Assessing Speaking: Putting the Pieces Together

Glenn Fulcher, School of Education, University of Leicester, UK
Presentation Date: 
April 19, 2012

This webinar is about assessing second language speaking. At the start of the webinar I’ll talk a little bit about why we assess speaking – because it hasn’t always been the case – and cover some history of assessing speaking in the United States. Even though I’m from the other side of the pond, I’ve dug around quite a bit in developments in the US. We’ll quickly move on to talk about what we assess, particularly looking at “constructs” and “skills”. Clearly we can’t assess everything in one assessment or test, so we have to select what is most important for our students. Next we’ll look at how we can elicit the evidence we need to make judgments about the quality of learner talk, and this will involve looking at task types that we can use, and there are a small number of samples on a hand-out that we can discuss. When learners talk during a task, we have to be able to summarize the quality of the speech. To do that, we need to be able to “rate” or “score” the performance, using rubrics or rating scales – depending which side of the Atlantic you’re on! So we’ll look at different ways of doing that, and you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate and vote on the kind of rubrics you prefer. We’ll finish up by looking at the processes involved in designing assessment systems, and putting them into practice.
Who’s it For? - There is no assumption of prior knowledge of assessing speaking, although classroom experience would make the webinar much more useful! Nor is it aimed at people who design large-scale summative tests, as the ideas are as relevant to local formative assessment practices as well as summative assessment. At some points we’ll also be questioning some current practice that we find in standardized testing that just isn’t relevant to classroom learning. So it’s definitely for teachers, although people who work for assessment agencies would also find the overview interesting. It’s also for students studying for MA or PhD degrees, and I will be mentioning research that informs practice; but clearly, in just one hour it is impossible to get into research in detail.