Academic journal article International Education Studies

A Needs-Based Approach to the Development of a Diagnostic College English Speaking Test

Academic journal article International Education Studies

A Needs-Based Approach to the Development of a Diagnostic College English Speaking Test

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper investigated the current situation of oral English teaching, learning, and assessment at the tertiary level in China through needs analysis and explored the implications for the development of a diagnostic speaking test. Through random sampling, the researcher administered both a student questionnaire and a teacher questionnaire to over 200 students and 30 teachers respectively. Results revealed that students regarded the use of communicative strategies, range of vocabulary and fluency as the most difficult things in their oral English learning. Results also demonstrated that the majority of college English teachers paid much attention to oral English teaching. However, most college English teachers seldom administered classroom oral assessment, and their practices of classroom oral assessment were considered as lack of systematic and standardized procedures. Implications for further improvement in oral English teaching and assessment were also discussed.

Keywords: college English teaching, needs analysis, learning difficulties of oral English, diagnostic test

1. Introduction

With regard to oral English teaching and learning in China, the development of a diagnostic English speaking test with high reliability and validity will enable teachers to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of students' English speaking ability, which can help them to determine appropriate types and levels of teaching and learning activities and improve teaching efficiency. However, most of the oral English tests in practice are oriented towards certifying students' oral English performance rather than diagnosing their English speaking ability. The College English Test-Spoken English Test (CET-SET), a large-scale high-stakes standardized oral English proficiency test for college students in China, is an example of such kind of test. The CET-SET test takers are awarded a graded score ranging from D to A+ (National College English Testing Committee, 1999). Although a detailed grade description is provided on the test certificate, there is little information about individual test-takers' strengths and weaknesses in oral English. Among the few diagnostic tests that are available, DIALANG (Alderson & Huhta, 2005) is a standardized language assessment system which provides detailed diagnostic feedback to individual test-takers. DIALANG is an online test system containing tests of reading, listening, vocabulary and structure in 14 European languages. However, it can be seen that the focus of the assessment system is on the measurement of test takers' receptive abilities, instead of productive abilities like speaking and essay writing. In addition, Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), an academic English proficiency test, also provides a detailed score report to test takers in terms of their Overall Score, scores of Communicative Skills and Enabling Skills. The score report displays the scores in a graph which allows test takers to quickly see their strengths and weaknesses, and how each skill relates to their overall performance.

In this study, an extensive needs analysis is first to be carried out to investigate the current situation of oral English teaching, learning and assessment at the tertiary level in China. The implications of the needs analysis for the development of a diagnostic college English speaking test will also be discussed. Most importantly, types of information to be provided as feedback to test-takers and methods of providing the feedback will also be explored.

The specific questions to be addressed in this study are as follows:

1) What is the current situation of oral English teaching, learning and assessment at the tertiary level in China?

2) Is there an urgent necessity for the development and use of a diagnostic college English speaking test for oral English teaching and learning at the tertiary level?

3) What are the implications of the needs analysis for the development of a diagnostic college English speaking test? …

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