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Rating Scales Revisited: EFL Writing Assessment Context of Iran under Scrutiny


Through addressing particular ideologies regarding language, meaning, level of proficiency and target writer and reader, rating criteria define and control the what and how of the assessment process. But a point which has been neglected or intentionally concealed due to concerns of practicality and the legitimacy of the native authority in setting assessment guidelines in EFL writing assessment contexts is the appropriateness of the scale. To raise attention to the current vague rating situation and consequently remedy the state, present study followed two lines of argument. First, drawing on the socio-cognitive framework of Weir (2005) for validating writing assessment, it is discussed that the important characteristic of scoring validity necessitates an appropriate choice of rating rubrics. Second, through posing a critical argument, deficiencies of the present practice of adopting rating scales are revealed and consequently it is discussed how assessment circles in native countries by setting rating standards control and dominate the whole process of writing assessment. To add more flesh to the argument, the ESL Composition Profile of Jacobs, et al. (1981) for its popularity in the Iranian EFL academic writing assessment is analyzed. A preliminary examination of the Profile shows that quite different underlying assumptions are involved. The study ends with a call to add a more local taste to the rating scales. To a large extent, developing a local rating scale that gives agency to the intricacies of Iranian EFL context in designing and developing the scoring criteria in writing assessment would be promising.

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Ghanbari, B., Barati, H. & Moinzadeh, A. Rating Scales Revisited: EFL Writing Assessment Context of Iran under Scrutiny. Language Testing in Asia 2, 83 (2012).

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  • writing assessment
  • academic writing
  • rating scale
  • validity
  • construct validity
  • ESL Composition Profile (Jacobs, et al., 1981)