A dual accountability

fail-passThe solutions proposed by applied linguists are defensible in two ways:

First, the designs must be justified with reference to theory – not only linguistic theory, but also those found in other disciplines, like psychology and pedagogy, and across disciplines.

AccountabilitySecond, applied linguists are accountable to the public for the designs they produce. This is because their plans affect ever-increasing numbers of human beings. A bad and inappropriate language test may prevent one from earning a decent living or gaining legitimate access to a country or resources. An inadequate language course may stultify personal and professional growth. An ineffective and inappropriate language policy or arrangement can inhibit optimal performance within an institution or the workplace.The pages on this site will deal in more detail with how we ensure this dual defensibility of applied linguistic designs. Its theme is a philosophical or foundational one: how we design language tests and language courses responsibly.RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

Rambiritch, Avasha. 2015. Accountability issues in testing academic literacy: the case of the Test of Academic Literacy for Postgraduate Students (TALPS). Perspectives in Education 33(1): 26-44.

Weideman, Albert. 2015. Responsibly designed language interventions: language in practiceWord and Action 54(426): 52-57.

Rambiritch, Avasha. 2012. Transparency, accessibility and accountability as regulative conditions for a postgraduate test of academic literacy. PhD thesis, University of the Free State. URI: http://hdl.handle.net/11660/1571.

Weideman, Albert. 2011A responsible agenda for applied linguistics: confessions of a philosopher. Per Linguam 23(2). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5785/23-2-54.

Davies, Alan. 2008. Accountability and Standards. In The Handbook of Educational Linguistics (eds B. Spolsky and F. M. Hult).  Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. DOI: 10.1002/9780470694138.ch34.

Weideman, Albert. 2006. Transparency and accountability in applied linguistics. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 24(1): 71-86. DOI: 10.2989/16073610609486407.

Weideman, Albert. 2003. Towards accountability: a point of orientation for post-modern applied linguistics in the third millennium. Literator 24(1) April 2003:83-102.

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8 thoughts on “A dual accountability

  1. Ward Peeters

    Most importantly, I believe that designs and planning are heavily dependent on the public (i.e. the target audience), as much as applied linguists are accountable to the public. In designing courses, tests, etc. the design has to be appropriate, applicable and suitable to cater for a comprehensive solution for, sometimes, different communities and education systems. As varied as the target audience may be, the solution that is designed has to take into account all different variables and participants in order to be all-encompassing. That being said, specific system- or community based challenges need to be addressed accordingly. But, luckily, facing these challenges, designing solutions for particular issues, form the core of applied linguistics.

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  2. Albert Weideman

    Spot on. Differentiation is a key principle. What we should not forget, too, is that the logistical means of delivering the contextually appropriate design place limits on that. Sometimes the plans we make, in the shape of tests and courses, therefore serve a more general purpose than the highly specific one we might wish to adopt. Adelia Carstens of UP dealt with that, in discussing in her thesis the trade-offs that we might face. So another design principle, that of weighing up different options – say an affordable, feasible option against a more desirable, though unaffordable one – and then making an accommodation or compromise, also comes into play.

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  3. Thinus Conradie

    The question of accountability and all the variables that underpin it – especially the question of compromise between community-specific needs with practical/logistical impediments – has been poignantly illustrated by continuing protest actions at South African tertiary institutions. Of course, there is a longer, deeper and richer history at play here: histories that predate the inceptions of movements such as Open Stellenbosch, #RhodesMustfall and #UFSWillTransform etc. And of course, the specific ways in which these movements have raised issues of access merit concerted study. But the contribution of applies linguists is (I think it’s difficult to deny) of particular value in the present moment. I hope that voices from this field remain vocal and central as the debates evolve.

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    1. Albert Weideman

      You’re so right, Thinus. That’s why – and I hope that we’ll be getting there in these discussions – we can already justifiably be proud of the contributions of applied linguistic designs especially in South Africa, but probably also elsewhere. Language tests, language development courses, and language policies are making higher education more accessible. The challenge, however, remains to lift the quality of these designs from their current unevenness to theoretically defensible and publicly accountable levels. We still have some way to go.

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    1. Albert Weideman

      Thanks, Mbongeni! I look forward to these discussions. As soon as its PDF version becomes available, I shall post a link here to an analysis that Colleen du Plessis, Sanet Steyn and I have just completed and published on Litnet. It deals with how we can achieve greater fairness in the Grade 12 Home Language examinations. So watch this space!

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  4. Elizabeth Erling

    Thanks for staying in touch, as always. You are no doubt aware that the next GEMR is going to focus on accountability: https://2017educationreportconsultation.wordpress.com/

    I think that accountability is so important to ensure in the development of low-cost private schools and EMI — where parents are making decisions and investments based on ideologies and dreams but there is little evidence, monitoring or accountability

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    1. Albert Weideman

      Thanks so much for this, Beth. Thanks too for the info on the contributions to this Unesco initiative. Glad to see that this idea is getting more and more traction internationally. And you’re right that the drift towards English medium instruction may affect earlier levels of education more through aspirations and hopes than on evidence. In South Africa a debate is currently raging about how this drift in higher education will affect mother tongue education at secondary and primary school. I have also drafted a chapter for the 2017 Routledge World Yearbook of Education being edited by Julie Allan (Birmingham) and Alfredo Artiles on this, and I hope to refer to that again in future discussions.

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