DEVELOPMENT OF FLUENCY, COMPLEXITY, AND ACCURACY IN SECOND LANGUAGE ORAL PROFICIENCY: A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF TWO INTERNATIONAL TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN THE U.S.
I collected two types of data throughout Weeks 1-14, with the original purpose of enhancing teaching and learning in ENGL620. The data included weekly assignment recordings and weekly surveys.
The primary data were students' speech data, which were collected through 14 weekly timed speaking assessments conducted from Week 1 to Week 14. These assignments were made available on Monday at midnight and were required to be completed and submitted by Sunday at midnight). The assignments were delivered, and responses were collected using Extempore (www.extemporeapp.com), a website specifically designed to support oral English assessment and practice.
To conduct more comprehensive assessments of students’ performances, I incorporated two OEPT item types into the weekly assignments, including PROS and CONS (referred to as “PC”) and LINE GRAPH (referred to as “LG”). See Appendix B for the assignment items. The PC item presented challenging scenarios ITAs may encounter and required the test-takers to make a decision and discuss the pros and cons associated with the decision. An example item is “Imagine you have a student who likes to come to your office hours but often talks about something irrelevant to the course. What would you do in this situation? What are the pros and cons associated with the decision?”. The LG item asked students to describe a line graph illustrating two or three lines and provide possible reasons behind those trends. It can be argued that the two tasks targeted slightly different language abilities and background knowledge. The two item types were selected because they represented two key skills that the OEPT tests. The PC task focused on stating one’s decision and presenting an argument within a personal context, while the LG item assessed students’ ability to describe visual information and engage in discussions about broader topics such as gender equality, employment, economic growth, college policy. The PC and LG items are the most difficult items in the test (Yan et al., 2019). Therefore, progress in the two tasks can be a good indicator of improvement in the speaking skills required in this context. All the items were either taken from retired OEPT items or developed by the researcher following the specifications for OEPT item development. In particular, the design of the items aimed to avoid assuming prior specific knowledge and to ensure that students could discuss them without excessive cognitive load.
For each task, the students were allocated 2 minutes for preparation and a maximum of 2 minutes to deliver their response to the assigned topic. The responses were monologic, resembling short classroom presentations. During the preparation time, the participants were permitted to take notes. Each item only allowed for one attempt, which aimed to capture students’ online production of speech and their utilization of language resources. Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics of the responses.
The PC prompt was deliberately kept consistent for Week 2 and Week 12 randomly selected as time points at the beginning and end of the semester. This deliberate choice of using the same prompt at these two distinct stages serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it provides a valuable perspective for analyzing growth over time. This approach adds depth to the study results and conclusions by providing additional evidence and triangulation. Second, this approach addresses one of the specific challenges identified by Ortega and Iberr-Shea (2005) in studies involving multiple data collection points, as maintaining consistency in the prompt can minimize potential variations in task difficulty or topic-related factors.
After completing each speaking assignment, the students were requested to rate the level of difficulty for each item on a scale of 1 (Very Easy) to 5 (Very difficult). Additionally, they were asked to fill out a weekly survey using Qualtrics. The Qualtrics survey contained six questions related to the frequency of their English language use outside of the classroom and their focus on language skills in the previous and upcoming week. These questions were considered interesting as potential contributing factors to changes in their performances throughout the semester. Refer to Appendix C for the survey questions.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- West Lafayette