilemma of Maximizing Both Practicality and Washback

Performance-Based Assessment




Conferences and Interviews


Self- and Peer-Assessments

            Types of Self- and Peer-Assessment

Guidelines for Self- and peer-Assessment

            A Taxonomy of Self- and Peer-Assessment Tasks


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 7:  Assessing Listening

Integration of Skills in Language Assessment

Assessing Grammar and Vocabulary

Observing the Performance of the Four Skills

The Importance of Listening

Basic Types of Listening

Micro- and Macroskills of Listening

Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive Listening

            Recognizing Phonological and Morphological Elements

            Paraphrase Recognition

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive Listening

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selective Listening

            Listening Cloze

            Information Transfer

            Sentence Repetition

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extensive Listening


            Communicative Stimulus-Response Tasks

            Authentic Listening Tasks


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 8:  Assessing Speaking

Basic Types of Speaking

Micro- and Macroskills of Speaking

Designing Assessment Tasks: Imitative Speaking

            Versant ®

Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive Speaking

            Directed Response Tasks

            Read-Aloud Tasks

            Sentence/Dialogue Completion Tasks and Oral Questionnaires

            Picture-Cued Tasks

            Translation (of Limited Stretches of Discourse)

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive Speaking

            Question and Answer

            Giving Instructions and Directions


            Test of Spoken English (TSE ®)

Designing Assessment Tasks: Interactive Speaking


            Role Play

            Discussions and Conversations


            ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI)

Designing Assessments: Extensive Speaking

            Oral Presentations

            Picture-Cued Story-Telling

            Retelling a Story, News Event

            Translation (of Extended Prose)


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 9:  Assessing Reading

Genres of Reading

Microskills, Macroskills, and Strategies for Reading

Types of Reading

Designing Assessment Tasks: Perceptive Reading

            Reading Aloud

            Written Response


            Picture-Cued Items

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selective Reading

            Multiple Choice (for Form-Focused Criteria)

            Matching Tasks

            Editing Tasks

            Picture-Cued Tasks

            Gap-Filling Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Interactive Reading

            Cloze Tasks

            Impromptu Reading Plus Comprehension Questions

            Short-Answer Tasks

            Editing (Longer Texts)


            Ordering Tasks

            Information Transfer: Reading Charts, Maps, Graphs, Diagrams

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extensive Reading

            Skimming Tasks

            Summarizing and Responding

            Note-Taking and Outlining


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 10: Assessing Writing

Genres of Written Language

Types of Writing Performance

Micro- and Macroskills of Writing

Designing Assessment Tasks: Imitative Writing

            Tasks in [Hand] Writing Letters, Words, and Punctuation

            Spelling Tasks and Detecting Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences

Designing Assessment Tasks: Intensive (Controlled) Writing

            Dictation and Dicto-Comp

            Grammatical Transformation Tasks

            Picture-Cued Tasks

            Vocabulary Assessment Tasks

            Ordering Tasks

            Short-Answer and Sentence Completion Tasks

Issues in Assessing Responsive and Extensive Writing

Designing Assessment Tasks: Responsive and Extensive Writing


            Guided Question and Answer

            Paragraph Construction Tasks

            Strategic Options

Scoring Methods for Responsive and Extensive Writing

            Holistic Scoring

            Primary Trait Scoring

            Analytic Scoring

Beyond Scoring: Responding to Extensive Writing

            Assessing Initial Stages of the Process of Composing

            Assessing Later Stages of the Process of Composing


For Your Further Reading



Chapter 11: Assessing Grammar and Vocabulary

Assessing Grammar

            Defining Grammatical Knowledge

Designing Assessment Tasks: Selected Response

            Multiple-Choice (MC) Tasks

            Discrimination Tasks

            Noticing Tasks or Consciousness Raising Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Limited Production

            Gap-filling Tasks

            Short Answer Tasks

            Dialogue Completion Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Extended Production

            Information-gap Tasks

            Role Play or Simulation Tasks

Assessing Vocabulary

            The Nature of Vocabulary

            Defining Lexical Knowledge

Some Considerations in Designing Assessment Tasks

Designing Assessment Tasks: Receptive Vocabulary

Designing Assessment Tasks: Productive Vocabulary


For Your Further Reading


Chapter 12: Grading and Student Evaluation

Philosophy of Grading: What Should Grades Reflect?

            Guidelines for Selecting Grading Criteria

            Methods for Calculating Grades

            Teachers' Perceptions of Appropriate Grade Distributions

Institutional Expectations and Constraints

            Cross-Cultural Factors and the Question of Difficulty

            What Do Letter Grades “Mean”?

            Calculating Grades

Alternatives to Letter Grading

Some Principles and Guidelines for Grading and Evaluation


For Your Further Reading


Appendix:   Commercial Tests



Name Index

Subject Index


Back Cover

Language Assessment provides teachers with a clear presentation of the essentials for assessing second language learning fairly and effectively. This updated second edition includes new research and information on standardized tests, a new chapter on form-focused assessment, and a concise glossary of terms.


With a focus on the most common pedagogical challenge - classroom-based assessment - Language Assessment delivers useful tools for evaluating and designing practical, effective assessment techniques.



  • Updated references and new information reflecting recent advances and current challenges in the field.
  • Classification of assessment techniques ranging from controlled to open-ended item types on a specified continuum of micro- and macroskills of language.
  • Systematic treatment of assessment for all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) as well as grammar and vocabulary.
  • Discussion of large-scale standardized tests, the ethics of testing, letter grading, and overall evaluation of student performance.
  • Comprehensive presentation of alternatives in assessment, such as portfolios, journals, conferences, observations, interviews, and self- or peer-assessment.

 New Features

  • Chapter objectives that preview content and goals
  • A new chapter on form-focused assessment
  • An appendix of commercially available tests
  • A concise glossary of assessment terms


Dr. H. Douglas Brown, a professor in the MA-TESOL program at San Francisco State University, has written many articles, teacher training books, and textbooks on language pedagogy. A past president of TESOL and recipient of the James A. Alatis Award for Distinguished Service, Dr. Brown has lectured to English language teaching audiences around the world.