Item Writing and Dyslexic Students
Promoting Best Practices
Keywords:accommodations, dyslexic students, item writing, language testing, validity
In language testing, item writing is an important process which can be creative, rewarding but also challenging and sometimes frustrating. Quality items are fundamental for test validity and item writers can be formally trained in order to improve what they write (Rossi and Brunfaut 2019).
The present study analyses some items specifically written for dyslexic students as part of a high-stakes, Internet-based B1 English test administered to undergraduate students in an Italian university, namely the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where the number of dyslexic students enrolled has increased exponentially in recent years. The aim was to investigate whether the accommodations suggested by the item reviewer succeeded in removing unnecessary barriers which represent an unintended bias, while preserving the test construct and consequently its validity (Pelleriti 2018; Kormos and Smith 2012).
For the present investigation, a questionnaire was devised, and four certified dyslexic students were interviewed on a voluntary basis. The data collected during the semi-structured interviews confirmed that some of the suggested accommodations would be beneficial, whereas others would be detrimental to candidates with dyslexia. As a consequence, some conclusions have been drawn, with the aim of sharing best practice among the language testing community—in particular language testers, test developers, and item writers. Nevertheless, this research has also confirmed that item writing undoubtedly deserves more scholarly attention, in an attempt to shed light on this pivotal aspect, which is at times neglected despite being one of the pillars in language testing.
Brown, H. Douglas and Priyanvada Abeywickrama. Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. New York: Pearson Education, 2010.
Brunfaut, Tineke. “Assessing Listening.” Handbook of Second Language Assessment. Edited by Dina Tsagari and Jayanti Banerjee. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2016. 97-112.
Brunfaut, Tineke, et al. “Testing Young Foreign Language Learners’ Reading Comprehension: Exploring the Effects of Working Memory, Grade Level, and Reading Task.” Language Testing 38.3 (2021): 356-377.
Buck, Gary. Assessing Listening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Cardinaletti, Anna. “Linee guida per test linguistici accessibili e prospettive future.” Test linguistici accessibili per studenti sordi e con DSA: pari opportunità per l’accesso all’università. Edited by Anna Cardinaletti. Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2018. 317-324.
D’Este, Claudia and Geraldine Ludbrook. “Fairness and Validity in Testing Students with SpLDs: A Case Study from Italy.” Assessing L2 Students with Learning and Other Disabilities. Edited by Dina Tsagari and George Spanoudis. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. 169-188.
Dörnyei, Zoltán. Research Methods in Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Kormos, Judit and Anne Margaret Smith. Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2012.
Kunnan, Antony John, edited by. Fairness and Validation in Language Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Li, Hongli and Hoi K. Suen. “Are Test Accommodations for English Language Learners Fair?” Language Assessment Quarterly 9.3 (2012): 293-309.
Ludbrook, Geraldine. “La prova di grammatica.” Test linguistici accessibili per studenti sordi e con DSA: pari opportunità per l’accesso all’università. Edited by Anna Cardinaletti. Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2018. 253-266.
---. “La valutazione della lingua straniera: aspetti critici per gli studenti sordi e con DSA.” Test linguistici accessibili per studenti sordi e con DSA: pari opportunità per l’accesso all’università. Edited by Anna Cardinaletti. Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2018. 56-66.
McNamara, Tim. “Validity in Language Testing: The Challenge of Sam Messick’s Legacy.” Language Assessment Quarterly 3.1 (2006): 31-51.
McNamara, Tim and Carsten Roever. Language Testing: The Social Dimension. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
Pelleriti, Margherita. Dyslexic Students: From Language Learning to Language Testing. Valencia: Universitat Politècnica de València, 2018.
Rossi, Olena and Tineke Brunfaut. “Test Item Writers.” The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching. Edited by John I. Liontas. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2019. 1-7.
Turner, Elizabeth and Jayne Pughe. Dyslexia and English. London: David Fulton Publishers, 2003.
Copyright (c) 2023 Margherita Pelleriti
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Iperstoria is an Open Access journal.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 BY-NC License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of their work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. We require authors to inform us of any instances of re-publication.