TEASIG PCE 2024: Item writing: from theory to practice

Join IATEFL Testing, Evaluation & Assessment Special Interest Group (TEASIG) for their in person 2024 Pre-Conference Event on 15 April 2024- Item writing: from theory to practice

Assessment tasks or test items are a core part of any formal or informal language assessment. For national or international standardised tests, item writers or task developers are trained and skilled in working to test specifications to develop relevant and appropriate items. And for these tests, item writing is part of the larger process of test development. However, what about developing assessment tasks for your classroom or your institution? Teachers assess all the time in the classroom in different ways for different purposes. Sometimes you may just need a quick quiz to check understanding, but what if you become responsible for developing your school’s or institution’s own tests to measure learning at the end of a term or a course? This is no easy task and there are many factors to consider. Teachers need to be able to draw on knowledge, skills and resources in order to develop assessments that are reliable and valid for their individual situations.

On 9th September 2023, we organised an online event to begin looking at developing assessment tasks for the classroom, what is involved in developing a test item, the knowledge required to do this effectively, and the resources available to support teachers with this very important part of their jobs. 

Our PCE in Brighton will continue the theme of test item writing with two very practical workshops that will guide participants through the item-writing process for their classrooms and institutions. The workshops will be hands-on, so if you’d like to know more about item writing for your own assessment needs and actually try writing some items, come and join us!

Speakers: Michael Fields & Kathrin Eberharter 

Michael Fields is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware’s English Language Institute (USA), and the chair of the assessment committee. He earned an MA in Applied Linguistics from Leicester University, specialising in language assessment. He is a writer and editor for Cambridge exams and has contributed to standards setting for the TOEFL test.

Kathrin Eberharter is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Innsbruck,  where she guides pre-service teachers in the principles of best practice for language testing and assessment. She earned an Austrian teaching degree and completed her MA and PhD at Lancaster University, specializing in language testing. Her primary research interests centre on evaluating L2 writing and speaking, with a dedicated focus on task development, writing processes,rating scale design, and rater cognition and training.

Workshop 1: Item writing for productive skills:

Crafting effective tasks for assessing your students' speaking and writing abilities can be a challenge. This workshop will aim at providing invaluable insights and practical tools to improve your assessment methods. To do so, it will focus on three key areas. First, we will explore how to precisely define the specific language skills we intend to assess, ensuring our assessments are authentic and aligned with learning objectives. Next, I will share some of the proven principles of prompt design that you may find helpful to apply to your own assessment context. Finally, we will look at strategies for measuring the success of assessment tasks which will be useful to improve your task development skills in the future. Each workshop section combines theory with hands-on activities, providing opportunities for practical exercises and discussions.

Workshop 2: Item writing for receptive skills:

This hands-on, practical workshop will address writing and editing selected response items (true/false, multiple choice, matching and gap fill) for use with reading and listening tests. We’ll begin with a review of good item writing practice, drawing on strategies used in large-scale assessment design that can easily be adapted to classroom item writing. We’ll look some well-crafted items, and then you will have a chance to edit and repair some faulty items. Following this you’ll write some listening and reading items based on authentic materials. Finally, we will share our work and compare notes. This workshop is suitable for classroom teachers and test writers at all levels. By the end of this session, you should be able to write better items, write with more confidence, and identify common errors in your own and others’ test items. Participants are encouraged to bring any listening or reading test they are currently working on for development and improvement.

Keep an eye on our website for further details.

You are currently booking to attend this event in person, in Brighton.

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Event details

Event type:

SIG Event
Testing, Evaluation & Assessment


15/04/2024 - 09:30 until 15/04/2024 - 17:00 UK time

United Kingdom


IATEFL members: 77GBP
Non-members: 90GBP

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Register now Max participants: 80