• Investigation into the features of written discourse at levels B2 and C1 of the CEFR

      Waller, Daniel (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015-01)
      Validation in language testing is an ongoing process in which information is collected through investigations into the design, implementation, products and impacts of an assessment (Sireci, 2007). This includes the cognitive processes elicited from candidates by a test (Weir, 2005). This study investigated the English Speaking Board’s ESOL International examinations at levels B2 and C1 of the CEFR. The study considered the role of discourse competence in successful performances through examination of cognitive phases employed by candidates and metadiscourse markers and whether the use fit with models such as the CEFR and Field (2004) and so contributed to the validation argument. The study had two strands. The process strand of the study was largely qualitative and focussed on the cognitive processes which candidates used to compose their texts. Verbal reports were carried out with a total of twelve participants, six at each level. The product strand of the study analysed the use of metadiscourse markers in the scripts of sixty candidates in order to identify developing features of discourse competence at levels B2 and C1. The process strand of the study identified that there were statistically significant differences in the cognitive phases employed by the participants in the study. The investigation also identified a number of differences in what B2 and C1 learners attended to while carrying out the different phases. The product strand of the study found no statistically significant differences in the use of metadiscourse markers used by candidates at the two levels, but observed differences in the way particular metadiscourse markers were employed. These differences indicate the direction for a possible larger-scale study. Unlike previous studies into metadiscourse (Burneikaite, 2008; Plakans, 2009; Bax, Nataksuhara & Waller, forthcoming) the study controlled for task, text type and rhetorical pattern and nationality. The study suggested that discourse competence contributed to higher-level performances in writing and that the examinations under investigation elicited a wide range of cognitive phases from C1 candidates. The study also suggested that many of the CEFR’s statements about the development of discourse competence at the higher levels are correct.