Judgments of oral proficiency by non-native and native English speaking teacher raters: Competing or complementary constructs?

Ying Zhang; Elder, Catherine
January 2011
Language Testing;01/01/2011, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p31
Academic Journal
This paper reports the findings of an empirical study on ESL/EFL teachers’ evaluation and interpretation of oral English proficiency as elicited by the national College English Test-Spoken English Test (CET-SET) of China. Informed by debates on the issue of native speaker (NS) norms which have become the focus of attention in recent years, this study addresses the question of whether judgments of language proficiency by non-native English speaking (NNES) teachers, who are currently used to assess performance on the CET-SET, correspond to those of native English speaking (NES) teachers or whether the two groups draw on different constructs of oral proficiency. Data for the study were derived from two sources: unguided holistic ratings given by a group of 19 NES and 20 NNES teachers to CET-SET speech samples from 30 test-takers, and written comments to justify the ratings assigned. Results yielded by both quantitative (MFRM) and qualitative analyses of teacher data, revealed no significant difference in raters’ holistic judgments of the speech samples and a broad level of agreement between groups on the construct components of oral English proficiency. However, the analysis of raters’ comments revealed both quantitative and qualitative differences in the way NES and NNES teachers weighed various features of the oral proficiency construct in justifying the decisions made. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the study’s findings for debates about the native speaker norm as the target for language learners and test-takers.


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