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 April 2015, which will feature Hyejeong Kim of Melbourne University talking about the assessment of aviation English.
News: Issue 22 of Language Testing Bytes will be the last. I am standing down as Editor of Language Testing at the end of 2015, and the publisher does not have funds to pay for the continuation of the podcast. I am considering whether I am able to set up a new podcast in its place, but without sponsorship this may be highly problematic. I will, however, maintain an archive of the 22 issues that I've had the pleasure of hosting since 2010.
This paper explores the underlying construct of both the English proficiency test for pilot and air traffic controller radiotelephony communication developed and administered in Korea and the ICAO language proficiency testing policy on which the test in Korea is based. It does so by canvassing the opinions of Korean airline pilots and air traffic controllers through 400 questionnaire and 22 interview sources. Results reveal a lack of fit between the policy construct and the reality through which the goals and objectives of the policy are accomplished and strong disapproval of the ICAO’s espoused construct and the associated Korean English test from language users in the target domain. This study confirms the importance of eliciting views from such stakeholders (i.e., domain experts) who are well-placed to determine what really matters for communicative success in the context of concern.
Typically, English language proficiency tests yield multiple scores – usually for each of the four traditional language domains. In order to maximize the usefulness of test scores, they may need to be accompanied by information concerning how they complement one another.
Using self-assessments by some 2300 TOEIC test takers, this study aimed to show that language performance in a particular domain (speaking, for instance) can be predicted by using a test that corresponds specifically to that domain (i.e., the TOEIC Speaking test), but also that it can be even better predicted by supplementing domain-related scores with scores (e.g., TOEIC Listening scores) that do not correspond directly to the target domain.
The results of a hierarchical linear regression analysis revealed that adding test scores that did not correspond directly to the target performance domain made statistically and practically significant contributions to prediction in the target domain. Thus, more precise estimates of English language proficiency in a specific domain are possible by assessing skills not only in that domain but in other related domains as well.
Despite the call for using assessment to promote effective learning, most language teachers remain underprepared to conduct classroom-based formative assessment and interpret the summative assessment information for improving instruction as well as learning. Drawing upon a survey of programme and government documents, interviews, student assessment tasks, and teaching evaluation, this paper aims to explore the overall language assessment training landscape in five Hong Kong teacher education institutions against the backdrop of assessment reforms in primary/secondary school contexts. It specifically attempts to investigate the extent to which two assessment courses may facilitate and/or inhibit the development of pre-service teachers’ language assessment literacy in one teacher education institution. Findings indicate that language assessment training in Hong Kong remains inadequate and selected language assessment courses are still unable to bridge the theory-practice gap within the assessment reform context. Implications and recommendations for promoting language assessment literacy are discussed.
This study investigates the validity of assessing L2 pragmatics in interaction using mixed methods, focusing on the evaluation inference. Open role-plays that are meaningful and relevant to the stakeholders in an English for Academic Purposes context were developed for classroom assessment. For meaningful score interpretations and accurate evaluations of interaction-involved pragmatic performances, interaction-sensitive data-driven rating criteria were developed, based on the qualitative analyses of examinees’ role-play performances. The conversation analysis performed on the data revealed various pragmatic and interactional features indicative of differing levels of pragmatic competence in interaction. The FACETS analysis indicated that the role-plays stably differentiated between the varying degrees of the 102 examinees’ pragmatic abilities. The raters showed internal consistency despite their differing degrees of severity. Stable fit statistics and distinct difficulties were reported within each of the interaction-sensitive rating criteria.The findings served as backing for the evaluation inference in the validity argument. Finally, implications of the findings in operationalizing interaction-involved language performances and developing rating criteria are discussed.
Previous research in cognitive diagnostic assessment (CDA) of L2 reading ability has been frequently conducted using large-scale English proficiency exams (e.g., TOEFL, MELAB). Using CDA, it is possible to analyze individual learners’ strengths and weaknesses in multiple attributes (i.e., knowledge, skill, strategy) measured at the item level. This study explored how a placement test score could be used for diagnosing the L2 reading ability of incoming students to an adult ESL program. Five content experts completed a reading placement test and identified the attributes required for successfully completing each item on the test, while referring to the list of L2 reading attributes. Then, content experts’ codings were analyzed and developed into an item-by-attribute Q-matrix. The Fusion model, a type of cognitive diagnostic model (CDM), was used for refining the Q-matrix and diagnosing 1982 learners’ strengths and weaknesses in L2 reading. Results suggest that 10 major L2 reading attributes were involved in the reading test. In addition, examinees’ strengths and weaknesses were identified for the overall group, three reading proficiency groups (i.e., beginner, intermediate, and advanced), and individual learners. Such information could be provided to ESL program administrator and teachers for enhancing the reading curriculum and developing instructional materials.
Reading-to-write (RTW) tasks are becoming increasingly popular and have already been used in several high-stakes English proficiency exams, either replacing or complementing a prompt-based essay test. However, it is still not clear that what accounts for successful or unsuccessful performance on an integrated reading–writing task is owing to the hybrid nature of reading and writing skills and to potential rater effects on test score variability. Thus, in this study, data-driven analytic rubrics for the RTW task were developed first. Then, the analytic subscores of 83 college ESL students’ responses to the RTW task were obtained. Correlational analyses were first used for the data to explore the relationship of the writing and reading skills engaged in different aspects of the RTW task. A multivariate G-study was also applied to examine the degree of variability attributable to test takers and raters on analytic subscores. The results indicate that a RTW task may tap into both reading and writing abilities given relatively high correlations observed among composite of and separate analytic subscores, and independent reading and writing scores. The multivariate G-study results also show that each analytic rating domain could capture the difference in variability of test takers’ proficiency utilized in the RTW task, and raters assigned scores neither too harshly nor too leniently across each analytic rating domain. However, the results also reveal that person and rater facets contributed to score variability differently in certain analytic categories. This study provides valuable insights into the nature of RTW tasks and has implications for rating rubric development for integrated tasks.
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 20: Martin East on Assessment Reform.
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.