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Testing ESL Sociopragmatics

Development and Validation of a Web-based Test Battery


Carsten Roever, Catriona Fraser and Catherine Elder

Testing of second language pragmatics has grown as a research area but still suffers from a tension between construct coverage and practicality. In this book, the authors describe the development and validation of a web-based test of second language pragmatics for learners of English. The test has a sociopragmatic orientation and strives for a broad coverage of the construct by assessing learners’ metapragmatic judgments as well as their ability to co-construct discourse. To ensure practicality, the test is delivered online and is scored partially automatically and partially by human raters. We used the argument-based approach to validation, which showed that the test can support low-stakes decisions about learners’ knowledge of sociopragmatics in English.
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9 Discussion

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The ultimate goal of validation is to examine the defensibility of decisions based on the test score and consequences arising from these decisions (Bachman & Palmer, 2010; Kane, 2013). Our test, being in the development phase, does not yet have any consequences, and real-world decisions have not yet been based on its scores. We will first discuss our findings from the validity argument and then some more general points on the structure of pragmatic knowledge and learning of L2 pragmatics.

We have proposed that the test could be used for pedagogical purposes of self-assessment and providing feedback to teachers and learners about sociopragmatic competence. We will evaluate the validity argument in reverse to examine if the inferences hold given this proposed use.

We proposed that the test could be used to enable pedagogical decisions by providing teachers and test takers with information about test takers’ sociopragmatic strengths and weaknesses. These conclusions about strengths and weaknesses can be drawn based on section scores, which show

• Receptive knowledge of Australian English politeness norms (Appropriateness Judgments score / Appropriateness Choice score),

• Offline productive ability to implement politeness norms (Appropriateness Corrections score),

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