Language Testing Bytes is a podcast to accompany the SAGE journal Language Testing. Three or four times per year, we will release a podcast in which we discuss topics related to a particular issue of the journal. This may be an interview with a contributor to the journal, or another expert in the field. You can download the podcast from this website, from ltj.sagepub.com, or you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.
Coming Soon: The next podcast will be released in late January 2015. To accompany the first issue of 2015 Glenn Fulcher interviews Martin East of the University of Auckland on the subject of Assessment Reform.
The focus of this paper is on the design, administration, and scoring of a dynamically administered elicited imitation test of L2 English morphology. Drawing on Vygotskian sociocultural psychology, particularly the concepts of zone of proximal development and dynamic assessment, we argue that support provided during the elicited imitation test both reveals and promotes the continued growth of emerging L2 capacities. Following a discussion of the theoretical and methodological background to the study, we present a single case analysis of one advanced L2 English speaker (L1 Korean). First, we present overall scores, which include three types: an "actual" score, based on first responses only; a "mediated" score, which is weighted to account for those abilities that become possible only with support; and a learning potential score, which may be used as a predictor of readiness to benefit from further instruction. Second, we illustrate how an item analysis can be useful in developing a detailed diagnostic profile of the learner that accounts for changes in the learner’s need for, and responsiveness to, support over the course of the task. In concluding, we consider the implications of our approach to dynamically assessing elicited imitation tasks and directions for further research.
Research on the relationship between English language proficiency standards and academic content standards serves to provide information about the extent to which English language learners (ELLs) are expected to encounter academic language use that facilitates their content learning, such as in mathematics and science. Standards-to-standards correspondence thus contributes to validity evidence regarding ELL achievements in a standard-based assessment system. The current study aims to examine the reliability of reviewer judgments about language performance indicators associated with academic disciplines in standards-to-standards correspondence studies in the US K–12 settings. Ratings of cognitive complexity germane to the language performance indicators were collected from 20 correspondence studies with over 500 reviewers, consisting of content experts and ESL specialists. Using generalizability theory, we evaluate reviewer reliability and standard errors of measurement in their ratings with respect to the number of reviewers. Results show that depending on the particular grades and subject areas, 3–6 reviewers are needed to achieve acceptable reliability and to control for reasonable measurement errors in their judgments.
This study examines three controversial aspects in differential item functioning (DIF) detection by logistic regression (LR) models: first, the relative effectiveness of different analytical strategies for detecting DIF; second, the suitability of the Wald statistic for determining the statistical significance of the parameters of interest; and third, the degree of equivalence between the main DIF classification systems. Different strategies to tests–LR models, and different DIF classification systems, were compared using data obtained from the University of Tehran English Proficiency Test (UTEPT). The data obtained from 400 test takers who hold a master’s degree in science and engineering or humanities were investigated for DIF. The data were also analyzed with the Mantel–Haenszel procedure in order to have an appropriate comparison for detecting uniform DIF. The article provides some guidelines for DIF detection using LR models that can be useful for practitioners in the field of language testing and assessment.
This study examined the relative effectiveness of the multidimensional bi-factor model and multidimensional testlet response theory (TRT) model in accommodating local dependence in testlet-based reading assessment with both dichotomously and polytomously scored items. The data used were 14,089 test-takers’ item-level responses to the testlet-based reading comprehension section of the Graduate School Entrance English Exam (GSEEE) in China administered in 2011. The results showed that although the bi-factor model was the best-fitting model, followed by the TRT model, and the unidimensional 2-parameter logistic/graded response (2PL/GR) model, the bi-factor model produced essentially the same results as the TRT model in terms of item parameter, person ability and standard error estimates. It was also found that the application of the unidimensional 2PL/GR model had a bigger impact on the item slope parameter estimates, person ability estimates, and standard errors of estimates than on the intercept parameter estimates. It is hoped that this study might help to guide test developers and users to choose the measurement model that best satisfies their needs based on available resources.
The scoring of constructed responses may introduce construct-irrelevant factors to a test score and affect its validity and fairness. Fatigue is one of the factors that could negatively affect human performance in general, yet little is known about its effects on a human rater’s scoring quality on constructed responses. In this study, we compared the scoring quality of 72 raters under four shift conditions differing on the shift length (total scoring time in a day) and session length (time continuously spent on a task). About 14,000 audio responses to four TOEFL iBT speaking tasks were scored, including 5446 validity responses that have pre-assigned "true" scores used to measure scoring accuracy. Our results suggest that the overall scoring accuracy is high for the TOEFL iBT Speaking Test, but varying levels of rating accuracy and consistency exist across shift conditions. The raters working the shorter shifts or shorter sessions on average maintain greater rating productivity, accuracy, and consistency than those working longer shifts or sessions do. The raters working the 6-hour shift with three 2-hour sessions outperform those under other shift conditions in both rating accuracy and consistency.
This paper reports on a mixed-methods approach to evaluate rater performance on a local oral English proficiency test. Three types of reliability estimates were reported to examine rater performance from different perspectives. Quantitative results were also triangulated with qualitative rater comments to arrive at a more representative picture of rater performance and to inform rater training. Specifically, both quantitative (6338 valid rating scores) and qualitative data (506 sets of rater comments) were analyzed with respect to rater consistency, rater consensus, rater severity, rater interaction, and raters’ use of rating scale. While raters achieved overall satisfactory inter-rater reliability (r = .73), they differed in severity and achieved relatively low exact score agreement. Disagreement of rating scores was largely explained by two significant main effects: (1) examinees’ oral English proficiency level, that is, raters tend to agree more on higher score levels than on lower score levels; (2) raters’ differential severity due to raters’ varied perceptions of speech intelligibility toward Indian and low-proficient Chinese examinees. However, effect sizes of raters’ differential severity effect on overall rater agreement were rather small, suggesting that varied perceptions among trained raters of second language (L2) intelligibility, though possible, are not likely to have a large impact on the overall evaluation of oral English proficiency. In contrast, at the lower score levels, examinees’ varied language proficiency profiles generated difficulty for rater alignment. Rater disagreement at these levels accounted for most of the overall rater disagreement and thus should be focused on during rater training. Implication of this study is that interpretation of rater performance should not just focus on identifying interactions between raters’ and examinees’ linguistic background but also examine the impact of rater interactions across examinees’ language proficiency levels. Findings of this study also indicate effectiveness of triangulating different sources of data on rater performance using a mixed-methods approach, especially in local testing contexts.
Language Testing is an international peer reviewed journal that
publishes original research on language testing and assessment. Since
1984 it has featured high impact papers covering theoretical issues,
empirical studies, and reviews. The journal's wide scope encompasses
first and second language testing and assessment of English and other
languages, and the use of tests and assessments as research and
evaluation tools. Many articles also contribute to methodological
innovation and the practical improvement of testing and assessment
internationally. In addition, the journal publishes submissions that
deal with policy issues, including the use of language tests and
assessments for high stakes decision making in fields as diverse as
education, employment and international mobility. The journal welcomes
the submission of papers that deal with ethical and philosophical issues
in language testing, as well as technical matters. Also of concern is
research into the washback and impact of language test use, and
ground-breaking uses of assessments for learning. Additionally, the
journal wishes to publish replication studies that help to embed and
extend our knowledge of generalisable findings in the field. Language
Testing is committed to encouraging interdisciplinary research, and is
keen to receive submissions which draw on theory and methodology from
different fields of applied linguistics, as well as educational
measurement, and other relevant disciplines.
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Issue 19: Fred Davidson and Cary Lin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discuss the role of statistics in language testing.
The last issue of volume 31 contains a review of Rita Green's new book on statistics in language testing. We take the opportunity to talk about how things have changed in teaching statistics for students of language testing since Fred Davidson's The language tester's statistical toolbox was published in 2000.
Issue 18: Folkert Kuiken and Ineke Vedder from the University of Amsterdam discuss rater variability in the assessment of speaking and writing in a second language.
The third issue of the journal this year is a special on the scoring of performance tests. In this podcast the guest editors talk about some of the issues surrounding the rating of speaking and writing samples.
Issue 17: Ryo Nitta and Fumiyo Nakatsuhara on pre-task planning in paired speaking tests
The authors of our first paper in 31(2) are concerned with a very practical question. What is the effect of giving test-takers planning time prior to a paired-format speaking task? Does it affect what they say? Does it change the scores they get? The answers will inform the design of speaking tests not only in high stakes assessment contexts, but probably in classrooms as well.
Issue 16: Jodi Tommerdahl and Cynthia Kilpatrick on the reliability of morphological analyses in language samples
How large a language sample do we need in order to draw reliable conclusions about what we wish to assess? In issue 31(1) of Language Testing we are delighted to publish a paper by Jodi Tommerdahl and Cynthia Kilpatrick that addresses this important issue.
Issue 30(4) of the journal contains the first paper on eye-tracking studies to investigate the cognitive processes of learners taking reading tests. Stephen Bax joins us to explain the methodology and what it can tell us about how successful readers go about processing items and texts in reading tests.
Issue 30(3) commemorates the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the journal. We mark this milestone in the journal's history with a special issue on the topic of Assessment Literacy, guest edited by Ofra Inbar. A concern for the literacy needs of a wide range of stakeholders who use tests and test scores beyond the experts is a sign of a maturing profession. This issue takes the debate forward in new and exciting ways, some of which Ofra Inbar discusses on this podcast.
Issue 13: Paula Winke and Susan Gass on Rater Bias
Rater bias is something that language testers have known about for a long time, and have tried to control through training and the use of rating scales. But investigations into the source and nature of bias is relatively recent. In issue 30(2) of the journal Paula Winke, Susan Gass, and Caroly Myford share their research in this field, and the first two authors from Michigan State University join us on Language Testing Bytes to discuss rater bias.
Issue 12: Alan Davies on Assessing Academic English
In 2008 Alan Davies' book Assessing Academic English was published by Cambridge University Press. In issue 30(1) of Language Testing it is reviewed by Christine Coombe. With a strong historical narrative, the book raises many of the enduring issues in assessing English for study in English medium institutions. In this podcast we explore some of these with Professor Davies.
Issue 11: Ana Pellicer-Sanchez and Norbert Schmitt on Yes-No Vocabulary Tests
In this issue of the podcast we return to vocabulary testing, after the great introduction provided by John Read in Issue 5. This time, we welcome Ana Pellicer-Sanchez and Norbert Schmitt, to talk about the popular Yes-No Vocabuluary Test. Their recent research looks at scoring issues and potential solutions to problems that have plagued the test for years. Their paper in issue 29(4) of the journal contains the details, but in the podcast we discuss the key issues for vocabulary assessment.
Issue 10: Kathryn Hill on Classroom Based Assessment
Classroom Based Assessment is an increasingly important topic in language education, and in issue 29(3) of Language Testing we publish a paper by Kathryn Hill and Tim McNamara entitled "Developing a comprehensive, empirically based research framework for classroom-based assessment". The research in this paper is based on the first author's PhD dissertation, and so we asked Kathryn Hill to join us on Language Testing Bytes to talk about developments in the field.
Issue 9: Luke Harding on Accent in Listening Assessment
Issue 29(2) of the journal contains a paper entitled "Accent, listening assessment and the potential for a shared-L1 advantage: A DIF perspective", by Luke Harding. In this podcast we explore why it is that most listening tests use a very narrow range of standard accents, rather than the many varieties that we are likely to encounter in real-world communication.
Issue 8: Tan Jin and Barley Mak on Confidence Scoring
In Issue 29(1) of the journal three authors from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have a paper on the application of fuzzy logic to scoring speaking tests. This is termed 'confidence scoring', and the first two authors join us on Language Testing Bytes to explain a little more about their novel approach.
Mark Wilson delivered the Messick Memorial Lecture at the Language Testing Research Colloquium in Melbourne, 2006, on new developments in measurement models to take into account the complexity of language testing. In Language Testing 28(4) we publish the paper based on this lecture, and Mark joins us on Language Testing Bytes to talk about his work in this area.
Issue 6: Craig Deville and Micheline Chalhoub-Deville on Standards-Based Testing
Standards-Based Testing is highly controversial for its social and educational impact on schools and bilingual communities, and the technical aspects that rely to a significant extent on expert judgment. In issue 28(3) we discuss the issues surrounding Standards-Based Testing in the United States with the guest editors of a special issue on this topic. The collection of papers that they have brought together, along with reviews of recent books on the topic, and test review, constitute a state of the art volume for the field.
The journal has seen a flurry of articles on vocabulary testing in recent months, and issue 28(2) is no exception, with Marta Fairclough's paper on the lexical recognition task. It seemed like an appropriate moment to conisder why vocabulary is receiving so much attention, and so we turned to Professor John Read of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, to give us an overview of current research and activity within the field.
Issue 4: Khaled Barkaoui and Melissa Bowles on Think Aloud Protocols
In Language Testing 28(1), 2011, Khaled Barkaoui has an article on the use of think-alouds to investigate rater processes and decisions as they rate essay samples. The focus is not on the raters, but on whether the research method is a useful tool for the purpose. In this podcast he explains his findings, and their importance. We are then joined by Melissa Bowles who has recently published The Think-Aloud Controversy in Second Language Research, to explain precisely what the problems and possibilities of think-alouds are in language testing research.
Language Testing 27(4), 2010, contains an article by Carol Chapelle and colleagues on testing productive grammatical ability. We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to look at what is going on in the field of assessing grammar, and what issues currently face the field. Jim Purpura agreed to talk to us on Language Testing Bytes.
Language Testing 27(3), 2010, is a special issue guest edited by Xiaoming Xi on the automated scoring of writing and speaking tests. In this podcast she talks about why the automated scoring of speaking and writing tests is such a hot topic, and explains the possibilities, limitations and current research issues in the field.
In Language Testing 27(2), 2010, Mike Kane contributed a response to an article on fairness in language testing. We thought this was an excellent opportunity to ask him about his approach to validation, and how he sees 'fairness' fitting into the picture.