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An Outline of Washback



Conceptualization of
Manipulation of washback
Empirical studies on

Please God may I not fail

Please God may I get over sixty percent
Please God may I get a high place
Please God may all those likely to beat
get killed in road accidents and
may they die roaring.
(Shohamy,1994, p.57)

1. Definition
- Impact
- Washback (backwash)
- Curricular alignment
- Systemic validity
- An instance of consequential
aspect of construct validity

Washback is frequently used to

refer to the effects of tests on
teaching and learning whereas
impact refers to any of the effects
that a test may have on individuals,
policies or practices, within the
classroom, the school, the
educational system, or society as a
whole (Wall, 1997:291).

2. Conceptualization of washback
- Debate over incorporating washback into
concept of validity
Messick, Morrow,
Li Xiaju, Linn
Alderson, Davis
The best way of
encouraging adequate
The apparent open-ended
consideration of major
offer of consequential
intended positive effects and
validity goes too far. I plausible unintended
maintain that it is not
negative effects of test use
possible for a tester as a is to recognize the
member of a profession
of such effects as
take account of all possible
a central aspect of test
social consequences" Davis
validation" Linn (1997:16).

- The Scope, Pattern, and

Mechanisms of Washback
Bachman and Palmer (1996:30)
Test taking and
use of test score


Macro: Society,
education system
Micro: Individuals

Washback hypotheses (Alderson and Wall,1993)

(1) A test will influence teaching.
(2) A test will influence learning.
(3) A test will influence what teachers teach: and
(4) A test will influence how teachers teach; and therefore by
from (2) above:
(5) A test will influence what learners learn: and
(6) A test will influence how learners learn.
(7) A test will influence the rate and sequence of teaching: and
(8) A test will influence the rate and sequence of learning.
(9) A test will influence the degree and depth of teaching: and
(10) A test will influence the degree and depth of learning.
(11) A test will influence attitudes to the content, method, etc. of
teaching and learning.
(12) Tests that have important consequences will have washback;
and conversely
(13) Tests that do not have important consequences will have no
(14) Tests will have washback on all learners and teachers.
(15) Tests will have washback effects for some learners and some
teachers, but not for others.

High-stakes tests are those whose

results are seen rightly or wrongly
by students, teachers, administrators,
parents or the general public, as being
used to make important decisions that
immediately and directly affect them...
In contrast to a high-stakes test,
a low-stakes test is one which is
perceived as not having important
rewards or sanctions tied directly to
test performance.

A basic model of washback (Bailey, 1996)

3. Manipulation of washback
Test as an agent for change
- The Sri Lanka English test
(lever for change)
- The Hong Kong CEE
(tail wags the dog)
- The NMET

4 Empirical studies on washback

The existence of washback
The scope and pattern of washback
The quality of washback (positive vs.
The intended washback

Classroom observation
Questionnaire survey
Analysis of documents


Causal relationship established

(baseline data and follow-up data)
Test effects on different aspect of
education and teaching/learning
Positive vs. negative effects
Intended effects failing to occur

An example of the study on the

intended washback of a highstakes test
The Intended Washback Effect of
the National Matriculation
English Test in China: Intentions
and Reality