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Home Journal Index 2022-1

The Design and Validation of an Online Speaking Test for Young Learners in Uruguay: Challenges and Innovations

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Nahal Khabbazbashi
CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire, UK


Fumiyo Nakatsuhara
CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire, UK


Chihiro Inoue
CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire, UK


Gabriela Kaplan
Plan Ceibal, Uruguay


Anthony Green
CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire, UK


Abstract
This research presents the development of an online speaking test of English for students at the end of primary and beginning of secondary school education in state schools in Uruguay. Following the success of the Plan Ceibal one computer-tablet per child initiative, there was a drive to further utilize technology to improve the language ability of students, particularly in speaking, where the majority of students are at CEFR levels pre-A1 and A1. The national concern over a lack of spoken communicative skills amongst students led to a decision to develop a new speaking test, specifically tailored to local needs.


This paper provides an overview of the speaking test development and validation project designed with the following objectives in mind: to establish, track, and report annually learners’ achievements against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) targeting CEFR levels pre-A1 to A2, to inform teaching and learning, and to promote speaking practice in classrooms. Results of a three-phase mixed-methods study involving small-scale and large-scale trials with learners and examiners as well as a CEFR-linking exercise with expert panelists will be reported. Different sources of evidence will be brought together to build a validity argument for the test. The paper will also focus on some of the challenges involved in assessing young learners and discuss how design decisions, local knowledge and expertise, and technological innovations can be used to address such challenges with implications for other similar test development projects.


Keywords
Young learners, speaking assessment, test development and validation, English language learners, CEFR