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Evaluating Tests of Second Language Development

A Framework and an Empirical Study

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Khaled Barkaoui

The book introduces a framework for examining the validity of tests that aim to assess second-language (L2) proficiency development over time and/or in relation to L2 instruction. It also reports the findings of a longitudinal study that aimed to examine the sensitivity to change of a test of L2 proficiency development. Specifically, the study examined changes over time in Progress scores and the linguistic characteristics of essays written in response to Progress by learners who took the test before, during and after a period of L2 instruction in different countries. The book furthers our understanding of the nature of L2 proficiency as it develops over time and in relation to L2 instruction and provides a framework that can be used in future endeavours to design and validate tests of L2 proficiency development. The book is intended for graduate students, test developers, and researchers doing research in applied linguistics and L2 assessment.

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Chapter 5: Changes in Progress Scores

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Chapter 5Changes in Progress Scores

This chapter reports finding concerning changes in Progress overall, skills and essay scores.

5.1.Changes in Progress Overall Scores

Tab. 5.1 reports descriptive statistics for Progress overall and skills scores by test level (5 levels) and test occasion (start, middle and end of course). It shows that Progress overall and skills scores increased over time for all skills and for all test levels. For example, the overall score for the whole sample increased from M = 31.16 (beginning of course) to M = 33.44 (middle) to M = 34.91 (end of course). This pattern was consistent across all skills and across all the five levels of the test. Tab. 5.1 also shows that students who took the higher level tests obtained higher overall and skills scores. For example, the mean overall score for Progress 15–30 was 15.57 (SD = 7.63); the mean overall scores were higher for Progress 25–40 (M = 25.72, SD = 7.72), Progress 35–50 (M = 37.17, SD = 9.66), Progress 45–50 (M = 40.05, SD = 10.28), and Progress 55–70 (M = 51.12, SD = 5.54). MLM analyses (below) address the question of whether these changes (over time) and differences (across test levels) in Progress overall and skills scores were statistically significant or not.

Tab. 5.2 reports the autocorrelations between Progress overall and skills scores across test occasions. Auto-correlation refers to the correlation of a variable with itself across test occasions. As Tab. 5.2 shows, all the...

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