Jane Allemano has worked in ELT for over 30 years as a teacher, materials writer and consultant for Cambridge English. She has written several course books, taught English in the UK, Germany and Russia (teaching at Moscow State University in the late 1970 s on a British Council teacher exchange programme) and had a training and management role in a large London Further Education College before her current post as a lecturer in ESOL at University College London, Institute of Education, where her research interests are in the field of assessment. She is now working on a thesis on how teachers see their role in ensuring positive washback of a language exam on curriculum design and teaching. Her work for Cambridge English includes examiner, principal examiner and team leader for writing and speaking papers. She has also led on the writing of examination papers for the assessment of reading. She has also delivered lectures and seminars in a wide range of countries, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Topic: Authenticity in speaking tests
A speaking test is a common feature of any language learner’s experience. Sometimes the test is the ultimate goal of a course as in IELTS, for example. However, ideally the test preparation will have positive washback on the socio-cognitive approach to teaching that currently prevails in English language classrooms so that the learner comes away with not only a certificate but valuable language skills adaptable to a range of contexts.
In order to do this the interaction in a speaking test would need to be as close to reality as possible in a range of formats. The design of the test itself is a major factor in the achievement of this ideal but there are other less tangible factors to take into consideration such as the perceptions and resultant behaviour of the participants: candidates, interlocutors and teachers, both during and before the test. This paper discusses the strive for authenticity and outlines on-going research into the perceptions of teachers which might influence their approach to supporting learners who are working towards a speaking test.
Video recording of the plenary session
You can watch the full recording of Jane Allemano’s talk on British Council Russia’s YouTube channel by clicking the link below:
In this interview, Jane talks about the theme of authenticity in speaking assessment and in particular the factors that need to be considered when asking students to demonstrate real-life speaking skills in a non-real-life situation. She offers some advice to teachers who are preparing students for speaking tests and talks about how the E-merging Forum is different from other conferences she has attended and spoken at.
You can watch the recording here: http://www.viddler.com/v/5c1eb9f3
Jane also answered the questions that our online audience asked. Read the questions and her answers below:
How can the effectiveness of communication be measured in a paired oral test if one of the partners is of a completely different level?
This is rare but the examiner will redress the balance in the distribution of questions in other parts of the test where the examiner has more control.
What are the most typical mistakes teachers make while preparing for speaking tests?
Not making the candidates aware that they should interact during the collaborative task – by, for example, referring back to what their partner has said and expanding on it, asking their partner to elaborate, etc.
Will paired or group speaking tests have a positive or soothing effect on kids sitting for Movers or Flyers?
I’m afraid that I have no experience of testing such young learners so I’m not really qualified to answer your question.