Evan Simpson's Presentation
As one of the most widely taken English proficiency tests in the world, IELTS has led to significant washback on English language teaching, though not always positive washback.
Our team member, Evan Simpson (pictured), conducted a presentation entitled "Breaking the Cycle: Intervening for Positive Washback", which detailed the interventionist approach that EAAST have taken (in the form of a workshop called IELTS Speaking and Writing) to equip IELTS teachers with the skills needed to move away from test-driven teaching and towards an approach centred on improving students' proficiency in English. As Evan discussed, teaching to the construct (i.e., speaking or writing) rather than to the test (in the form of just doing past exams) is a much more effective approach in improving the skills needed to do well in the IELTS test.
Evan also presented the findings of a survey he conducted with participants who had attended the workshop in question over the past 6 months. His findings, from both the survey and follow-up interviews with the survey takers, indicated that our approach had a very positive effect on the participants' teaching.
Sheryl Cooke's Presentation
Sheryl's presentation took a somewhat different approach to Evan's. The presentation, entitled "Preparing for High-Stakes Tests: Chinese Test-Taker Strategies for IELTS", presented the outcomes of an investigation into learning strategies used by IELTS test-takers in China and explored the success of these measures in relation to IELTS test scores. The rationale for this paper is as follows:
Internationally recognised tests of English language ability carry with them exceptionally high-stakes because they have a potentially massive impact on an individual's future plans for study or immigration. The challenge that many test-takers face sees them employing a range of different strategies to 'beat the test'.
Frank Wucinski's Presentation
Frank's paper presented a case study of a language assessment literacy program designed for 100 editors of an English language learning magazine in China. His study focused specifically on the design and use of a diagnostic test of item writing to facilitate course development and selection of suitable candidates. Frank's presentation described how such an assessment was used to inform course content and again as a measure at the end of the course to evaluate the impact of the training. Given that the ability to produce low-stakes and practice tests for use in the classroom is a key, but neglected, teaching skill, the presentation looked at how the learnings from this case study could be transferred to a classroom situation.