Edited by Naoko Taguchi and YouJin Kim
[Task-Based Language Teaching 10] 2018
► pp. 288–304
Chapter 12. Pragmatics in task-based language assessment
Opportunities and challenges
Several researchers have pointed out synergies between task-based language assessment (TBLA) and L2 pragmatics assessment, insofar as both domains are based on a concern for effective communication in context (Kim & Taguchi, 2015; Norris, 2016; Timpe-Laughlin, Wain, & Schmidgall, 2015). It is therefore surprising that very little research has been carried out on pragmatics in TBLA. Kim and Taguchi (2015), for example, highlighted that “[p]ragmatics has been a particularly underinvestigated area of task-based research” (p. 660), both in teaching and assessment – a paradox given that the task-based assessment paradigm provides a fitting framework for the assessment of L2 pragmatics. Bringing together the two lines of research – L2 pragmatics and TBLA – this chapter will highlight similarities between the basic tenets of both domains, while discussing opportunities and challenges for employing TBLA as a framework for designing assessments that measure L2 pragmatics. To that end, the chapter begins with a brief review of the fundamental concepts of task-based assessment, highlighting the role of the task as a basic unit of analysis in designing tests that include a focus on pragmatics. It discusses challenges related to generalizability, reliability, and validity as well as issues of task design and task difficulty. It then canvasses current uses of TBLA to assess L2 pragmatics, illustrating different types of task-based assessments that have included pragmatic phenomena, both in research and in operational testing. Ultimately, it argues that, as a foundation for assessing L2 pragmatics, tasks offer a number of benefits that, despite the challenges, are worth pursuing.