Denise Flipo & Liz Clark, RMIT Training
Steps towards successful Task-Based Language Assessment (TBLA)

Heavy reliance on traditional end-of-course assessment to assess the readiness of students to progress from one level to the next, and ultimately to their degree courses, can disadvantage students who may have difficulty performing well in high stakes exams. It also has limited value in assessing students’ ability to perform authentic, real-world tasks. Task-Based Language Assessment (TBLA) is increasingly being used in English language assessment as it is able to measure a broader range of student abilities. Traditional assessments test students’ knowledge about language, but TBLA has the advantage of also testing students’ ability to use language in a meaningful context. With TBLA, a student’s ability to think critically, collaborate, and engage in goal-based interaction in a real-world context can be assessed. These are skills which are essential for success in a future university context. The coursebooks used at RMIT Training include tasks in every unit. However, the tasks are sometimes omitted by teachers who feel the need to focus on the coursebook activities that will prepare students for their exams. RMIT Training is currently trialling the use of TBLA with Intermediate level students. It is anticipated that TBLA will have positive washback, as it will encourage teachers to fully exploit the learning potential offered by tasks. This session introduces the rationale for the trial, how the challenges of assessing TBLA fairly are being dealt with, and how lessons learnt from the trial will inform eventual implementation.

Denise Flipo is an ELICOS teacher, a teacher trainer and an assessment developer. She has worked as an English teacher in Japan and the UAE, and has delivered short intensive teacher training courses in China. She has been involved with Aviation English teaching, as well as Aviation English teacher and rater training, in China, Oman and PNG. She has been an IELTS examiner since 2001, and has been an assessor for the RMIT English Language Test for Aviation (RELTA) and the OET. Her research interests are authentic assessment and reliability in item writing.