Validation in Language Assessment
Validation is the process researchers engage in to produce evidence pertaining to the meaning of test scores and their appropriateness for making decisions. Test score meaning, as Schoonen (Chapter 42, this volume) illustrated, can refer to a variety of constructs such as knowledge of wh-question formation, reading comprehension, or language ability (see also Bachman, 2007; Chapelle, 1998; McNamara, 1996). Decisions may include students’ decisions to drop a course or to study harder; teachers’ decisions to teach something a different way or to assign a particular grade to a student; institutional decisions to admit, hire, or advance a candidate; or the government’s decision to increase funding for a school (see Ross, Chapter 47, this volume). Because of the decisions that stem from language test scores, the professional practices entailed in validation are of fundamental importance to language test developers, testing researchers, test score users, and test takers. Everyone involved with language testing relies on the quality of the procedures used for investigating and establishing validity, and they count on professionals in language assessment to know the procedures and be able to apply them appropriately.