A preliminary look at the impact of spell checker use during an L2 English writing assessment
Ikkyu Choi & Yeonsuk Cho, Educational Testing Service
Volume 9, Issue 2, 2020
Abstract: Spell checkers are popular among writers but are seldom used or studied in second language (L2) writing assessment contexts. Little is known about how L2 test takers use spell checkers or how their responses are impacted by spell checker use. Making a first step towards addressing this knowledge gap was the goal of this study. We aimed to gain a preliminary understanding of L2 test takers’ spell checker use and its impact with a total of 61 adult English learners who responded to two computer-delivered English writing tasks. Half were randomly selected to be provided with a built-in spell checker. The resulting responses and keystroke logs from the test takers were analyzed to examine their spell checker use and its impact on the product and process of their writing. The test takers who chose to use the spell checker were highly comparable to those who did not use it in terms of their general English proficiency. A series of regression analyses indicated that the spell checker users, on average, wrote fewer words and made fewer spelling errors than those who did not use it. The spell checker users also tended to write at a slower pace for one of the two tasks.
Keywords: L2 writing assessment, spell checker, spelling error, writing process