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Language assessment : an exploration of whether critical language testing influences the testing of language in the FET phase of a selected high school.

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Language teachers have multiple responsibilities in that they teach a subject which fits into the framework of the school curriculum as well as being the medium through which the majority of that school curriculum is taught. Literacy is also a requirement for the citizenry of the country to function effectively in our society. A further responsibility which is not always perceived is that language has power in that it is often the medium through which social, political and economic discourse occurs. Critical theory contends that competing ideologies seek to make their discourses dominant and in this way have control over relations of power in society. Consequently, language education is the means by which we can educate young people about these ‘discourses of domination’. The focus of this study is teachers and the language assessments which they produce. Are these language assessments simple testing devices intended to gauge learners recall and understanding of the content of the text or can they go deeper than that? Can teachers engage with their learners on a Critical level to understand where texts come from and who created them and what was their purpose in creating them? These questions are in line with Critical literacy, so as to understand power relations in society and to mitigate against the domination of a particular ideology. To merely analyse assessments would be insufficient thus this study goes further to try to understand how teachers’ personal paradigms impact on the assessments which they produce. The purpose here is to gain some understanding of whether or not teachers want to and are able to educate learners about more than just the content of the texts which are taught in the language classroom. This is achieved through the analysis of language assessments and then by semi-structured interviews with the producers of these assessments. The data achieved from this mixed method research is analysed through the lens of Critical Language Testing with the intention of trying to determine if the assessments produced, come from individuals who are concerned with social justice and equality; individuals who are aware of social, political and economic discourses in society among other. The study also sought to determine if these are reflexive individuals who are also ethical in their approach to language teaching and assessment. The thesis attempts to achieve these aims whilst always maintaining a self critical view point. This is done by engaging with the premises which underpin this research and trying to understand the motivations for this research. By attempting to deconstruct my own personal bias and ideological underpinnings the hope is to achieve a study which fairly represents how teachers assess language in the classroom.


Thesis (M.Ed.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2013.


Language and languages--Ability testing., Educational tests and measurements., Language and languages--Study and teaching (Higher), Theses--Education.