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Contriving authentic interaction: task implementation and engagement in school-based speaking assessment in Hong KongThis chapter examines the validity of the Group Interaction task in a school-based speaking assessment in Hong Kong from the perspectives of task implementation and authenticity of engagement. The new format is intended to offer a more valid assessment than the external examination by eliciting ‘authentic oral language use’ (HKEAA, 2009, p.7) in ‘low-stress conditions’ (p.3), and emphasizes the importance of flexibility and sensitivity to students’ needs in its implementation. Such a policy has then been translated into diverse assessment practices, with considerable variation in the amount of preparation time given to students. The present study draws on three types of data, namely 1) students’ discourse in the assessed interactions, 2) stimulated recall with students and teachers, and 3) a mock assessment, where the group interaction task, the preparation time, and the post-interview were all video-recorded. Results show that while the test discourse exhibits some features that ostensibly suggest authentic interaction, a closer examination of students’ pre-task planning activities reveals the contrived and pre-scripted nature of the interaction. Implications for the assessment of students’ interactional competence and recommendations for task implementation are discussed.
Preparing for admissions tests in EnglishTest preparation for admissions to education programmes has always been a contentious issue (Anastasi, 1981; Crocker, 2003; Messick, 1982; Powers, 2012). For Crocker (2006), ‘No activity in educational assessment raises more instructional, ethical, and validity issues than preparation for large-scale, high-stakes tests.’ (p. 115). Debate has often centred around the effectiveness of preparation and how it affects the validity of test score interpretations; equity and fairness of access to opportunity; and impacts on learning and teaching (Yu et al., 2017). A focus has often been preparation for tests originally designed for domestic students, for example, SATs (e.g., Alderman & Powers, 1980; Appelrouth et al., 2017; Montgomery & Lilly, 2012; Powers, 1993; Powers & Rock, 1999; Sesnowitz et al., 1982) and state-wide tests (e.g., Firestone et al., 2004; Jäger et al., 2012), but the increasing internationalisation of higher education has added a new dimension. To enrol in higher education programmes which use English as the medium of instruction, increasing numbers of international students whose first language is not English are now taking English language tests, or academic specialist tests administered in English, or both. The papers in this special issue concern how students prepare for these tests and the roles in this process of the tests themselves and of the organisations that provide them.