Integrating Listening and Speaking Skills

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© Copyright Pearson Education Ltd. All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of Pearson Education Ltd. Research Summary: Can integrated skills tasks

change students’ use of learning strategies and
materials? A case study using PTE Academic integrated
skills items
Dr. Wei Wei
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Vietnam Campus
January 2013
Introduction
This study aims to investigate the influence of the integrated skills tasks on students’ use of language learning strategies and choices of materials before and after the introduction of the integrated skills tests. The integrated skills tasks used in this study are items from the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), comprising two item types: ‘Retell Lecture’ and ‘Repeat Sentence’. The Official Guide to PTE Academic (Pearson, 2010) states that the ‘Retell Lecture’ item is designed to assess candidates’ ability to “give a presentation on information from a lecture on an academic subject” (2010, p.51), while the ‘Repeat Sentence’ item tests candidates’ ability “to understand and remember a sentence, then repeat the sentence exactly as you hear it using the correct pronunciation” (2010, p.41). Both of the item types assess speaking and listening skills in an integrated fashion.

Research design
The research question for this study is: can the new integrated skills test change candidates’ use of learning strategies and learning materials? Three classes of students from the School of English Education in Xi’an International Studies University in China participated in this study. One class (n=31) served as the control group, while the other two classes (n=58) served as the experimental group. All of the students had just completed their Test for English Major Band 4 (TEM-4) and a university based speaking test.

The Test
The main differences between TEM-4 listening tasks, the university speaking test and the PTE Academic new integrated skills tasks include: 1) the audio input of PTE Academic has a wider range of accents and the background noise has not been removed with the aim of creating a more authentic environment; 2) the content of the listening materials in PTE Academic is not an audio record of news or of daily conversation topics, but is more academic; 3) the response format of PTE Academic does not consist of multiple choice questions and pair discussion in front of two examiners, but asks to orally summarise or repeat the listening materials; and 4) PTE Academic is conducted through a computer Page 2 of 11 system. The candidates in the experimental group were invited to complete PTE Academic and a survey twice, at the beginning and after a six week break. Their performance in the two constructed integrated skills tests is worth 5% of their academic overall marks in year three. Each test included two ‘Repeat Sentence’ items and two ‘Retell Lecture’ items.

The Survey
The first survey served as the baseline study, aiming to keep a record of candidates’ previous tests and test preparation experiences. The same survey was administered after the participants completed the new integrated skills test in order to identify any possible changes. Apart from their demographic information, the survey consists of two parts: the first part deals with test takers’ perceptions of the specific skills being tested in TEM-4 (listening tasks), the university-based speaking test and PTE Academic as used in this study. It consists of 36 statements and each statement is judged using a 5-point Likert scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree). These statements come from the skills listed under the two item types ‘Repeat Sentence’ and ‘Retell Lecture’ in The Official Guide to PTE Academic (Pearson, 2010, pp. 41-45, 51-56). A higher overall rating of the listed skills therefore indicates a better understanding or awareness of what skills the two item types...
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