Critical Language Testing, Multilingualism and Social Justice

Elana Shohamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper reports on trends in language testing taking place over the years and aim at critical perspectives of testing and promoting inclusion, equity and justice. It begins with critical theories by Messick, Foucault and Bourdieu, leading to critical language testing (CLT) which focused on consequences and uses of tests. Given the power of tests and their detrimental effects questions were raised regarding the impact of language tests on individuals and society. Based on theories of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics it was realized that bi-multilingual students, especially immigrants in the first years of migration and beyond continue to use their first languages as resources for academic functioning, referring to it as their ‘full language repertoire’. These languages are needed especially when processing academic school tests, presented in the new language which students have not yet acquired. The paper reports on studies where immigrant students are tested in multilingual tests and reach significantly high scores compared to those tested only in the new language. In experiments, using a variety of tools, students showed positive attitude to the procedure as they felt recognition and respect. Multilingual tests need to be practiced in schools to avoid language rights violations. Multimodal assessment methods are also proposed as additional ways for expanding the underpinnings of language construct. Lastly, it is recommended that language testing researchers and practitioners conduct research to identify cases of violate language rights and suggest new assessment models to overcome it, leading to increased social justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1457
Number of pages13
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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