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Validating Language Proficiency Assessments in Second Language Acquisition Research

Applying an Argument-Based Approach


Anastasia Drackert

The book introduces the reader to an argument-based approach to validity as a way to improve test validation in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research. Motivated by the need for practical suggestions for raising proficiency assessment standards in SLA research, it exemplifies the approach by validating two distinct score interpretations for a new Russian Elicited Imitation Test (EIT). Two empirical investigations with 164 Russian learners in the USA and Germany were conducted to evaluate the accuracy of the score interpretations associated with two distinct test uses. The EIT proved to constitute a reliable and valid instrument for differentiating between a wide range of oracy skills. The proposed cut scores enabled prediction of several levels of speaking and listening proficiency. The author concludes with implications for using the argument-based approach for validating assessments in SLA research, for the use of the developed Russian EIT, and for future research on Elicited Imitation Tests in general.
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Chapter 2: Second Language Proficiency




Before developing a test of L2 proficiency it is important to state what exactly L2 proficiency is and what components it consists of. Depending on the context – L2 testing, L2 pedagogy, or SLA – different views exist on defining the construct of L2 proficiency. This chapter reviews different approaches to conceptualizing and operationalizing an L2 proficiency construct as developed in language testing, L2 pedagogy, and in more cognitively- and psycholinguistically-oriented SLA research. In particular, since the validation study in this publication deals with the assessment of the oral and aural L2 proficiency, the literature review focuses on the oral mode of L2 proficiency, in other words on language production and perception and the role that lexico-grammatical knowledge and automatic processing play within it.

The chapter starts with a review of different models of language proficiency and competence as well as their components. I further discuss different proposals for categorizing L2 proficiency levels and identifying indicators of L2 proficiency made for educational and testing purposes. I then discuss the contribution of the SLA field in defining the construct of L2 proficiency focusing, in particular, on Levelt’s (1989) model of L2 production and Hulstjin’s (2007, 2011, 2015) model of L2 proficiency. Finally, I argue for the incorporation of contributions from all three fields and present a hierarchy of L2 proficiency constructs relevant for the current publication. So, throughout the chapter I make a case for “oracy” as a new conceptualization of language...

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