Raising the profile of listening and reading in integrated assessments – Anne Stazicker

Raising the profile of listening and reading in integrated assessments – Anne Stazicker – A.Stazicker@leeds.ac.uk 

Most traditional language tests focus on the testing of each of the four skills separately yet this is not how language is used. Therefore, integrated assessment is more authentic but in recent years the trend has been largely towards explicitly assessing the productive skills, usually through one written mode such as ‘the essay’ and one spoken mode, typically ‘the presentation’, with receptive skills being somewhat subsumed within them. However, competent completion of academic writing and speaking tasks, I would argue, cannot happen unless there is a good level of proficiency in reading and listening.

In order to take a principled approach to redressing the balance, extensive collaborative research was conducted into listening and reading literature. This informed the creation of two working frameworks to assist in the teaching and learning of listening and reading in the Language Centre.

What this review of our practice has brought to light in particular so far is the need to place more emphasis on enabling students to listen and providing them with more opportunities for the development of strategies and competencies to do so. This comes in addition to, or instead of, the opportunities provided for ‘testing’ type listening through more typical comprehension activities.

The next phase of this longitudinal project is currently underway and focuses on raising the profile of listening and reading in assessment task design and specifically in assessment rubric. This is partly so that the receptive skills become more visible and transparent in teaching, learning and assessment, and also in order to meet UK Visas and Immigration department (UKVI) requirements for four skills testing. However, most important, perhaps, is the washback effect on what is focused on in the classroom in order that students’ potential to be maximised in the assessments. In other words, using assessments as vehicles for learning rather than of learning,  developing students’ assessment literacy, and making transferable skills visible and explicit.

The aim of revising marking rubrics is to simplify and demystify the assessment process, and the language of performance levels and thereby be more meaningful and user-friendly to markers and students alike. Any proposed changes should aim to facilitate the making process and with inter-rater reliability whilst concurrently making assessment requirements and transferable skills clear and explicit for students. We intend to seek volunteers to trial draft rubrics and the findings from the collaborative project will by fed into future policy decisions for the Language Centre.

Contributors to the project:

In phase one of the project
The Listening Steering Group members were:
Niamh Mullen, Peter Matthews, Clark Girdlestone, Natasha Rust and Sam Stark.
The Reading Steering Group members were:
Angela Hulme, Anna Murawska, Joy Bradford, and Irene Addison-Child.
For this phase
The Assessment Working party members are:
Niamh Mullen, Peter Matthews, Natasha Rust and Clark Girdlestone.
Consultants so far are: Alex Holloway (CEFR perspective), Joy Robbins, Sam Stark, (IT perspectives) Helen Sadig, (Student Education/experience perspective)  Milena  Marinkova (Inclusivity perspective) and Anna Murawska (Rubric design perspective).

If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with Anne at: A.Stazicker@leeds.ac.uk