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'Re-conceptualising Validity in High Stakes Testing' - Seminar by Professor Barry O'Sullivan (British Council)

Over the past six decades we have moved from thinking about validity in terms of the test, to thinking about it in terms of the impact the test has on the individual and on society (test consequence). Recently, a swing back to a more test-focused approach has emerged. One reason for this return to a more traditional approach is the failure of assessment theoreticians to adequately deal with the concept of test consequence. This is not hugely unexpected since the its proponent (Messick) himself pulled back from his original position over the course of his writing on the subject, so that his later works take an essentially traditional view. While it has been generally accepted that test consequence
is important, the degree to which this is the case and the way in which
it might impact on test development and validation has been debated and, more
recently, challenged. Like others, my position on the topic has changed
over the past number of years, from one of rejection (i.e. seeing the concept of
‘consequential validity’ is itself as an error), to one of slightly more acceptance
(consequence is somehow important to all aspects of test development
and validation). In this presentation, I will argue that the key understanding how test consequence can be operationalised in development
and validation models is to focus on test stakeholders. By considering stakeholder groups from the
conceptualisation stage of development we can essentially building consequence into test design. We can also postulate a clear a priori and a posteriori role for consequence within the development and validation model, allowing us to view consequence as a source of validation evidence. Acknowledging the importance of stakeholder groups to test development brings with it the equally important concept of how to more appropriately communicate validation results to these audiences.

Event details

Speaker Biography
Barry O’Sullivan is Head of Assessment Research & Development at the British Council and is Honorary Professor of Applied Linguistics at Roehampton University, London. He has written two books on language testing, Issues in Business English Testing (CUP, 2006) and Modelling Performance in Tests of Spoken Language (Peter Lang, 2008). In addition, he had edited two volumes (Language testing: theories and practices, Palgrave, 2011; The  Cambridge Guide to Second Language Assessment, CUP, 2012 – co edited with Christine Coombe, Peter Davidson and Stephen Stoynoff). In addition to his many publications he has presented his work at conferences around the world.  Barry is active in language testing globally and has worked with ministries, universities and examination boards. Recent projects include the British Council’s Aptis testing service. His current role at the British Council involves advising on assessment practice around the world, both within the organisation and with its many partners, associates and clients. In addition to his work in the area of language testing, Barry has taught in Ireland, England, Peru and Japan.

A recording of this seminar can be accessed via the student intranet here.

Barry_O_Sullivan_photograph.jpgBarry O'Sullivan (909K)
Barry_O_Sullivan.pptxBarry O'Sullivan powerpoint presentation (2757K)


Baring Court 114