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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 3: Elicited Imitation




Elicited Imitation was originally used in the fields of first language acquisition (e.g., Lust et al., 1996; Slobin & Welch, 1973) and bilingualism (Radloff, 1991), though it was introduced in SLA research as early as the mid-1970s (e.g., Hamayan, Saegert, & Laraudee, 1977; Hameyer, 1980; Naiman, 1974; Savignon, 1982). In SLA research, EITs have been employed as a measure of several theoretical constructs: learners’ global L2 proficiency (Bley-Vroman & Chaudron, 1994), implicit L2 knowledge (Erlam, 2006; Verhagen, 2011), and L2 oral proficiency (Jessop, Suzuki, & Tomita, 2007; Naiman, 1974; Tracy-Ventura et al., 2014; Wu & Ortega, 2013). A number of Elicited Imitation Tests have been developed for English, Spanish, Japanese, German, Chinese, Vietnamese, and French. Lately, several researchers have investigated the possible use of EI as an adaptive language proficiency test (Christensen, Hendrickson, & Lonsdale, 2010; Hendrickson, Scholz, Spurling, Johnson, & Vandenburg, 2010). Others have investigated the opportunities for automatic scoring in EITs in a number of languages (Bernstein, 2010; 2014; Cook, McGhee, & Lonsdale, 2011; Graham, Lonsdale, Kennington, Johnson, & McGhee, 2008; Van Moere, 2012). Most recently, Gaillard (2014) in her dissertation explored the possibility of implementation of a French EIT as a component of a language placement test.

There are several reasons why EI is increasingly becoming a widely used test format in the SLA field. First, this format taps into the ability of the automatic use of core language knowledge, in particular, grammar, vocabulary, and phonology, and...

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