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Task Equivalence in Speaking Tests

Investigating the Difficulty of Two Spoken Narrative Tasks


Chihiro Inoue

This book addresses the issue of task equivalence, which is of fundamental importance in the areas of language testing and task-based research, where task equivalence is a prerequisite. The main study examines the two ‘seemingly-equivalent’ picture-based spoken narrative tasks, using a multi-method approach combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies with MFRM analysis of the ratings, the analysis of linguistic performances by Japanese candidates and native speakers of English (NS), expert judgements of the task characteristics, and perceptions of the candidates and NS. The results reveal a complex picture with a number of variables involved in ensuring task equivalence, raising relevant issues regarding the theories of task complexity and the commonly-used linguistic variables for examining learner spoken language. This book has important implications for the possible measures that can be taken to avoid selecting non-equivalent tasks for research and teaching.


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Acknowledgements 11


Acknowledgements This book is a revised version of my PhD thesis, which was submitted to Lancaster University in July 2011. I am most indebted to my super- visor, Dr. Judit Kormos, for her unwavering support throughout my PhD study. My heartfelt thanks also go to Prof. Charles Alderson, who was my co-supervisor for the first two years of my PhD, for helping shape a solid foundation for the thesis. The members of the Language Testing Research Group and Second Language Learning and Teaching Research Group at Lancas- ter deserve my sincerest appreciation. I would especially like to thank my raters, Zahra Al-Lawati, Karen Dunn, Tania Horák, Janina Iwaniec, Gareth McCray, Geoff Shaw-Champion, Hiroko Usami, and Lynn Wilson, for sparing time from their MA and PhD research. Without the cooperation from staff and students at Tokyo Uni- versity of Foreign Studies, this book would never have been possible. I am very grateful to the students who participated in this study, and to the teachers who helped coordinate the various phases of data collec- tion: Prof. Masashi Negishi, Prof. Asako Yoshitomi, Prof. Yukio Tono, Dr. Naoyuki Naganuma, Mr. Yoji Kudo, and Mr. Naoyuki Kiryu. Receiving such great support from my home university was an enormous encouragement. My sincerest gratitude also goes to Mr. Hirano at ALC Press, who granted me permission to access the recordings for the NICT JLE Corpus, without which this book would not have been feasible. I cannot thank my family enough for their love, support, and understanding...

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