Past Seminars (2009-2010)


Tim McNamara (University of Melbourne)

Second language performance assessment

This seminar will introduce the theory and practice of second language performance assessment. Participants will be helped to develop practical assessments relevant to the contexts in which they work. A special focus will be on the assessment of speaking and writing. Topics to be covered include: validity issues in performance assessment; developing assessment tasks; developing rating scales; rater training; the rating process; investigating the quality of ratings; investigating the characteristics of raters; giving feedback to raters; formal and informal performance assessments; performance assessments and policy frameworks; the social and cultural context of performance assessment. A particular focus will be the use of multi faceted Rasch measurement in investigating the validity of performance assessments in second languages. The conceptual and procedural bases for Rasch measurement will be introduced, and participants will be helped to conduct analyses of test data and to interpret the output. In addition, methods to estimate the qualities of performance assessments that do not require complex statistical procedures will also be introduced. By the end of the seminar, participants will have developed the skills to design, try out, evaluate and revise performance assessments for contexts in which they are interested.

Robert Batstone (University of Auckland)

Investigating Second Language Classroom Interaction as Discourse

There seems to be a general consensus in the SLA (second language acquisition) literature that classroom interaction of one sort or another is a prerequisite for second language learning. However, scholars are divided between two quite different ways of looking at classroom interaction. For many, interaction is seen as a relatively straightforward matter involving a negotiation between teacher and learner (either of meaning or of form) which makes linguistic forms available for cognitive language learning processes. Others regard interaction as a form of discourse where successful communication is far from certain, since it depends upon all parties reaching a common understanding of appropriate goals and the means for achieving them. It is this latter perspective which we adopt in this course.

Participants will be invited to consider various ways in which effective classroom interaction can be facilitated or inhibited, looking at practical examples from a variety of studies as well as drawing on participants' own experiences and views as teaching professionals.

George Engelhard (Emory University)

Invariant measurement: Using Rasch models to Solve Persistent Measurement Problems

The purpose of this seminar is to provide an introduction to the concept of invariant measurement. Rasch models provide an approach for creating item-invariant person measurement and person-invariant item calibration. Many of the persistent measurement problems in the human sciences can be addressed in a coherent manner through the lens of Rasch measurement models. This seminar provides an introduction to the Many-Faceted Rasch Model (Facets Model), and its use in the development of psychometrically sound assessments. This course provides a framework for solving measurement problems using Rasch models. Examples of the topics addressed in the seminar are differential item and person functioning, construction of psychometrically defensible measures, rater biases, equating of assessments, and dimensionality. Participants are encouraged to bring their own data sets for analysis and discussion in the seminar.

Mitsue Allen-Tamai (Chiba University)

Teaching English to Young Learner

This seminar will provide an introduction to theory and practice in the teaching of a second language to young learners, dealing especially with English education for Japanese children. It will begin with a brief overview of the current situation concerning the implementation of English activities in Japanese public elementary schools and will move to a discussion of the most important points in teaching English to young learners.

The objectives of the course are 1) to develop an understanding of first and second language acquisition in young learners and 2) to develop a working knowledge of methodologies and classroom practices for teaching a second language to children.

Course topics will include 1) developmental psychology, 2) learning theories, 3) the critical period hypothesis, 4) language development, and 5) literacy development, as well as some practical issues such as 6) a content-based learning approach, 7) total physical response, 8) songs and chants, 9) storytelling, and 10) games.

Paul Meara (Swansea University)

The Dimensions of Lexical Competence

This seminar will consider three ways of looking at the lexical competence of L2 speakers.

The first approach considers how we can measure vocabulary size in L2 learners. The seminar will look at innovative ways of estimating how many words learners know, with a particular emphasis on ways of assessing productive vocabulary. The second approach goes beyond mere vocabulary size, but instead of focussing on vocabulary depth, it looks at how learners' L2 vocabulary is organised, and how we can tap into this organisation using some simple word association techniques. The third approach is concerned with how accessible learners' vocabulary is. Learners will often claim to "know" a word, but be unable to recognise it, or call it up when they need to use it. Some new ways of assessing how easily learners can process core vocabulary will be described.

The theme which links these three strands is the idea of a vocabulary network. The final session will look at some recent work using formal network models of how vocabularies work, and will consider the implications of these models for our ideas about L2 vocabulary development and testing.

Gary Barkhuizen (University of Auckland)

Qualitative Data Analysis, Narrative Inquiry, and Multi-Method Approaches

This seminar focuses on qualitative research in language teaching and learning. Qualitative research can take many different forms, but it generally produces data which is often referred to as rich, thick, or deep data, generated by, for example, interviews, observations, and journals or diaries. Put simply, qualitative data represents the nature or attributes of something (e.g., teacher beliefs about their practices, learner stories of their learning), in contrast with quantitative data, which is data that can be measured or counted. Qualitative analysts have the task of reducing huge amounts of text to manageable units for further analysis. In this seminar we will examine ways in which this can be achieved. Coding, for example, is one way of doing so. It refers to organizing data into themes and categories so that they can be used for the purpose of ongoing analysis, interpretation, and conclusion drawing. Topics to be covered in the seminar include: techniques for coding data, displaying qualitative data and findings in the form of tables and figures, an introduction to narrative inquiry and narrative analysis (including narrative frames), interpreting qualitative data, and combining qualitative data analysis with other methods of analysis. Case studies of actual qualitative research projects will be presented for discussion. Participants will have the opportunity to analyze and interpret different forms of qualitative data.

Elvis Wagner (Temple University)

Second Language Listening: Research, Teaching, and Testing

Listening in a second language is an incredibly complex process. And while L2 listening ability has garnered increasing amounts of research in the last 20 years, it can still be seen as one of the most neglected areas in SLA research and pedagogy. This seminar will explore the L2 listening process and the research that has been conducted investigating L2 listening ability. The seminar will also link the research to practice, providing concrete examples of how L2 listening can and should be taught, as well as relevant issues related to the testing and assessment of L2 listening ability.

Specific areas that will be covered in the seminar include different models of L2 listening ability; the characteristics of spoken texts that make L2 listening difficult; the differences between written and spoken texts; the nonverbal components of spoken language; the use of video and other technologies in teaching and testing listening; the importance of monitoring in the L2 listening process; and different approaches to teaching L2 listening.

JD Brown (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

What Every Classroom Language Teacher Needs to Know about Assessment

This weekend course will center on assessment procedures as they are used in language classrooms. The course will begin with a discussion of the crucial differences between classroom tests and standardized tests in terms of purposes, types of decisions, levels of generality, students' expectations, score interpretations, and score report strategies. Specific guidelines will then be provided for writing different types of items. First, a general set of guidelines will be presented and explained followed by three more specific sets of guidelines: (a) for the different types of receptive-response item formats (true-false, multiple-choice, and matching) will be provided; (b) for the various sorts of productive-response item formats (fill-in, short-answer, and task-based); and (c) for three types of personal-response item formats (portfolios, self-assessments, and conferences). The course will also provide participants with a working knowledge of the basic principles of test construction and revision in second language settings. Participants will consider various types of second language tests, including integrative tests, discrete-point tests, and tests of communicative competence. Participants will also learn how to calculate useful classroom descriptive and exploratory test statistics in their Exceltm spreadsheet programs, but NO previous knowledge of statistics or higher mathematics is required. In short, this weekend course will provide teachers with the tools to design, create, revise, and validate their own classroom tests.

Gabriele Kasper (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

Qualitative Research Interviews in Applied Linguistics

Interviews have become the data collection method of choice for a range of topics and purposes in qualitative applied linguistic research, in particular (but not limited to) studies on the relationship between identity and language learning in multilingual societies conducted from poststructuralist and critical perspectives. Because interviews are a genre familiar from the media and other arenas of social life, they are often treated as unproblematic data sources in the applied linguistics literature. However, in order to choose the most appropriate types of data for any particular research purpose and to conduct and analyze interviews in accountable and insightful ways, it is necessary to understand just what kind of an activity interviews are, to cultivate effective interview practices, and to choose productive analytical strategies. Drawing on the literature on qualitative research interviews in other social sciences, the course will critically examine selected published interview studies in applied linguistics and offer some initial training in developing, conducting, and analyzing qualitative interviews on topics of the course participants' choice.