What is computer-based testing washback?

Assessment training: What is computer-based testing washback? How can it be evaluated, and how can this support practitioner research?

Speakers: Stuart Shaw, Martin Johnson, Tori Coleman
Date: 28 Mar 2019 Venue: Cambridge Assessment The Triangle Building, Shaftesbury Road Cambridge CB2 8EA
Time: 10:00 - 12:00
Type: Training workshop Fee: £70.00

Washback is a term for a concept that is prominent in applied linguistics but that is also becoming more heavily used in general educational contexts. Washback is a complex phenomenon, and so are attempts to measure it. Washback studies in education concentrate on the effects of interventions on the people involved in them. These interventions also include the potential introduction of Computer-Based Tests (CBTs).

Workshop outline

In this workshop, we review the literature on CBT washback and outline a framework for studying its affects as it is introduced into educational contexts. We then outline a research framework that we have developed (based on the literature) that can be used to evaluate CBT washback. We go on to argue that, to fulfil its potential in supporting the development of change, the research framework needs to act as a mediating device that brings together teaching practitioner and researcher perspectives. By way of illustration, we outline an example of where we have attempted to study CBT in a set of schools.

Ideas that had previously seemed complicated were very clearly explained."

Key learning outcomes

  • Understanding washback as a concept and its dimensions.
  • Awareness of washback methodologies that potentially inform a washback study.
  • Enable practitioner researchers to engage with, and reflect on, washback research.
  • Equip potential practitioner researchers with the skills and methodological skills to undertake a washback study in their own context.

Intended audience

This presentation will be of particular interest to practitioners in education and in educational assessment. This includes teachers, anyone who is directly involved in curriculum planning and materials development, key practitioners in assessment and examination bodies and those with an academic interest in educational pedagogy and assessment.

Related/useful resources

Johnson, M. & Shaw, S. (2018). What Is Computer-Based Testing Washback, How Can It Be Evaluated, And How Can This Support Practitioner Research? Journal of Further and Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2018.1471127

Saville, N. (2012). Applying a model for investigating the impact of language assessment within educational contexts; The Cambridge ESOL approach. Research Notes 50, 4-8.



Stuart Shaw specialist - Principal Research Officer

Stuart Shaw, Principal Research Officer, Cambridge International

Stuart is a researcher for Cambridge Assessment International Education. Stuart has worked for Cambridge Assessment since January 2001 where he is particularly interested in demonstrating how Cambridge Assessment seeks to meet the demands of validity in its assessments. Before leading a research team in the area of mainstream international examinations, Stuart worked on a range of Cambridge English products with specific skill responsibilities for assessing writing. Stuart has a wide range of publications in English second language assessment and educational and psychological research journals.

Martin Johnson - Senior Research Officer

Dr Martin Johnson, Senior Research Officer, Assessment and Research Division of Cambridge Assessment

Prior to working at Cambridge, Martin was a teacher for ten years. His areas of interest are, amongst other things, the impact of assessment mode on performance and behaviour, learners’ perceptions of assessment materials, the social implications of assessment, and influences on motivation. Martin has published in a number of areas, including research into the question writing process, the links between assessment outcomes and the technology through which they are mediated, assessors’ communication practices, and studies looking at the psychological and social aspects of assessment processes.

Tori Coleman - Research Officer

Tori Coleman, Research Officer, Assessment Research and Division of Cambridge Assessment

Tori is involved in a variety of projects on curriculum and assessment and qualitative research methods. Prior to joining Cambridge Assessment she completed her MPhil in Education (Psychology and Education) at the University of Cambridge.

The Triangle Building, Shaftesbury Road Cambridge CB2 8EA

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