Posts Tagged ‘research’

I ran across this very helpful article recently that does with reading and listening comprehension skills that I have been doing with reading-writing subskills.

Song, M-Y. (2009). Do divisible subskills exists in second language (L2) comprehension? A structural equation modeling approach. Language Testing, 25 (4), 435-464.

In essence, the author asks: to what degree does student performance on a test suggest that reading, listening, and 2-3 identified subskills exist as separate constructs (as evidenced by structural equation modeling)? In comparison, I have been trying to identify the degree to which reading comprehension, writing ability, synthesis comprehension, and paraphrase writing ability are all subskills of reading-to-write tasks. So this article provided quite a bit of theoretical framing and technical analysis that I need to further refine my own study. (more…)


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The office that I work for is moving to a new location on campus. As a result, I needed to clean out and pack my booksheveles and cabinets. This also gave me an opportunity to evaluate the books that I had checked out of the library and return those that I had finished or that I had decided not to read after all.

So as I dropped off a handful of books at the libraries circulation desk, I also walked past the “New Books” section, and found a couple more books that peaked my interest. One of them was:

García Mayo, María del Pilar, ed. (2007), Investigating Tasks in Formal Language Learning. New York: Multilingual Matters.

Ultimately, I was disappointed with this book as I was hoping to see more about integrated language tasks. Instead, the book seems fixated on Robinson’s view of task-related theories which I enjoyed reading about, but not over-and-over again in nearly every article. I’m also surprised that although the editor provides an overview of each study in her introduction, she fails to address the apparent contradictions that the individual studies suggest in relation to these task-related theories. Some of the studies suggest that the task complexity encourages more advanced and more accurate language (in support of the Cognition Hypothesis), whereas other studies suggest that task complexity results in the opposite: that student performance drops when the task is more challenging (a la Limited Attention Capacity Model). What gives?

In truth, I can see many variables that would lead to support for one theory over the other, but I was hoping to see how my hypotheses compared with the editor’s. Instead, the book ends without any resolution. As a result, this “edited” book feel like little more than a collection of articles grabbed from an online database using the keywords “SLA” and “task complexity.” It’s unfortunate.

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I work with my institution’s international teaching assistant (ITA) program. The program, like those at many universities and colleges in the USA, is designed to provide language and pedagogical training to non-native English speaking graduate students who serve as teaching assistants for their departments.

Last fall, after testing all potential ITAs for oral proficiency training, our program received many concerned calls from departments whose international students did not meet the minimum English language standards to be TAs. In fact, a large number of the students were well below cut-off in the university’s policy regarding ITAs. Departments were concerned that these students needed funding and now they did not qualify to work as TAs due to their oral proficiency. To put it mildly was a very frustrating experience for many stakeholders.


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When I was working on my Master’s degree, my chair suggested that I consider doing some Think Aloud Protocols with the writing raters in order to better understand their rating process. I had read a few articles that used this technique, so I falet fairly confident that it was appropriate, but I wanted a book reference that described the method and its appropriateness in L2 research. That’s when another committee member suggested I check out a new book by Gass and Mackey (2005), which I did. Although the text did have a short section on verbal reports, it did not contain the detail I was hoping for.

That’s why Gass and Mackey expanded on the data elcicitation part of that orginial book, and published a new one dedicated exclusively to L2 research data gathering.

Gass, S. M. & Mackey, A. (2007). Data elicitation for second and foreign language research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

I won’t go into great detail about this book except to say that I think it’s a great reference for language researchers who want to investigate a variety of research questions, but want to gain additional insight into the theory and practice of standard and emerging data gathering methods. In any case, this book has cause me to further consider the fact that my dissertation needs to be based on good qualitative research, and the test data and scores should just be a compliment rather than the other way around.

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Given the University’s need to assess the English language proficiency of in-coming transfer students from the community college system, I was able to continue assessing the effectiveness of our ESL placement test. Earlier this week, a group of transfer students took the new grammar/vocabulary test, as well as the existing oral interview, and a revised writing test. Now that I have additional examinee data, I have been able to conduct an initial item analysis. (more…)

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Here’s another article that I found during the fall, but didn’t get around to formally reviewing until now.

Mateos, M., Martin, E., Villalon, R., & Luna, M. (2008). Reading and writing to learn in secondary education: online processing activity and written products in summarizing and synthesizing tasks. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21, 675-697.

This article is different from most I have been reading. Rather than deal with L2 learners, it deals with L1 high school students in Spain. The research team explore how these students approach summary and synthesis tasks in terms of processing activities and the quality of the final written products.  My full reaction follows the jump.


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I just picked this one up off the latest edition of Language Testing journal. I’m always a little cautious of ETS articles written only by ETS researchers. They invariably tend to support ETS practices and promote ETS products. Still, they do lots of research and serve as a model for lots of interesting approaches to language testing, so I don’t begrudge – I just take anything they publish with a grain of salt. After all, any researcher regardless of the institutional association has some agenda or other.

Here’s the reference, and the review is after the jump:

Sawaki, S. Stricker, L. J., and Oranje, A. H. (2008). Factor structure of the TOEFL Internet-based test. Language Testing, 26, 5-30.


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