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Volume 16 Number 3, Autumn 2019, Pages 768-1068 PDF Download

Developing and Validating Empirically-Derived Diagnostic Descriptors in ESL Academic Writing

    Youn-Hee Kim

Despite the increasing interest in and need for developing empirical and diagnostic assessment schemes in L2 assessment and testing, very little research has been devoted to it. The literature in this area is scant, and only a handful of studies (e.g., Fulcher, 1993; Knoch, 2009; North & Schneider, 1998; Upshur & Turner, 1995) have attempted to explore such possibility. In response to this need for research, this two-phase study developed and validated empirically-derived diagnostic descriptors for use in small-scale classroom assessment in English as a second language (ESL) academic writing. In Phase 1, descriptors that are relevant to the construct of ESL academic writing were developed, and in Phase 2, the use of the descriptors was validated through the multiple analyses. The results indicated that 35 empirically-derived descriptors addressed all aspects of ESL writing skills, including content fulfillment, organizational effectiveness, grammatical knowledge, vocabulary use, and mechanics. In addition, teachers were able to use the descriptors in a consistent manner. These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of an empirical approach to assessment scheme development, and underscore the importance of its use for diagnostic purposes.

Keywords: ESL academic writing, ESL writing assessment, diagnostic assessment, empirical approach, scale development and validation

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