How Do we Assess Task-based Performance?

John Norris, Georgetown University
Presentation Date: 
April 3, 2014

Tasks have captured the attention of testers and educators for some time (e.g., Cureton, 1951, Wiggins, 1994), because they present goal-oriented, contextualized challenges that prompt examinees to deploy cognitive skills and domain-related knowledge in authentic performance rather than merely displaying what they know in selected-response and other discrete forms of tests (Kane, 2001; Wiggins, 1998). For language testing, in particular, interest in task-based performance assessment reflects the need to incorporate language use into assessments, such that interpretations about learners’ abilities to communicate are warranted (Brindley, 1994; Norris et al., 1998). Over the past several decades, tasks have come to play a crucial role in language assessments on a variety of levels, from classroom-based tests to large-scale language proficiency exams to research on second language acquisition. In this webinar, I will provide an overview of the incorporation of tasks into contemporary language assessment practice across diverse contexts, with a particular emphasis on examples of tasks used for distinct (formative and summative) assessment purposes in language classrooms and programs. Participants will encounter the basic steps in developing task-based assessments, including needs analysis, task selection, performance elicitation, rubric creation, scoring, and score reporting/feedback. We will also address the benefits of task-based assessment for language learners, teachers, and programs, and we will consider the potential that emerging technologies hold for enabling authentic assessments of language use. Finally, we will consider both research-based and educator-relevant insights into some of the challenges in doing task-based language assessment, and I will suggest a variety of solutions.