Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Applying Researcher-Made Checklist to Assess Iranian Efl Learners' Oral Reproduction

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Applying Researcher-Made Checklist to Assess Iranian Efl Learners' Oral Reproduction

Article excerpt


Oral proficiency in a second language is without question an important asset for students (Pan & Pan, 2011). As Bilash (2009) mentions, speaking or oral production is one of the skills students are to learn in their language development.

However, speaking is a complex process which is not readily known to the learners and learners are not familiar with the skills and strategies they can use to develop their speaking ability (Mazdayasna, 2012). It is an interactive process of constructing meaning that involves producing, receiving and processing information (Burns & Joyce, 1997; Kayi, 2006; Richards & Renandya, 2002).

Evaluation of oral skills is an important part in the area of speaking. Depending on the purpose and the defined criteria, two approaches can be used for the evaluation of performance on oral skills, known as holistic and analytic scoring (Pan & Pan, 2011). Of course, each of these approaches provides different kind of feedback about learners' oral performance.

According to Amjadian et al. (2011), holistic or subjective scoring is a scoring procedure in which the interviewee receives excellent, good, fair, and poor or pass/fail according to the rater's overall impression. Hughes (1989) also believes that holistic scoring involves the assignment of a single score to oral performance on the basis of an overall impression of it.

Holistic scoring is based on two major assumptions: (1) the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; (2) teachers who are experienced with speaking recognize good speaking when they talk to the students, even if they can't come to an agreement on how to describe it (Terry, 1986).This kind of scoring is usually selected when the teacher is inclined toward evaluating a wide variety of criteria simultaneously (Madsen, 1983).

According to Riihimäki (2009), analytic way of assessing is related to looking at certain, predetermined points. In an analytical or objective scoring, the rater rates the interviewee's performance separately on scales that pertain to accent, structure, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. These ratings are then weighed and added up to determine a final score (Farhady et al., 2007). Omaggio (1986) agrees and mentions that analytic scoring focuses on specific aspects such as grammar, fluency, strategies, sociolinguistic competence and pronunciation. Analytic scoring is used when diagnostic information is required (Hughes, 1989).

One of the controversial issues in the assessment of oral skills is how to score or rank learners' performance in a consistent and reliable way. Checklist and rubric can be used as academic solutions to this problem.

Checklists and rubrics have been recognized as effective means to document oral language development and progress (Swanson, 2008). These assessment tools offer systematic ways of collecting data about specific behaviors and allow teachers to gather information and to make judgments about what students know and can do in relation to the outcomes.

Therefore, the researcher conducted the present study in a comparative way to investigate the effects of the existing methods of oral proficiency assessment and to find the more effective method which can ultimately lead to an improvement in the process of evaluating oral skills.

1.1. Theoretical framework

The importance of language testing and the development of modern linguistics have made teachers and testers aware of the significance of a need for a detailed analysis of the language. Due to advances in modern linguistics and psychology, teachers are always revisiting their teaching strategies. Testers are also trying to improve their techniques to test language ability more validly and reliably according to advances in teaching.

Language testing has followed the trends in language teaching which have been, in turn, influenced by theories in linguistics and psychology. At first, language testing was characterized by the lack of a well-established theory. …

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