English Skills Assessment of Esl Listeners at Cefr A1 Level

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1. Background
This research presents the analysis of a listening assessment of a group of CEFR A1 Level adult learners of English in the UAE. 22 students participated in this study and consist of two groups at Elementary level – E2 and E4, with the latter being of a higher stage. Learners in the UAE usually involve a mix of nationalities and are either professionals looking to improve their English or young students who are aiming to sit for the IELTS test for admission to university.

At entrance to the teaching centre’s Elementary courses, learners are expected to have a basic repertoire of English, with knowledge of simple expressions and lexis. Although grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing and speaking are considered at placement tests, no formal listening evaluation is carried out to measure the extent to which students are able to perform tasks in competency-based listening. Recognition of a learner’s understanding is usually subjectively determined via brief interviews in the speaking test.

2. The Development Process
2.1. Overview
Formal listening tests have been largely ignored not only in British Council Sharjah’s placement tests but also in continuous assessment, which tends to favour productive skills. Consequently, students have quite often found themselves misplaced and unable to cope with various listening situations in the classroom. As such, this test aims to confirm if candidates are indeed appropriately placed within the CEF A1 level strata and will serve to inform teachers of what the scores indicate, what learners can do and what they need to learn in relation to the course aims.

2.2. Key issues and decisions
Before drawing up the test, several factors had to be considered. One challenge is to break away from the “integrative socio-linguistic trend” that British Council Sharjah adopts in its cursory and undetailed nature of listening assessment and yet capture tasks that are as close to realistic situations as possible. The problem with this is, as Buck says, “no test task is completely authentic, however genuine the text, simply because it is a test and not a real-world communication.” I find that authenticity is extremely difficult to achieve at CEF A1 level, so texts and tasks had to be amply graded to attempt to successfully meet this objective.

3. Specification
3.1 Design Statement
PurposeTo diagnose the level of students by:
assessing their listening comprehension skills
measuring their lexis knowledge in contextual sentences
evaluating their success in processing spoken discourse and extracting specific information Intended PopulationCandidates are adults from the age of 16 above and a mix of both male and female students. Participants’ native languages vary but a majority are Arabic speakers. Intended decisions/StakesLow stakes test. The aims are:

to test comprehension of key lexis and phrases
to test ability to understand simple instructions
to test awareness of important information
Response formatMatching, Gapfill, Diagram marking
Number of ExaminersTwo teachers in the role of invigilators Number of Candidates22
Number of tasks4 tasks, 30 items
Order of tasksLogical sequence
Section 1:
Match sentence description to picture number (16 items) – single utterance, 1 speaker Section 2:
Listen to instructions and identify a place on a map (1 item) – single utterance, 1 speaker Section3:
Distinguish correct information (5 items) – short dialogue, 2 speakers Section 4:
Listen and write down information (8 items) – short dialogue, 2 speakers Weighting of tasksAll items are given equal weighting with a score of 1 for each correct response, 0 for incorrect Rating Scale typeAnalytic scoring

Reporting typeSingle and profile scoring
Assumptions regarding the test population
Background knowledgeBased on initial needs analysis, all of them have had some formal study of English at school but have not had sufficient opportunity for...
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