©2017 by Judson MacDonald. This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0
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Arthur Hughes, Testing for Language Teachers

"People's performance on the same task is unlikely to be perfectly consistent.

Therefore, we have to offer candidates as many 'fresh starts' as possible."

Write a paragraph about the treatment of chickens in Mexico. 


Overwhelmed? Clueless? 

Imagine how your students feel!


Testing writing proves to be a difficult task in any classroom. According to Testing for Language Teachers, "we have to set writing tasks that are properly representative of the population of tasks that we should expect the students to able to perform" (Hughes 83). That brief prompt above sets a broad and unrestricted set of tasks that will bring various lengths and topics. This makes assessment of the students extremely difficult because there is a lack of validity and reliability in the task provided (click here for a reminder of reliability and validity). Let's fix it! 

Do you remember the last time you tested writing in your classroom? Pull out an old test and read your prompt.

What kind of writing task did you assign? 

"There are so many significantly different ways of developing a response to the stimulus. Writing tasks should be well defined: candidates should know just what is required of them, and they should not be allowed to go too far astray" (Hughes 93). In this sense, we need to restrict our students. 

Let's return to the original writing prompt! 

Write a paragraph about the treatment of chickens in Mexico.

A quick fix for this topic would be to use a list form to specify

- exactly what is expected

1. from the student's response.

We can do this by returning to the content that we taught preceding the assessment. Perhaps, you used an authentic source like Cosechando Natural from Mexico to teach your students about treatment of chickens in Spanish-speaking places outside of the United States. 

Skim the following authentic resource for its content.
Write down what you learn! 
Discuss or reflect upon potential writing tasks.

"Care has to be taken when notes are given not to provide students with too much of what they need in order to carry out a task" (Hughes 93). Let's take a look at an example of creating a writing task using list form.

Compare the treatment of chickens at Cosechando Natural with those here in the United States. Use all the points below to write your paragraph and write half a page. 

  1. Lifespans

  2. Living Spaces

  3. Food 

    • What do they eat?​

    • Where do they eat?

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