Author: Anthony Manning
Publisher: Garnet Education 2016
Testing, whether formal or informal, is a necessary part of any learning experience, and that does not exclude EAP, an area which has been growing in importance at a steady pace as a result of the number of international students studying in international contexts. However, if assessment is not done carefully, using suitable and appropriate tools, the result can be traumatic for a learner.
Assessing EAP: Theory and practice in Assessment Literacy is a book which sheds some light on how to develop and interpret EAP tests and assessments. In spite of the potentially dense and daunting nature of the subject, which often involves coming to grips with undecipherable jargon used by academics, this book was written in a surprisingly simple way and has the potential to reach out to both experienced and less experienced teachers.
The book consists of 15 chapters, covering a number of relevant topics, such as the purpose and function of EAP assessment, understanding construct validity, marking and grading and preventing problems in testing before they arise, among others. The topic of each chapter is divided into sections, and after each one of these there are tasks which help the reader reflect on the main ideas and on their own practices. There is also an Extension Activities section with a variety of tasks, which provides further opportunities to develop the principles and strategies introduced in that chapter. Each unit ends with a Did you know …? photocopiable page for communicating best practice to stakeholders (test designers, test takers, parents, and so on). The main objective is to draw attention to the key skills necessary in each EAP department. At the back of the book, there is a glossary, divided by chapter, where all the technical terms used in the book are clearly explained.
In the school where I work, our students are tested on a weekly basis, and we are expected to design our own tests. Reading this book really did make me think about my own practice and the impact on my students of what I do – in other words, the ‘washback effect’. It also gave me insights into how the process of testing can be better and more professionally done to the benefit of the learners, the teachers and the school as a whole.
Testing and assessing is a very important and serious matter and should be treated as such, because it has a direct impact on the learners’ lives. As the author says, and I fully agree, ‘test attainment can either grant or block access to study and future career options’. This is true, not only but especially, in EAP. After having read this book from cover to cover, I thoroughly recommend it, not only to EAP teachers, but also to other EFL and ESOL professionals. I believe that many useful and enlightening CPD sessions can come out of it.
William Chaves Gomes