Language Testing Bytes is a biannual podcast produced for SAGE publications to accompany the journal Language testing. In the podcast I discuss issues raised in the journal with authors and key figures in the field. You can download a podcast for your iPod or other device by right clicking on the download icon, or you can play a podcast directly from this page. Also available on iTunes.
Issue 22: Eunice Jang on Diagnostic Language Testing.
Issue 32(2) of the Language Testing is a special on the current state of Diagnostic Language Testing. While this has traditionally been a neglected use of language tests, there is currently a great surge of interest and research in the field. Eunice Jang from the University of Toronto joins me to discuss current thinking in testing for diagnostic purposes.
The assessment of aviation English has become something of an icon of high stakes assessment in recent years. In Language Testing 32(2), we publish a paper by Hyejeong Kim and Cathie Elder, both from the University of Melbourne, which examines the construct of aviation English from the perspective of airline professionals in Korea.
In this issue of the podcast Martin East describes an assessment reform project in New Zealand. We're reminded very forcefully that when assessment and testing procedures within educational systems are changed, there are many complex factors to take into account. All stakeholders are going to take a view on the proposed reforms, and they aren't necessarily going to agree.
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.
Data from 787 international undergraduate students at an urban university in the United States were used to demonstrate the importance of separating a sample into meaningful subgroups in order to demonstrate the ability of an English language assessment to predict the first-year grade point average (GPA). For example, when all students were pooled in a single analysis, the correlation of scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with GPA was .18; in a subsample of engineering students from China, the correlation with GPA was .58, or .77 when corrected for range restriction. Similarly, the corrected correlation of the TOEFL Reading score with GPA for Chinese business students changed dramatically (from .01 to .36) when students with an extreme discrepancy between their receptive (reading/listening) and productive (speaking/writing) scores were trimmed from the sample.
This study explores the construct validity of speaking tasks included in the TOEFL iBT (e.g., integrated and independent speaking tasks). Specifically, advanced natural language processing (NLP) tools, MANOVA difference statistics, and discriminant function analyses (DFA) are used to assess the degree to which and in what ways responses to these tasks differ with regard to linguistic characteristics. The findings lend support to using a variety of speaking tasks to assess speaking proficiency. Namely, with regard to linguistic differences, the findings suggest that responses to performance tasks can be accurately grouped based on whether a task is independent or integrated. The findings also suggest that although the independent tasks included in the TOEFL iBT may represent a single construct, responses to integrated tasks vary across task sub-type.
We addressed Deville and Chalhoub-Deville’s (2006), Schoonen’s (2012), and Xi and Mollaun’s (2006) call for research into the contextual features that are considered related to person-by-task interactions in the framework of generalizability theory in two ways. First, we quantitatively synthesized the generalizability studies to determine the percentage of variation in L2 speaking and L2 writing performance that was accounted for by tasks, raters, and their interaction. Second, we examined the relationships between person-by-task interactions and moderator variables. We used 28 datasets from 21 studies for L2 speaking, and 22 datasets from 17 studies for L2 writing. Across modalities, most of the score variation was explained by examinees’ performance; the interaction effects of tasks or raters were greater than the independent effects of tasks or raters. Task and task-related interaction effects explained a greater percentage of the score variances, than did the rater and rater-related interaction effects. The variances associated with the person-by-task interactions were larger for assessments based on both general and academic contexts, than for those based only on academic contexts. Further, large person-by-task interactions were related to analytic scoring and scoring criteria with task-specific language features. These findings derived from L2 speaking studies indicate that contexts, scoring methods, and scoring criteria might lead to varied performance over tasks. Consequently, this particularly requires us to define constructs carefully.
This study explores the attitudes of raters of English speaking tests towards the global spread of English and the challenges in rating speakers of Indian English in descriptive speaking tasks. The claims put forward by language attitude studies indicate a validity issue in English speaking tests: listeners tend to hold negative attitudes towards speakers of non-standard English, and judge them unfavorably. As there are no adequate measures of listener/rater attitude towards emerging varieties of English in language assessment research, a Rater Attitude Instrument comprising a three-phase self-measure was developed. It comprises 11 semantic differential scale items and 31 Likert scale items representing three attitude dimensions of feeling, cognition, and behavior tendency as claimed by psychologists. Confirmatory factor analysis supported a two-factor structure with acceptable model fit indices. This measure represents a new initiative to examine raters’ psychological traits as a source of validity evidence in English speaking tests to strengthen arguments about test-takers’ English language proficiency in response to the change of sociolinguistic landscape. The implications for norm selection in English oral tests are also discussed.
Cognitive diagnostic models (CDMs) have great promise for providing diagnostic information to aid learning and instruction, and a large number of CDMs have been proposed. However, the assumptions and performances of different CDMs and their applications in regard to reading comprehension tests are not fully understood. In the present study, we compared the performance of a saturated model (G-DINA), two compensatory models (DINO, ACDM), and two non-compensatory models (DINA, RRUM) with the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) reading test. Compared to the saturated G-DINA model, the ACDM showed comparable model fit and similar skill classification results. The RRUM was slightly worse than the ACDM and G-DINA in terms of model fit and classification results, whereas the more restrictive DINA and DINO performed much worse than the other three models. The findings of this study highlighted the process and considerations pertinent to model selection in applications of CDMs with reading tests.
Perceptual (mis)matches between teachers and learners are said to affect learning success or failure. Self-assessment, as a formative assessment tool, may, inter alia, be considered a means to minimize such mismatches. Therefore, the present study investigated the extent to which learners’ assessment of their own speaking performance, before and after their being provided with a list of agreed-upon scoring criteria followed by a practice session, matches that of their teachers. In so doing, 29 EFL learners and six EFL teachers served as participants; the learners were asked to assess their audio-recorded speaking performance before and after their being provided with the scoring criteria and practice session. The teachers were also asked to assess the learners’ performance according to the same criteria. Finally, the learners were required to evaluate the effectiveness of doing self-assessment in the form of reflection papers. The results revealed a significant difference between the learners’ assessment of their own speaking ability on the two occasions. The findings also suggested that providing the learners with the scoring criteria and the follow-up practice session minimized the existing mismatches between learner assessment and teacher assessment. Moreover, the inductive analysis of the reflection papers yielded a number of themes suggesting that, despite some limitations, the learners’ overall evaluation of the effectiveness of speaking self-assessment was positive.