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.
This study describes the adaptation process of a vocabulary knowledge test for British Sign Language (BSL) into American Sign Language (ASL) and presents results from the first round of pilot testing with 20 deaf native ASL signers. The web-based test assesses the strength of deaf children’s vocabulary knowledge by means of different mappings of phonological form and meaning of signs. The adaptation from BSL to ASL involved nine stages, which included forming a panel of deaf/hearing experts, developing a set of new items and revising/replacing items considered ineffective, and piloting the new version. Results provide new evidence in support of the use of this methodology for assessing signed languages, making a useful contribution toward the availability of tests to assess deaf children’s signed language skills.
English language proficiency assessments (ELPA) are used in the United States to measure annually the English language progress and proficiency of English-language learners (ELLs), a subgroup of language minority students who receive language acquisition support mandated and largely funded by Title III (NCLB, 2001). ELPA proficient and non-proficient classifications are determined by applying decision rules to combine the sub-domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a conjunctive, compensatory, mixed or complementary manner in order that an ELP performance standard can be set. Although the ELP performance standard is used to set accountability objectives for federal reporting, it also is used to reveal students’ readiness for exit from English language services. This study operationalizes and tests the ELP performance standard for student-level decision making by describing to what extent students are classified as non-proficient under different models and rules and the effect of these differences on their eligibility for redesignation. Test performances from one state’s ELPA were gathered from a statewide sample of ELL (n = 875) and randomly selected sample of native English speaker students (non-ELL, n = 92) in fifth grade. Findings indicate sizable differences in non-proficient classifications for ELLs, non-ELLs, and a constructed subgroup of academically high-performing students. There were also observed differences in redesignation eligibility in all groups suggesting that choice of model and decision rule can extend the length of time even high-performing students spend in English language services. Discussion includes implications for validation of high-stakes classification systems.
While the research literature on second language (L2) fluency is replete with descriptions of fluency and its influence with regard to English as an additional language, little is known about what fluency features influence judgments of fluency in L2 French. This study reports the results of an investigation that analyzed the relationship between utterance fluency measures and raters’ perceptions of L2 fluency in French using mixed-effects modeling. Participants were 40 adult learners of French at varying levels of proficiency, studying in a university immersion context. Speech performances were collected on three different types of narrative tasks. Four utterance fluency measures were extracted from each performance. Eleven untrained judges rated the speech performances and we examined which utterance fluency measures are the best predictors of the scores awarded by the raters. The mean length of runs and articulation rate proved to be the most influential factors in raters’ judgments, while the frequency of pauses played a less important role. The length of pauses was positively related to fluency scores, indicating a prominent cross-linguistic variation specific to French. The relative importance of the utterance measures in predicting fluency ratings, however, was found to vary across tasks.
Despite rapid growth in literacy-related programmes and evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa, little critical attention has been paid to the relevance of assumptions that underlie existing assessment methods. This study focuses on the issue of timing in the assessment of oral reading fluency, a critical component of successful reading (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), 2000; Pikulski & Chard, 2005). Within the context of the Primary Math and Reading Initiative, a randomized controlled trial of several instructional interventions in Kenya, timed and untimed Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) oral reading fluency and reading comprehension tasks were administered to 4385 students in 95 government and 125 informal schools. Using the data from the EGRA – whose administration has expanded within sub-Saharan Africa recently – we found that students did not perform significantly better on the assessments when they had more time. This pattern largely held when we examined the effects disaggregated over student ability level. This suggests that timed assessments, which are faster to administer and logistically easier, are appropriate for use in Kenya.
A short training program for evaluating responses to an essay writing task consisted of scoring 20 training essays with immediate feedback about the correct score. The same scoring session also served as a certification test for trainees. Participants with little or no previous rating experience completed this session and 14 trainees who passed an accuracy threshold proceeded to score other essays. Performance of the newly-trained raters was compared to that of 16 expert raters with extensive experience in scoring responses to the writing task. Results showed that the scores from the newly-trained group of raters exhibited similar measurement properties (mean and variability of scores, reliability and various validity coefficients, and underlying factor structure) to those from the experienced group of raters. Implications for the place of initial training and screening of raters on rater performance are discussed.
Two factors were investigated that are thought to contribute to consistency in rater scoring judgments: rater training and experience in scoring. Also considered were the relative effects of scoring rubrics and exemplars on rater performance. Experienced teachers of English (N = 20) scored recorded responses from the TOEFL iBT speaking test prior to training and in three sessions following training (100 responses for each session). Scores were analyzed using multifaceted Rasch measurement and traditional measures of rater reliability and agreement, and the frequency with which exemplar responses were viewed was measured. Prior to training, rater severity and internal consistency were already of a standard typical for operational language performance tests, but training resulted in increased inter-rater correlation and agreement as well as improved agreement with established reference scores. Additional experience gained after training appeared to have little further effect on raters’ scoring consistency, although the level of agreement with reference scores continued to increase. The most accurate raters generally reviewed exemplar responses more often and took longer to make scoring decisions compared to the least accurate raters. These results raise questions regarding the relative contribution of scoring aids such as exemplars and scoring rubrics to desirable scoring patterns.