Reconceptualization of Test Fairness Model: A Grounded Theory Approach

Document Type : Original Article


1 English Department, Bu Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

2 English Department, Humanities Faculty, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran


The indefinite nature of test fairness and different interpretations and definitions of the concept have stirred a lot of controversy over the years, necessitating the reconceptualization of the concept. On this basis, this study aimed to explore the empirical validity of Kunnan’s (2008) Test Fairness Framework (TFF) and revisit the established test fairness conceptualization following the principles of grounded theory. To this end, 10 university lecturers of TEFL, 20 high school English language teachers, 15 PhD students in TEFL, and 15 MA students in TEFL participated in open-ended and semi- structured interviews. Following grounded theory rubrics, the researchers read, codified, and analyzed the obtained interview data. Simultaneously, memos were written, comparisons were drawn, possibilities were seen, and robust categories were developed through theoretical sampling. This process continued iteratively until the categories saturated. Next, the categories were juxtaposed and compared to see how they fit together and finally several major categories emerged accordingly. The opinions were diagrammed and a visual image of the categories and their relevant scope, power, and associations were represented to construct a theoretical logic. The new hierarchy of test fairness categories became discernible as the interviewees named distinct characteristics for a fair test. The identified levels of the new conceptualization of test fairness were entitled validity, construction and structure, administration, scoring, reporting, decision-making, consequences, security, explicitness, accountability, equality, and rights. The need for advancing context-specific and locally agreed-upon equity principles as driven by the impossibility of the fulfillment of the equality principle in the real world conditions is an important finding of this study with concrete implications for both theory and practice in the field.