FAH-DENG Guest Lecture: “Connecting writing assessments to teaching and learning: Distinguishing alternative purposes”


Prof. Alister Cumming


1 Mar 2017




E21-G016 (FSS Lecture Hall)



Four conceptually-distinct options exist for relating assessments of writing to teaching and learning in programs of language education, each fulfilling different but interrelated purposes.  Assessment purposes may either be normative, diagnostic, formative, or summative. Eight conventional assessment practices that realize these options are:  (a) proficiency tests and curriculum standards, each based on different kinds of normative principles and data, (b) diagnostic and dynamic assessments focused on individual learners and their learning potential within a specific educational context, (c) responding to students’ written drafts for formative purposes of informing their improvement, and (d) grades or local tests of summative achievements in a particular course. I argue that alternative options and intersecting relationships exist for connecting assessment, teaching, and learning, which can lead to mixing and confusions of purpose, conceptualization, and responsibility.  I try to clarify these options and relationships by examining the premises, issues, and challenges associated with each of them. 



Alister Cumming is a professor in the Centre for Educational Research on Languages and Literacies (CERLL, formerly the Modern Language Centre) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where he has been employed since 1991 following briefer periods at the University of British Columbia, McGill University, Carleton University, and Concordia University.  For 2014 to 2017 Alister is also a Changjiang Scholar at Beijing Foreign Studies University.  His research and teaching focus on writing in second languages, language assessment, language program evaluation and policies, and research methods.  Alister’s recent books are Agendas for Language Learning Research (with Lourdes Ortega and Nick Ellis, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), Adolescent Literacies in a Multicultural Context (Routledge, 2012), A Synthesis of Research on Second Language Writing in English (with Ilona Leki and Tony Silva, Routledge, 2008), and Goals for Academic Writing (John Benjamins, 2006).   Alister’s full CV appears on his university home page:  http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/ctl/Faculty_Staff/Faculty_Profiles/1213/Alister_Cumming.html


All are welcome




FAH - Department of English
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