Developing Differentiated Speaking Assessment Tasks

By Hui-Chuan Liao and Yi-Lin Shih.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

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Differentiated assessment is intended to tailor to individual learning needs. Nevertheless, a potential problem with differentiated assessment is the issue of fairness. The purpose of this exploratory study was to develop and improve a set of differentiated speaking assessment tasks. Four specific research questions guided the study. The first looked at motivating factors that determined students’ selections among various difficulty levels, the second at the perceived fairness in relation to learner proficiency levels, the third at how the speaking assessment tasks developed in this study could be improved, and the fourth at the possible backwash effects of differentiated assessment. Results indicate that the most important factor determining student task selection is self-perceived English proficiency. Students tended to consider differentiated assessment to be a fair practice, although lower-achieving students seemed to have more positive attitudes toward it than did higher-achieving students. To enhance learning, teachers should activate students’ metacognitive strategy use in the learning and assessment process. Finally, potential backwash and ways to improve the assessment tasks are provided.

Keywords: Backwash, Differentiated Assessment, Fairness, Language Assessment, Speaking Assessment, Task Selection

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp.45-59. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 742.567KB).

Dr. Hui-Chuan Liao

Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Foreign Languages, National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

Hui-Chuan Liao, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the Department of Applied Foreign Languages at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, Taiwan. Her current research interests include TEFL, instructional design and evaluation in writing and speaking, learning strategies, and peer learning.

Yi-Lin Shih

Graduate Student, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

Yi-Lin Shih is an instructor at Shane English School and graduate student at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan.