Validation and the further disclosures of language test design


The subjective validation of language tests and their objective validity remain contested. The debate is clouded by a lack of conceptual clarity: every measure of the adequacy of a test is either subsumed under validity, or other test features are promoted to prime consideration. An alternative is to recognize the technical dimension of experience as the leading function of applied linguistic artefacts such as language tests. In its coherence with other dimensions of reality, the technical aspect generates echoes of those others. These references to other facets are the basis of technically stamped, applied linguistic concepts. While a previous analysis referred to a number of foundational concepts in test design, this paper examines the traces of the lingual, social, economic and ethical aspects within the technical. These are all regulative technical ideas, acting as lodestars in the design of language tests. They are disclosures of the technical meaning of test design. Moreover, they allow applied linguistics to conceive of them as design principles, which must be given concrete shape and form in the actual development of language tests. Acknowledging this state of affairs enables the applied linguist to develop a robust and non-reductionist theory of applied linguistics.
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