An exploratory study of TOEFL students as evaluators of 'Washback to the Learners'

Renolds, Jessica (2010). An exploratory study of TOEFL students as evaluators of 'Washback to the Learners' M.A. Thesis, School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Renolds, Jessica
Thesis Title An exploratory study of TOEFL students as evaluators of 'Washback to the Learners'
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Iwashita, Noriko
Total pages 113
Language eng
Subjects L
970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics
Abstract/Summary While much language testing research has elucidated washback’s meanings for test developers and teachers, no demonstrated method exists for integrating washback’s meanings for high-stakes tests’ seminal stakeholders – the students – into the ongoing examination of the washback phenomenon. Consequently, this study analysed a local instance of ‘washback to the learners’ (Bailey, 1996) from the TOEFL® in three TOEFL preparation classrooms in the U.S.A. from the student perspectives. Through its triangulated description of washback according to the twenty-three participating students, this study can “increase the specification” (Alderson & Wall, 1993, p. 127) of what constitutes both positive and negative washback for participating students and teachers while providing an initial, mixed-methods format for TOEFL teachers and researchers to investigate washback’s effects from a student standpoint. The primary data collection instruments were three semi-structured, open-ended group interviews, recorded in each of the three participating classes. A focus-group interview with the three teachers of the TOEFL preparation courses, student surveys and informal observations of the three courses rounded out the data corpus to both directly and contextually interpret students’ responses. The interview responses were transcribed, coded and categorized to provide a detailed but summarized picture of student perspectives on TOEFL’s ‘washback to the learners.’ Interview categories were further interpreted through triangulation with the corresponding student survey, teacher interview and classroom observation data. The interpretive findings revealed a trajectory in students’ experiences and evaluations of TOEFL’s washback as they became more familiar with the TOEFL preparation process – that is, the more competent students were with English and the TOEFL, the more negative washback they perceived on their learning. The findings also indicated that TOEFL students were unsure what activities best prepared them for TOEFL and were unclear if preparing for TOEFL and improving English proficiency were competing or complementary. Implications regarding students’ individual investment in learning, the integration of authentic language practice into TOEFL preparation materials and TOEFL teachers’ pedagogy emerged as formative for positive ‘washback to the learners’ from student perspectives.
Keyword learner behaviours

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Created: Fri, 13 Aug 2010, 16:07:53 EST by Jo Grimmond on behalf of School of Languages and Cultures