April JALT Event in Fukuoka



Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Tests, TOEFL, and other Terrible Tortures


Joseph A. Murphy


Sunday, April 19, 1998


2:00 to 5:00


Aso Foreign Language Travel College
Hakataekiminami 2-12-24
(10 minutes from Hakata Station on foot
- see the map in English or see the map in Japanese for details)


Free for JALT members and for non-members


Bill Pellowe, e-mail billp@gol.com
Kevin O'Leary, phone (0942) 32-0101, fax 31-0372
e-mail ogs@kurume.ktarn.or.jp

Outline of the Purposes of the Seminar:

  1. to practice second-language (L2) test development activities, including specification and item-writing
  2. to spot and critique poorly written tests and items
  3. to learn what's new in oral testing (The Test of Spoken English) and TOEFL (Computer-based Testing and TOEFL 2000)
  4. to learn about the ITP TOEFL and other standardized tests (overview only)

The first part of this seminar will focus on areas of testing which concern language teachers as test developers and as consumers of commercial tests. The second half of this workshop includes a hands-on demonstration of the new CD-ROM version of the TOEFL test.

Our speaker writes:
I just returned from country X (not Japan) where I spent almost three weeks evaluating a large university English department. As a "testing person," I was surprised, in fact shocked, by the overemphasis on testing in that university. Ninety percent of each student's grade in all subjects was based on tests that straddled the line between achievement and proficiency instruments. As you might imagine, the result was a situation of tension between teachers and testers, somewhat low student motivation, and a curriculum generally unresponsive to student needs. To be fair, the program had many outstanding qualities to counter this weakness and was, in fact, a model in other areas, for example, providing out-of-class uses of the second language.

Our first task in the April workshop will be to review and clarify, from the practicioner's point of view, some distinctions in the different kinds of tests. This means not only definitions but ideas on when to use the various tools at our disposal.

One of the major challenges for teachers today is keeping up to date in terms of shifting from traditional test items to those based on current educational practice. Specifically, language knowledge today is not just grammar but textual knowledge (knowledge of how structure and vocabulary are organized into larger units), functional knowledge (relating forms to communicative goals), and sociolinguistic knowledge (sensitivity to dialects, registers, idioms, and cultural references). Speaking tests today also involve strategic competence (goal setting, assessment of the situation by the speaker, and planning, that is, putting knowledge to work in order to accomplish a task).

Our workshop will also involve evaluating various test items from traditional and new perspectives. It will give participants a chance to brainstorm in these new areas.

Finally, there is the world of TOEFL and other standardized tests. Those instruments too are changing at a rapid pace. New test specifications, behavioral statements on which test items are based, are being produced. The world of computer-adaptive testing (CAT) is here. TOEFL now has a CAT test on the market and a brand new computer-based TOEFL (TOEFL 2000) is in the pipeline. The workshop will give you "hands-on" experience with sample TOEFL questions presented in CAT format on CD-ROM. You will be able to see and experience this brave new world of testing that starts with TOEFL but which will revolutionize even classroom testing in the very near future.


Joseph A. Murphy, Ph. D., is a Professor of English at Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University. He is also the ETS consultant in Japan for ITP, TOEFL, CBT, TOEFL 2000, and TSE. During the past 10 years, he has served on 5 different test development committes at ETS.
This workshop is made possible through the cooperation of CIEE, the Council on International Educational Exchange, which is the Japan representative of TOEFL. Mr. Naoto Kato of CIEE will be joining Dr. Murphy during the hands-on computer demonstration of the TOEFL 2000 CD-ROM in the computer labs during the final part of this workshop.

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