LING535: Second Language Testing (Spring 2014)

EW 313; W 5:55-8:35pm

Course website:

Recent Announcements (more)

Hi folks

Next class will be held in the Linguistics Lab (FD 206).  If you have a laptop, please bring it; otherwise, use the lab computer.  You will be working in pairs.

(Tue Apr 29, 9:37 a.m.)
Hi folks. 
Note that the last time we meet is during the finals week.  Our 'final' time is different from the regular class time: 4:30-6:30.  Please plan accordingly.

(Tue Apr 29, 7:12 a.m.)
Remember the talk tomorrow.  I strongly suggest you attend: she is one of the biggest names in the field of L2 acquisition.

The TESOL Graduate Student Association of Central Connecticut State University 

cordially invites you to attend a special event on 

Friday, April 4, 2014, 5:30 pm 


Room 105, Vance Academic Center 

Dr. Lydia White 

James McGill Professor of Linguistics 

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec 

Linguistic Theory: Implications and Applications

The aim of much generative L2 research has been to reach an understanding of the roles of Universal Grammar (UG) and the mother tongue (L1) in the acquisition of second languages. Recently, there has been a revival of interest in potential applications of such findings. I will present an overview of research, past and present, which explores how linguistic approaches to language acquisition and linguistic theory may offer insights for classroom teaching, as well as for bilingual acquisition in cases of language impairment. 

Short Bio: Lydia White is James McGill Professor of Linguistics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She is currently Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) at McGill. Lydia White has a BA/MA in Moral Sciences and Psychology from Cambridge University (1969), and a PhD in Linguistics from McGill (1980). She is Co-Editor of the book series Language Acquisition and Language Disorders (published by John Benjamins) and she is on the Editorial Boards of the following journals: Language Acquisition, Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, Second Language Research. 

The lecture is open to the public. ASL-English interpreters provided 

(Thu Apr 03, 7:55 a.m.)


Elena 'Helen' Koulidobrova (Professor)

Office Hours: M-R 9-12 and by appointment in FD 208-12

I am available for both live and Skype appointments.

Course Description

This course aims to provide language teachers of non-native users of English with essential background in the area of language testing, specifically in second language testing. Questions that are addressed relate to test preparation, administration, and evaluation. Additionally, it provides students with knowledge of basic concepts of testing and characteristics of language tests, ability to evaluate tests and test results, and an understanding of test development procedures. Throughout the course there will be discussions of officially administered tests and their ramifications for the educational system. 



book cover
book cover

Additional Readings

Course Details and Policies

General housekeeping:

- Please come to class having read the articles assigned for that day.  
- Do yourself a favor: subscribe to the course.  This will ensure that every time I post an announcement, you will receive an e-mail.
- Check the website on Friday afternoon.  I tend to post articles Friday morning. You will usually not be notified if an article as been uploaded.
- If you see no readings for Thu, assume that we are continuing the discussion which began on Tue
- Example of the shorthand for the reading assignments: Hughes ch 1 = H 1; Fulcher ch 5 = F 5
- The best way to get in touch with me is via email.  Since this semester I am teaching 4 courses total, and a number of you are enrolled in 2, please make sure that the subject line of each of your emails begins with 'LING 535: '. 
-  If at any point you feel uncomfortable/unsure about something happening in class, please let me know ASAP.  I am happy to meet with you via e-mail, Skype, or face-to-face.  
-Begin thinking about the project right away.  Meet with me, if you like, for a brainstorming session.


1. Participation:35%
2. Chairing the discussion:20%
3. [Test + paper] x 2: 40% (20% each)  = a part of a portfolio
4. Assessment reflection: 5%               = a part of a portfolio

Details of assessment:

1. This course is a graduate seminar.  This means that everyone is expected to read all the assigned materials; the majority of the time will be devoted to discussion.  You are expected to contribute to the discussion every time we meet.  If you find it difficult to formulate questions on the spot, then I recommend you to prepare 2 or 3 before you come in. 
   - In addition, you will be doing a number of activities -- an integral part of one of the textbooks.  Your active participation and 
     reflection on them is being assessed here as well.

2. At least once, you will lead a discussion on the assigned readings corresponding to a particular topic/chapter.  
    - You will sign up for the topic(s) during the first meeting.  
    - You will also need to find a paper (published in the last 5 years) dealing with some aspect of the topic.  
    - You will need to send a paper to me a week in advance so that I can add it to the list of assigned readings for the week.
3. One of the common complaints that students make about any education course is that they do not have enough experience with the learners they will be teaching. The course responds to this complaint in the following manner: you will design a set of assessment tools for two different populations (which you will pick from a hat, quite literally; if you are currently teaching and would like to do this for your class, please let me know ASAP).

  - Your task is to construct 2 tests for an L2 population in a traditional classroom setting. Each of these tests should be aimed at a    
    40min. (a regular class). At least one of these tests must be a proficiency test in a particular domain.You have a considerable amount of freedom on the topic. 

  - The test will be attached to a paper in which you discuss (in much detail):
       A. the population (in much detail; don't forget challenges as well as advantages)
       B. goals and objectives of the test. 
       C. rationale for each of the types of test items (mind the 'type vs. token' distinction): 
            what they are meant to tap into and why you think so [argue for the types and tokens you have selected and show how 
             they fit your purpose for constructing the test]
       D. scoring procedure (and how much time it takes. For this, you actually should run your test on someone else and score it): 
           - a holistic or analytical rubric must be included to show what performance indicators you intend to score.  
             (Hint These should match up with the purpose of your constructed test.
       E. what kind of (statistical) analysis could be run on the data, if any (and how you might be able to convert the data so that 
           stats could actually be run)
       F. the strengths and unavoidable weaknesses (i.e. avoid the ones you can) of your test. Speculate on the potential approach 
           to resolving the problem (and why you didn't do that in the fist place).

       G. If the test is an achievement-style, you need to provide additional info on what the students have been studying, for how                   long, and in which format.

- The first test+paper must done in groups of 2-3.  You will need to print it out (both the test and the paper) and bring it to class 
   on a scheduled day for peer-review.

- The second test+paper combination must be done individually.  Try your hand at a proficiency test. The skills to be tested are up to you.

In your description, please refer to the document made available by the good folk at the Center for Applied Linguistics:

4. Observe an ESL class 
   -if you are already doing this for another class, feel free to incorporate
   -if you are teaching one, feel free to video-tape yourself and analyze later

     -Write a short reflection paper on the types of assessment (formal and informal) you observe in the class.  Note each time any kind of assessment happens. What type? What seem to be the objectives? Are the teacher and the students 'on the same page'? Does the assessment seem to provide an accurate picture of the learner's language ability?

Please contact me privately to discuss your specific needs if you believe you need course accommodations based on the impact of a disability, medical condition, or if you have emergency medical information to share.  I will need a copy of the accommodation letter from Student Disability Services in order to arrange your class accommodations.  Contact Student Disability Services, Willard Hall, 101-04 if you are not already registered with them. Student Disability Services maintains the confidential documentation of your disability and assists you in coordinating reasonable accommodations with your faculty.

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Assignments Notes
1 Wed Jan 15 Introductions. Scope of the course. Context of the discussion. H1-2, F preface-1    
2 Wed Jan 22 Standardized vs. classroom testing  F2, H3-5    
3 Wed Jan 29 Standardized testing F2, H3-5    
4 Wed Feb 05 snow day F3; Lyster et al. (2013)

5 Wed Feb 12 Classroom testing. Formal and informal assessment (corrective feedback).  F 4-5, H 8; Lyster et al. (2013); Hill & McNamara (2011)
6 Tue Feb 18 Designing the test: the how/why F 4-5, H 7
7 Tue Feb 25 observation day: Helen may be out of town     you are welcome to observe on a different day
8 Wed Mar 05 The what: grammar/vocab H13; Alderson 2013, Zhang 2012
  Wala, Ala'a
10 Wed Mar 19 No class: Spring Break      
11 Wed Mar 26 The what: reading/writing H9,11; Grant et al (2012); Wigglesworth & Storch (2009)
  Edira, Linda
12 Wed Apr 02 The what: listening/speaking H10,12, 14; Wagner (2010), Winke (2013)   Leanne
13 Wed Apr 09 Scoring and aligning F7-8; Wiseman (2011); Harsch & Rupp (2011)   Stacy, Joe
14 Wed Apr 16 Administering F9, H16; Abedi (2009)   Rian
15 Wed Apr 23 Workshop: peer-review of tests      
16 Wed Apr 30 Testing and teaching F6, H10;    
17 Wed May 07 Final discussion, overall ability, various learners. Portfolio due F14 additional reading to be uploaded
Note shift in time: this is our official 'final', so 4:30-6:30

you are welcome to submit the portfolio prior to this date