Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

What Has Experience Got to Do with It? an Exploration of L1 and L2 Test Takers' Perceptions of Test Performance and Alignment to Classroom Literacy Activities

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

What Has Experience Got to Do with It? an Exploration of L1 and L2 Test Takers' Perceptions of Test Performance and Alignment to Classroom Literacy Activities

Article excerpt

Abstract

The importance of first language (L1) and second language (L2) test takers' experiente with large-scale literacy testing has been well documented in educational research. Our study focused on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), a cross-curricular literacy test that is one of the graduation requirements for Ontario high school students. We drew on qualitative data obtained from open-ended questions on a large-scale survey administered to OSSLT test takers. Whether the test takers were preparing to take the test or had already taken the test seemed to play a critical role in L1 and L2 test takers' perceptions. The most salient results highlight the role that test experience had on test takers' perceptions of their test performance and the alignment between the test and their classroom literacy activities.

Resume

L'importance de l'experience des eleves de langue maternelle (L1) et de langue seconde (L2) soumis a un test, dans le cadre de tests a grande echelle en litteratie, a ete bien documentee dans la recherche en education. Notre etude s'est portee sur le Test provincial de competences linguistiques (TPCL), une epreuve qui doit etre reussie pour obtenir le diplome d'etude secondaire de l'Ontario. Nous avons puise des donnees qualitatives obtenues a partir de questions ouvertes d'une enquete a grande echelle destinee a des eleves passant le TPCL. Le fait que ces eleves aient ete prepares ou non a passer le test ou s'ils l'avaient deja passe, s'est revele jouer un role crucial dans la perception des eleves de langue maternelle (L1) et de langue seconde (L2). Les resultats les plus marquants ont mis en evidence l'importance de l'experience des eleves avec les tests sur la perception de leur performance et, de la correlation de ce test avec les activites de litteratie en classe.

Introduction

The prevalence of large-scale testing in K-12 education is well documented in the research literature (e.g., Klinger, DeLuca, & Miller, 2008; Phdps, 2005). Sueh large-scale tests are typically developed and normed for a first language (L1) test taker population. However, research has demonstrated that second language (L2) test takers may demonstrate differentially lower test performance compared to their L1 counterparts, questioning whether the tests are measuring the same test construct (Abedi, 2002; Fairbairn & Fox, 2009; Fox & Cheng, 2007). One source of this differential test performance may stem from the linguistic complexity in test items, such as word frequency, or passive versus active voice (Abedi, 2002). Beyond linguistic complexity, L2 students may struggle with the genre and register of the test tasks or items. Solano-Flores and Trumbull (2003) called for new research and practice paradigms employing generalizability theory, "to reveal more fine-grained understandings of the interactions among first and second language proficiency, student content knowledge, and the linguistic and content demands of test items" (p. 3).

In the context of the Ontario School Literaey Test (OSSLT), Cheng, Klinger & Zheng (2007) found that two literacy tasks--narrative reading and news report writing--and two reading skills and strategies--indirect understanding and vocabulary--were predictors for L1 and L2 test taker group membership. Another factor may be the familiarity that the test takers have with the testing culture (Fox & Cheng, 2007). A recent L2 immigrant student who has no experience taking a test in Canada may be confused about the procedures of the jurisdiction, including test guidelines, time limits, and lack of external support, such as dictionaries or a teacher available for questions. Fox and Cheng concluded that there were three major differences between L1 and L2 test takers: a) knowledge of test taking, b) varied test taker preparation, and c) level of test anxiety. Taken together with the increasing immigration rates of L2 students in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2010), these concerns demonstrate the importance of exploring L2 test takers' perceptions of the their test performance and classroom literacy activities in relation to L1 test takers within the context of large-scale testing. …

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