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Validating Language Proficiency Assessments in Second Language Acquisition Research

Applying an Argument-Based Approach

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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 5: Validation Study 1

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CHAPTER 5:

VALIDATION STUDY 1

For validation study 1 I claim that the Russian Elicited Imitation Test can be used for controlling initial L2 oracy skills and can be used in studies conducted in two educational settings. Since specifying test use is the first step in the process of test development and validation the chapter starts with a section that specifies test use and the context. I then report on the developmental stage, which consists of two parts: creation of the test and development of the interpretive argument. I then report on the appraisal stage of the evaluation of the EIT which seeks to challenge the interpretive argument. Finally, I discuss the results of the validation study in connection with the interpretive argument developed for the specified test use.

5.1  Test use and context

Two researchers in the USA and Germany5 want to investigate the effect of task manipulation (e.g., levels of complexity, type of input) on students’ task performance in an oral task. Participants of the study are enrolled in Russian courses of different levels defined by the local curricula or frameworks (ACTFL proficiency guidelines, CEFR). They have accomplished at least one semester of Russian study. There is variation in students’ language proficiency between groups and probably within groups in both educational settings as well as across them. Since task performance can at least to some extent depend on students’ L2 oral proficiency, initial L2 proficiency should be controlled for in...

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