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Interaction in Paired Oral Proficiency Assessment in Spanish

Rater and Candidate Input into Evidence Based Scale Development and Construct Definition


Ana Maria Ducasse

Defining the construct of interaction for paired assessment purposes has been difficult, despite the evolution of our view of language to include the social perspective of co-construction, and the fact that such discourse is increasingly taught and assessed. In this volume three sequenced studies define interaction in paired oral assessment through the verbal protocols of learners of Spanish and their assessors. Assessors then scale performances from videoed test performance data resulting in the development of an evidence based rating process which includes non-verbal interpersonal communication, interactive listening and interactional management.


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Chapter 2: Issues relevant to assessing speaking in pairs


2.1 Introduction Rating scale development for peer discourse needs to acknowledge findings on oral interview discourse. The reliability of discourse in interviews has been criticised (Lazaraton, 1996). For example, oral proficiency interviews are often highly dependent on the interviewer and thus the interviewer can affect the re- sult. Tension remains between the need to elicit a variety of functions during ei- ther interviewer/candidate interaction or peer interaction, and the need to vali- date the inferences made from a test. Here the tension is caused by the different tasks which elicit different discourse and the way in which the differences can be acknowledged in the rating procedures. The introduction of the paired format, and subsequent research into that for- mat follows a long history of empirical research on oral interviews. When peer tasks became part of oral proficiency tests they reflected Communicative Lan- guage Teaching in the classroom and in part they also compensated for: • the power differential between candidate and interviewer in the interview situation (Young and Milanovic, 1992; Skehan, 2001); • the native/ non-native speaker’s influence on discourse in the interview (Ross and Berwick, 1992); and • the short fall in interactional functions elicited by interviews (Perret, 1990; Hatch, 1992; Johnson, 2001), which means that candidate and in- terviewer had different roles in the interaction and thus displayed different functions. Despite the power of the interviewer, the native speaker influence on the dis- course and the narrow range of functions, the interview was maintained as an assessment tool because it was...

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