Advertisement

Proficiency vs. Performance: What Do the Tests Show?

  • Fernando RubioEmail author
  • Jane F. Hacking
Chapter
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 37)

Abstract

Research has shown consistently that after two semesters of instruction, students in post-secondary institutions show only Novice levels of proficiency as measured by the ACTFL scale. Even after four semesters, proficiency does not always reach the Intermediate level, especially in listening. These findings are troubling both for students and for practitioners. Although pedagogical or curricular weaknesses could explain these results, this chapter explores an alternative explanation that revolves around the nature of the tests used. We argue that the nature of the existing proficiency tests makes them inadequate for Novice learners since they measure a type of linguistic competence that is inconsistent with what language learners at the lower levels are able to do. We also argue that the lackluster results observed in listening may be due to a problem of test validity. The existing tests of listening proficiency may not be the right tools to measure the multi-modal processes involved in real-life listening comprehension.

Keywords

Assessment Validity Task-based Testing Proficiency Performance Language 

References

  1. ACTFL. (2012a). ACTFL proficiency guidelines 2012. Alexandria, VA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Retrieved from https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/public/ACTFLProficiencyGuidelines2012_FINAL.pdf
  2. ACTFL. (2012b). ACTFL performance descriptors for language learners 2012 edition. Alexandria, VA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.Google Scholar
  3. ACTFL. (2012c). ACTFL OPIc familiarization manual. Retrieved from https://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/OPIc-Familiarization-Manual.pdf
  4. ACTFL. (2013). ACTFL reading proficiency test (RPT). Familiarization manual and ACTFL proficiency guidelines 2012reading. Retrieved from http://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ACTFL_FamManual_Reading_2015.pdf
  5. ACTFL. (2014). ACTFL listening proficiency test (LPT). Familiarization manual and ACTFL proficiency guidelines 2012—listening. Retrieved from http://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ACTFL_FamManual_Listening_2015.pdf
  6. Brown, J. D. (2004). Performance assessment: Existing literature and directions for research. Second Language Studies, 22(2), 91–139. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/40663 Google Scholar
  7. Davidson, D. E. (2010). Study abroad: When, how long, and with what results? Data from the Russian front. Foreign Language Annals, 43, 6–26.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01057.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goldberg, D., Looney, D., & Lusin, N. (2015). Enrollments in languages other than English in United States institutions of higher education, Fall 2013. Modern Language Association of America. Retrieved from https://www.mla.org/content/download/31180/1452509/EMB_enrllmnts_nonEngl_2013.pdf
  9. Institute for Test Research and Test Development. (2013a). Assessing evidence of validity of the ACTFL reading proficiency test (RPT). Retrieved from http://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Technical-Report-ACTFL-RPT-for-publication.pdf
  10. Institute for Test Research and Test Development. (2013b). Assessing evidence of validity of the ACTFL listening proficiency test (LPT). Retrieved from http://www.languagetesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Technical-Report-ACTFL-LPT-2013-for-publication.pdf
  11. Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Hall, C. (2016). NMC horizon report: 2016 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.Google Scholar
  12. Liskin-Gasparro, J. (1982). ETS oral proficiency testing manual. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar
  13. Malone, M. E., & Montee, M. J. (2010). Oral proficiency assessment: Current approaches and applications for post-secondary foreign language programs. Language and Linguistics Compass, 4, 972–986.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2010.00246.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Messick, S. (1996). Validity and washback in language testing. Language Testing, 13, 241–256.  https://doi.org/10.1177/026553229601300302 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mislevy, R. J., Steinberg, L. S., & Almond, R. G. (2002). Design and analysis in task-based language assessment. Language Testing, 19(4), 477–496.  https://doi.org/10.1191/0265532202lt241oa CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Norris, J. (2002). Interpretations, intended uses and designs in task-based language assessment. Language Testing, 19(4), 337–346.  https://doi.org/10.1191/0265532202lt234ed CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rifkin, B. (2005). A ceiling effect in traditional classroom foreign language instruction: Data from Russian. Modern Language Journal, 89, 3–18.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0026-7902.2005.00262.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Tschirner, E. (2016a). Listening and reading proficiency levels of college students. Foreign Language Annals, 49(2), 201–223.  https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12198 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tschirner, E. (2016b). Task-based language assessment and testing for proficiency: Where do the twain meet? A paper presented at the L.E.A.R.N. Workshop, Universities at Shady Grove, Rockville, MD, September 20–21, 2016.Google Scholar
  20. Watson, J. R., & Wolfel, R. (2015). The intersection of language and culture in study abroad: Assessment and analysis of study abroad outcomes. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 25, 57–72. Retrieved from: https://frontiersjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/WATSON-WOLFEL-FrontiersXXV-TheIntersectionofLanguagenandCultureinStudyAbroad.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Second Language Teaching and Research CenterUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.World Languages and CulturesUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations