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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Power of Tests: A Critical Perspective on the Uses of Language Texts by Elana Shohamy

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Most of us interested in assessment would agree that our field's thinking about what educational evaluation is and does has developed through at least a couple of distinct historical-conceptual phases. Initially, we understood evaluation as a way of gathering information about what people had learned, and we focused on getting the most accurate and reliable information possible. More recently, our conception of evaluation was broadened and enhanced as we came to understand the rich cluster of assessment concepts that point out to us how assessment not only collects data, but also teaches people (produces knowledge) and transforms educational systems and processes. We, therefore, now also attend to validity issues related to consequences, washback, and assessment's "educative" nature (Wiggins, 1998). In this second historical phase, we still seek valid and valuable information about learning and learners, be we also turn our attention to the impact of assessment decisions on the broader educational project.

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