The Use of Semi-scripted Speech in a Listening Placement Test for University Students
Martyn Clark, University of Maryland
Volume 3, Issue 2, 2014
Abstract: This paper describes the feasibility of using semi-scripted spoken lectures as stimulus materials in a test of academic listening. The context for this study was the development of a revised test of academic listening designed to place enrolled university students into one of two levels of a language support course for non-native speakers. Because academic listening often involves listening to monologic speech such as lectures (Ferris & Tagg, 1996a), and because ‘authentic’ spoken language is qualitatively different to scripted speech (Biber et al., 2004), the revised test uses semi-scripted spoken mini-lectures as stimulus passages rather than relying on scripted material. Test questions were developed using only the informational elements that four model comprehenders, proficient English listeners (both native and non-native), were able to retain from a single hearing of the passages. Test data from 222 students were analysed using a Rasch methodology. Results show that this test development method did result in testable content that was appropriately targeted at the population of interest, though several aspects of the process could be improved. The paper concludes with some recommendations for using semi-scripted language in academic listening tests.
Keywords: listening comprehension, academic lectures, test development, placement testing