Importance of English as a Second Language

Category: Education
Date added
2021/05/09
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As far as literature indicates, one of the oldest washback effect investigations is Wall and Alderson’s (1993). They introduced a new language exam and examined it. A series of textbooks presented new ideas on teaching English as a second language in terms of both content and methodology, including communicative tasks. The goal of this examination was to reinforce the ideas introduced in the textbooks. Fourteen schools were observed to see how teachers used the text books and how they viewed their own teaching and possible influences upon it. The results showed that, although some of the teachers used the textbook, it was impossible to argue that it was the effect of exam, because teachers might have been doing what was in the textbook rather than trying to prepare students for the test. The data was not enough to infer that they use the textbook in order to practice and prepare students for the exam. Researchers, also, found that less time and attention was paid to practice oral skills than written skills, which was likely to be the impact of the test because it did not involve test of oral skills. However, it was probable that it was because of the importance allotted to those skills in the textbooks themselves. Another finding was the narrowing of the course as teachers finished or abandoned the textbooks and focused more on past exam papers. One last finding was that there was no relationship between the methodology that teachers used either before or after the introduction of the test (Wall and Alderson, 1993, p.61-62).

Barnes (2017) examined washback of TOEFL iBT courses and general English classes in Vietnam. He explored beliefs, attitudes, and teaching practices of four teachers. He wanted to understand how washback (positive or negative) is realized in these contexts. The study showed that TOEFL iBT preparation courses are influenced by the goal-oriented nature of the course which can potentially encourage teachers to place their teaching styles and beliefs about teaching aside and simply teach the content of the test. Therefore, teachers tended to adhere to a teacher-centered approach in which the focus was on the content and skills which reflected the test and not the way students learned and developed language skills or “best practices” in communicative teaching. Furthermore, it appeared that TOEFL iBT preparation courses were not about “good” teaching practices that promote the process of learning and developing language proficiency but rather about providing formulas and correct answers to successfully pass a test, the product of learning the test content (e.g. the needed score).

Çiler Hatipoglu(2016) presented the sociocultural and historical context of how English is taught and tested in Turkey and then, presented the beliefs and views of pre-service teachers related to assessment of English in Turkey. The data for this study were collected in two stages. The aim of Stage 1 was to establish a detailed historical account of the selection and placement policies of university candidates in Turkey since 1923. The second part of the study (Stage 2) focused on senior pre-service teachers’ perceptions and views related to the washback effect of the English Section of the university entrance exam( ESUEE) currently used in Turkey on the teaching and learning of the foreign languages in the country. Fifty (M=10, F=40) senior pre-service English language teachers from Middle East Technical University (METU) Ankara participated in this study. Their age range was 18-21 and none of them had spent more than 6 months in an English speaking or other foreign country. All of the informants stated that they were planning to work as English language teachers after graduation. Senior pre-service teachers were selected as subjects for this research since they were going to become practicing teaches within a very short period of time. The analysis of the pre-service teachers’ questionnaires and interviews showed that almost all of the participants (48 out of 50) believed that the exam strongly influences and even dictates not only how English is taught and learned in Turkey but also how the teaching of English is planned, defined and structured. This impact was, according to the participants in the study, unfortunately negative in all cases. Due to its high stakes, the exam determined how knowing of a foreign language is defined in the country (i.e., being successful on the ESUEE) and how teachers formulated their teaching objectives. The exam also had a constraining influence on what was or was not taught, and which approaches, methods and techniques were used in Turkish language classrooms. He concluded that the ESUEE is the de facto curriculum in Turkey. It also looked as if that the main priority of high school teachers was not to teach English but to help their students master the format of the test and to train them to answer more questions in the exam. The ESUEE also affects how students approach and learn languages in Turkey. They pay more attention to grammar, vocabulary and reading, and ignore listening, speaking and writing skills which are not tested in the exam.

Aftab et al (2014) investigated the washback effect of the Pakistani intermediate English examination. She collected data from six teachers. The results clearly indicated that the teachers are teaching towards the examination and their teaching appears to be directly influenced by the assessment procedures. The teacher’s perception of the intermediate examination affects their teaching practices as they focus on examination related activities to help students score better.

The goal of Yi-Ching Pan (2013) was to determine whether the exit requirements have brought ‘teaching to the test’ to tertiary institutions or rather have acted to motivate teachers to integrate listening, reading, writing and speaking skills with lesson content to improve students’ communicative competence. Data was collected from two groups of technical colleges throughout Taiwan, one group with and one group without exit requirements. The researcher distributed 160 teachers’ questionnaires, interviewed 25 teachers, and observed about 50 English class sessions to appraise tertiary-level teaching washback. Findings indicated that the exit requirements have elicited a minor degree of changes in teaching. Teachers consider test factors and test-related activities the lowest priority in their selection of materials and pedagogy. However, a significant difference was found that teachers at schools with exit requirements have a higher consideration of test factors and employ more related activities than their counterparts.

Cheng (1997) investigated whether any washback effect of the revised Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination in English could be observed in the teaching of English in Hong Kong secondary schools. She collected data through school visits, classroom observations, interviews, and questionnaires. She claimed that school visits and unstructured interviews were conducted for overall observation at the macro level, and to get in-depth analysis classroom observations and surveys were employed. The results indicated that a series of changes at the macro level had been observed in terms of using exam syllabus, in service trainings and workshops for teachers to learn more about the test itself and how to

prepare students by textbook publishers. From classroom observations, the researcher concluded that changes could be seen only in the way teachers organize classroom activities. However, she noted that data was not enough to draw the conclusion that the test had the desired impact on teaching. She further claimed that cramming for the test was certainly a part of classroom practice; however, it was difficult to untangle the reasons for the change in classroom activities, whether it was simply cramming for the test or a difference in language skills being taught. It was also difficult to say whether cramming produced positive or negative washback. Although she claimed the insufficiency of data to make generalizations, she asserted that among different aspects of teaching and learning, teaching content had received the most intensive washback, which might be linked to the change in the content of the test.

Watanabe (1996) studied university entrance examination to find out whether the grammar translation came from this national test. The data was collected through classroom observations and follow-up interviews with the teachers asking why they did what they did. The results implied that the nature of the tests did not affect the teachers in the same way, so he concluded that the tests might induce washback on some teachers, but not on others. He came up with three reasons why washback occurs or does not occur: 1) teachers’ educational background; 2) differences in beliefs about effective teaching; 3) the time of the academic year in which the research observations are conducted. However, the last assumption, he pointed out, was not confirmed by the post-observation interviews with teachers in which they claimed that timing did not change their style of teaching.

2.3 Washback research on learning

Suryoputro and Akip (2016) aimed to find out how Indonesian EFL students perceive and make use of washback of portfolio assessment in reading academic texts. To explore washback of portfolios, 20 students from English department at the faculty of education were interviewed. The result revealed that the students had positive perceptions because the washback improved their reading strategy, contributed positive changes to their learning attitude, and cultivated their learning autonomy. They also perceived portfolio assessment a ‘novel’ method in assessing their reading and a helpful tool in learning; therefore, they made use of portfolio assessment for future teaching and learning guidelines.

Xie(2015) utilized Structural Equation Modeling to investigate the washback mechanism, focusing on two design aspects of an English language proficiency test: component weighting (weight assigned to different test papers) and testing methods (item format), and their washback on test preparation. Two months before taking the test, a large sample of test-takers (N=1000) were surveyed regarding their perceptions of the two design aspects and their test preparation activities. Their official test scores were collected when they were available. Data was analyzed to estimate the washback effects of perceived changes on test-taker time management and approaches to test preparation, and their test performance. The study found that test-takers spent more time on the papers with higher weight and less on those with lower weight. Reporting component scores seemed unable

to adjust this tendency. Meanwhile, favorable perception of test validity was associated with a higher level of engagement in both desirable language learning activities and focused test preparation (drilling and cramming). This suggested that favorable perceptions may not be able to reduce negative washback, but may be able to promote positive ones.

Altowaim (2015) studied the validity and reliability in relation to the effectiveness of washback in language testing. The participants of the research were English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students. Sample consisted of 50 learners. Twenty-five students had attended test-based classes, and the other twenty-five students had attended general classes. The hypothesis compared the difference between groups using independent samples t-test. The findings of the study showed a significant difference between the mean scores of two groups. Students who had attended test-based classes had significantly lower scores than the students who had attended general classes. The study found that the test influences the classification of curriculum content into important and unimportant. It also created a fear factor of the test in students. Teachers also emphasized on the content that was relevant to the test. They were also interested in improving the overall test score of the class. In the process, they lost sight of the total picture and the broader vision of imparting knowledge and quality education.

Liu and Stapleton (2014) examined how the washback effect of a high-stakes test is associated with students’ neglect of counter argumentation in their essays. A pretest-posttest design was used on experimental and control groups with 125 participants at a Chinese university. The control group received instruction in argumentative writing (which typically ignores counter argumentation in mainland China), while the experimental group received instruction in argumentation which included counter arguing and refuting. The results of the study demonstrated the efficacy of explicit classroom instruction in counter argumentation. Text analysis on posttest scripts showed that the inclusion of counterarguments and rebuttals was significantly positively correlated with the overall score of an argumentative essay using the evaluative rubric of a high-stakes test. These findings may have important implications for writing prompts and rubrics as well as argumentative writing pedagogy in China and beyond. It is proposed that counter argumentation be considered in the writing prompts and rubrics of high-stakes English tests, and included in classroom instruction on argumentative writing.

Shujiao Wang (2013) investigated how learner factors, such as learning strategies and beliefs, related to the washback of a large-scale high-stakes Chinese second language proficiency test, the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK). Using a mixed-methods research (MMR) approach, quantitative data were collected from Chinese as a second/foreign/heritage language (CSL) learner survey responses (n = 60) and qualitative data were elicited from 8 interviews and HSK related documents. Findings revealed that, an increasing number of people wanted to learn Chinese and take the HSK because they were interested not only in the Chinese language and culture, but also hoped to study, work or travel in China. They felt that becoming HSK-certified, helped them feel more motivated to learn Chinese and increased job opportunities. Thus, there were significant washback effects of the HSK on learning Chinese. This study showed that the HSK had positive impact on some learners but negative effects on others. The finding showed statistically significant differences between regular Chinese learning (e.g., CSL courses, distance learning, or self-learning) and HSK test-specific learning among the four skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. Significant predictors for the change in learning strategies between regular and test-specific learning were nationality, language proficiency, HSK performance and motivation.

Andrews et al (2002) focused on the effects of changes to high-stakes tests on the performance of those who take them. These effects explored within the specific context of the Hong Kong Advanced Supplementary (AS) ‘Use of English’ (UE) oral examination. The UE is taken in students’ final year of schooling (Secondary 7), and a pass is a prerequisite for admission to university. A two-phase study was set up to shed light on two questions: 1. Is the addition of an oral component to the UE exam influencing students’ spoken English performance at the end of Secondary 7? 2. Is the impact of the test innovation on student performance immediate, or delayed? The results of the study seemed to indicate that the introduction of the UE Oral was exerting some influence on students’ performance in spoken English, and that the impact of the test on student performance was delayed. However, the precise nature of the washback seemed to vary from student to student. In some cases, the test led to improved performance, but in others only to superficial learning outcomes, such as the ability to conform to the requirements of the exam format, or to produce memorized phrases.

2.4 Washback research in Iranian Context

Abassian et al. (2016) examined the washback effect of General English Language Test of Ph.D. Entrance Exam (GELTP) on science and humanities students. To this end, the data were collected through conducting interviews with 16 Ph.D. students and the administration of a questionnaire to 560 students. Results revealed minor differences in the GELTP washback effects across the science and humanities perceptions and practices. Moreover, the findings showed some mismatch between the test-takers’ language needs and the test content that affected negatively the test washback effects. The results showed that the majority of the science and humanities students (78.8% and 83.8%, respectively) believed that test pressure was one of their big concerns. As for the time constraint, the majority of the science (71.3%) and the humanities (81.4%) respondents believed that the time limitation hindered their preparation activities Findings can have implications for raising the education and assessment authorities’ awareness to employ the students’ feedbacks in designing and modifying high-stakes tests.

Damankesh and Babaii (2015) investigated the effect of high school final examinations on students’ test-taking and test preparation strategy use. Analysis of the verbal protocols obtained from the high school learners revealed that these examinations made students employ some strategies which seemed to exert a negative influence on their learning by directing them toward a measurement-driven approach to learning. The strategies, nevertheless, were not all negative; some seemed to foster the students’ mental and linguistic abilities. The results showed that the more students employed test-taking strategies during the exams, the higher their scores were. The study showed that high school final examinations affected students’ learning behavior through getting them to use certain types of test-taking and test-preparation strategies. The findings support Alderson and Wall’s (1993, p. 117) claim that ‘‘tests can be powerful determiners, both positively and negatively of what happens in classrooms’’. It is found that the high school final examinations exert a drastically negative, but slightly positive influence on high school learners.

Ramezaney(2014) studied the washback effects of university entrance exam(UEE) on Iranian EFL teachers’ curricular planning and instruction techniques. The participants of this study were 365 male and female high school and pre-university EFL teachers in Tehran. A 51-item researcher made and validated questionnaire was applied to collect data. The results revealed that teachers have a great tendency to spend more time on test related activities in order to prepare their students for UEE. More than 70 % of the participants suggested the existence of a constant pressure from school administrators to improve their students’ test scores than improving their overall learning. As the table depicts the students’ test taking strategies for the UEE is considered to be of crucial significance by teachers, hence they spend more time on them. The calculated mean (4.42) showed that teachers’ teaching methods and instruction techniques are modified to meet the demands of UEE.

Ahmadi Safa and Goodarzi(2014) studied the washback effects of task-based language assessment(TBLA) on the Iranian EFL earners’ grammar development. Seventy-four EFL learners were randomly selected from 110 pre-intermediate learners of a language institute and were divided into two groups of control and experiment. To ensure the same level of grammar ability, both groups took a grammar pre-test at the outset of the project. During ten sessions of treatment, the groups received the same kind of grammar instruction, however, the experimental group took a researcher made task-based grammar quiz every three sessions, but the control group took traditional grammar quizzes. After the treatment, the two groups took a grammar post-test. The analyses revealed a positive washback effect of the TBLA on the grammar development of EFL learners. The findings imply that TBLA as a pedagogical measurement tool can well replace the classic assessment procedures as all educational efforts including testing and assessment procedures are planned to maximize the educational gains and developments.

Hemmati and Soltanpour (2014) investigated the washback effect of university-level final examinations on Iranian distance learners’ study methods and content. Furthermore, the differences between male and female students and between humanities and science students with regard to the washback effect were studied. A total of 522 (72.6% females and 27.4% males) students in different fields at PNU (54.2% humanities and 45.8% sciences) participated in the study. A questionnaire was the main instrument in the study. However, to provide in-depth information to help interpret the data and to cross-validate the information provided by the questionnaire, an interview consisting of eight questions was considered the second instrument. The results showed that the students’ study methods were influenced by PNU’s final exams. Although the participants were asked in different ways, the results were the same: They studied based on the final exams. Even in answering one question on whether they would change their study methods if their own teachers designed and constructed the tests, the majority asserted that they would. According to the results, the majority of students considered all parts of PNU books to be equally important. It went without saying that not all sections of any textbook were equally important, and if these students considered them so, it was due to the influence of tests.

Tabatabaei and Safikhani (2011) aimed at discovering whether university entrance exam (UEE), a high-stake selection test in Iran, influences the high school and pre-university EFL teachers` methodology and test development. The participants of this study included thirty high school and pre-university EFL teachers who were randomly selected from ten different schools. To answer the research questions, five types of materials were employed in this study. The results of the study indicated that the UEE made an impact on the EFL teachers` methodology and test development; however, it needs to be pointed out that the observed impact did not surface uniformly among the targeted grades. To be exact, the results of this study showed that UEE does not influence the high school teachers` methodology and test development as much as it influences the pre-university teachers` teaching methodology and test development. Further, the study showed that UEE has negative washback effect on the content of the English course in high schools and pre-university centers in Iran.

Nazari and Nikoopour (2011) investigated the washback effect of high School examinations on Iranian EFL learners’ language learning beliefs. To carry out this survey study, 120 female students were randomly selected from different high schools in Kermanshah. They were students of different grades in high school, 30% in the first, 35% in the second and 35% in the third grade. The participants were given two questionnaires to assess the washback effect of high school examinations and their language learning beliefs. The washback questionnaire selected from Nikoopour (2005) consisted of 42 items with a reliability of 0.82, which was designed based on a Likert scale. The second instrument was the so-called BALLI questionnaire selected from Horwitz (1987), including 34-items, and designed to assess the learners’ language learning beliefs (hereafter LLLB). The study focused on the relationship between the wash back effect of high school English examinations and the students’ language learning beliefs. The results indicated that the students agreed on the washback effect of English high school examinations. Also, they agreed with the correspondence between different factors of learners’ language learning beliefs and foreign language learning.

Moradi (2010) in her M.A. thesis examined the washback effect of English translation major examinations at Payame Noor University. Data collection was conducted by using two questionnaires and an observation scheme. Data were analyzed through descriptive statistics, Chi-square test, independent t-test, one-way ANOVA, and Pearson Correlation. The results indicated that PNU Translation Major final examinations have washback effect on teaching and learning and this washback effect is more positive than negative. The results also indicated that the effect of final examinations and the effect of other factors on teaching methodology is the same at this university.

Mohammadzadeh(2009) conducted a study of the washback effect of EFL test of entrance examination (EFLTEE) of Iranian state universities on EFL teaching in pre- university context. The target population was nearly all Pre-university English language teachers in seven districts of Mashhad in the scholastic year 2008/2009. A survey questionnaire which consisted of (36) Likert type items, was used in order to collect the required data. The questionnaire was divided into two parts. The first part of the study aimed at measuring how the EFLTEE affected English language teachers’ teaching in terms of four domains: activity/time arrangement, teaching methods, materials teachers would use in the classroom and content teachers would teach. The second part of the questionnaire, however, investigated the effect of other factors related to the EFLTEE on teachers’ teaching or method selection in terms of four domains: students’ learning attitudes, teachers’ professionalism in teaching, teachers’ perceived external pressure in teaching, and perceived importance of the EFLTEE. Findings of the study indicated that both the EFLTEE and the other related factors affected English language teachers’ teaching with a slight statistical difference in favor of the EFLTEE washback effect. The results, also, showed that two types of washback existed in Pre-university schools in Mashhad namely: positive and harmful washback. In light of the results, the present study recommended that: 1) teachers’ should be provided with development opportunities, 2) teachers’ monitoring and evaluation policy should be reconsidered, and 3) EFLTEE should integrate oral language skills as well.

Ghorbani et al. (2008) examined the nature and scope of the washback impact of the university entrance examination (UEE) on pre-university English teachers’

(PETs) perceptions. Based on stratified random sampling, 377 PETs were selected to respond to the questionnaires. Eight PETs were also purposively selected to participate in two focus group interviews. Pearson product moment and t-test were used to analyze the quantitative data from the survey questionnaires and a systematic note-based technique recommended by Kruger (2002) was used to analyze the qualitative data from the focus group interviews. The findings show that only PETs’ perceived professionalism in teaching was associated with their perceptions (r = .38). All of the interviewed PETs perceived the negative effect of the UEE and expected the authorities to reform it based on the current teaching and testing theories. The findings imply that if the current UEE is not reformed to include and assess students’ oral and aural skills, potentially influential factors such as teachers’ experience and educational background will play a neutral role in adopting effective teaching techniques. Thus, spending millions of Rials on training English teachers and improving their level of knowledge at teacher training colleges and universities would be a great loss.

2.5 Washback studies on international proficiency tests

IELTS and TOEFL are international proficiency tests. They aim to measure students’ academic English proficiency. Some studies have been carried out to examine their washback.

Nazhand and Rahimi (2010) investigated the washback effect of IELTS preparation courses on the learners. The results indicated that learners’ perceptions and expectations of syllabus outcomes are influenced by the syllabus focus considerably.

Erfani (2012) compared the washback effect of IELTS and TOEFL iBT on teaching and learning activities in preparation courses. She found that in both TOEFLE and IELTS courses the class time was more influenced by the negative influence of the test although IELTS seemed to increase more positive washback than TOEFL did on class activities. The finding showed that the TOEFL preparation courses covered a broader range of activities for academic study. IELTS preparation courses provide more opportunities for learners’ interactions and communications in line with the test activities.

Ghamarian et al. (2014) examined the relationship between the washback effect of IELTS test and Iranian IELTS candidates’ life skills. The findings showed that there was no significant relationship between the constructs underlying IELTS test and Iranian IELTS candidates’ communicative skill viewpoints on language proficiency.

Allen (2016) investigated washback to the learner from the IELTS test in the Japanese tertiary context. The results revealed a significant increase in speaking ability, with more significant increases in speaking and listening for participants who reported preparing more intensely for the test. Students focused significantly more on speaking and writing and less on reading. Allen claimed that the IELTS test created positive washback on learners’ language ability and test preparation strategies.

Barnes (2016) studied the washback effects of the TOEFL iBT in Vietnam. The study revealed that the TOEFL iBT influenced both what the teachers taught but its effects were mediated by the use of test preparation materials.

2.6 Summary

As the literature indicates tests have impact on learning and teaching. Teachers’ methodologies are influenced by the goal-oriented nature of the course which can potentially encourage teachers to teach the content of the test. Also, for students test influences the classification of content into important and unimportant. Students emphasize on the content that are relevant to the test.

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Importance of English as a second language. (2021, May 09). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/importance-of-english-as-a-second-language/

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