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Title: The impact of pre-task planning on speaking test performance for English-medium university study
Author: O'Grady, Stefan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 4530
Awarding Body: University of Bedfordshire
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2018
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This study investigated the impact of different lengths of pre-task planning time on performance in a test of second language speaking ability for university admission. The research was conducted in a university in Turkey where the increasing popularity of English-medium instruction has heightened the need for valid assessment of prospective students' English language ability. In the study, 47 Turkish speaking learners of English aged between 18 and 22, sat a test of English language speaking ability. The participants were divided into two groups according to their language proficiency estimated through a paper-based English placement test (an A1+/A2 level and B1 level group, Council of Europe, 2001). They each completed four monologue tasks: two picture-based narrative tasks and two description tasks. In a balanced design, each test taker was allowed a different length of planning time before responding to each of the four tasks. The four planning conditions were 30 seconds, one minute, five minutes, and ten minutes. The effect of variation in pre-task planning time was analysed using a set of measures of complexity, accuracy and fluency identified through the literature review and refined through piloting. In addition, 16 trained raters awarded scores to the test takers using an analytic rating scale and a context specific, binary choice rating scale designed specifically for the study. The results of the rater scores were analysed using multi-faceted Rasch measurement. The impact of pre-task planning on test scores was found to be influenced by four variables: the method of assessment, the task type that test takers completed, the length of planning time provided, and the test takers' levels of proficiency in the second language. Firstly, contrary to common accounts in the literature, pre-task planning did not have an impact on the complexity, accuracy, and fluency of the spoken output. Rather, planning for longer periods of time increased the number of idea units test takers produced (an indication of the propositional completeness and complexity of the task content), and led to marginal increases in test scores. The increases in scores were larger on the picture-based narrative tasks than the two description tasks. The results also revealed a relationship between proficiency and pre-task planning whereby statistical significance was only reached for the increases in the scores of the lowest (CEFR 'A') level test takers. Regarding the amount of planning time, the five-minute planning condition led to the largest overall increases in scores. The research findings offer contributions to the study of pre-task planning and will be of particular interest to institutions seeking to assess the speaking ability of prospective students in English-medium educational environments.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: language assessment ; second language speaking ; pre-task planning ; rating scales ; multi-faceted rasch analysis ; X162 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)