Because Janna Fox is (for reasons I don't understand yet) unable to
post to the list, she sent me her response to Susan's question. I'm
posting it to the list, as I think it's of general interest.
------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 09:35:57 -0400
To: [log in to unmask]
From: Janna Fox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Sentence combining as test item?
I have the "everything old will be new again" feeling as I read your
question about sentence combining in a provincial test. In the
mid-80's I was part of a team developing tasks/items for the Ontario
Assessment Instrument Pool for Senior English. We looked at
sentence combining and rejected it then for the same reasons I
believe it should be rejected now. Whereas I believe you could find
some (although dated) support in the literature for sentence
combining as a pedagogical strategy, it's important to ask what is
being tested by such a task? I agree with Guy. A task/item like this
on a test trivializes and underrepresents the construct. It also
greatly disadvantages second language users of English.
I remember one of the justifications for the use of sentence
combining in a classroom setting was that L1 (English speaking)
students "wouldn't make mistakes" because of their "instinctive"
sense of what was grammatically possible and what was not. This is
not the case for L2 (English as a second language) students. In the
end, there is the danger of testing L1 and L2 students differently --
because what you are testing differs across the two groups. If you
need an argument against sentence combining in a provincial English
exam the issue of test bias might be a good one.
[Ian Rankin is well worth reading!].
Language Assessment and Testing Research Unit
School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
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