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Workshop 4: Assessing Speaking

Good Practice in Assessing Speaking

Workshop facilitators:

Carol Spoettl (University of Innsbruck), Carol.Spoettl(a)
Nivja De Jong (Uttrecht University), n.dejong(a)
Jayanti Banerjee (CaMLA), banerjee.j(a)

Overview of workshop

The testing and assessment of spoken language is often avoided because of its complex and labour-intensive nature. Of the four language skills, however, speaking is the most needed in terms of population mobility within Europe and “the ability to speak in a foreign language is at the very heart of what it means to be able to use a foreign language”. Various presentations at the most recent EALTA annual conferences have highlighted the topicality of issues related to the assessment of spoken language (e.g. Bosker et al., 2012; De Jong, 2012; Bernstein et al., 2013), indicating a strong interest in questions such as what tasks elicit the most authentic performances and how can we get valid scores from speaking performances demonstrating the candidate’s true competence. This workshop will address these interests, offering up-to-date ideas in speaking assessment and enabling participants to share professional expertise and experiences from their testing contexts. We hope that this workshop will act as the springboard for regular special interest group (SIG) meetings on assessing speaking; the SIG will be launched at its inaugural meeting on Thursday, 28 May 2014.

Workshop content

The workshop is intended to be interactive, with a mix of presentations, group discussions, and practical activities.

Tuesday, 27 May (afternoon session)

During this opening session, we will discuss the construct of speaking. After an introduction on recent research on the construct of speaking, participants will work in groups to brainstorm the different communicative purposes that speaking is used for in various contexts. They will also discuss how these might be captured in a speaking test.

Wednesday, 28 May (one morning and one afternoon session)

Building on the discussions from the previous day, participants will be introduced to a range of speaking test designs, including computer-mediated tests, paired and group oral tests and face-to-face assessments with a single examiner. We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each design.

In the afternoon session we will focus on the interlocutor. Using examples from speaking tests in different languages we will consider how body language can affect a test taker’s performance in terms of the quality and quantity of the language they produce. We will also look closely at how examiner language can influence the outcomes of a test. We will close this session by discussing interlocutor frames, examiner training, and examiner monitoring.

Thursday, 29 May (morning session)

During this final session, we will consider how speaking test performances should be evaluated and address the types of rating scales, their purpose and their design. We will discuss different approaches to developing a rating scale and compare scales from existing speaking tests. Which criteria should be included in the scale, with how much precision, and how should prospective raters be trained?

Who is this workshop for?

The workshop is oriented to anyone with an interest in the assessment of speaking, including practicing classroom teachers at all levels, from young learners to tertiary education and the workplace, teacher trainers, assessment specialists and researchers. Prior experience in designing or delivering speaking tests is welcome but not required. The number of participants in the workshop is limited to 20.

Pre-workshop activities

  • Complete a pre-workshop questionnaire (to be sent to all registered participants)
  • Gather examples of speaking tests that you use with your students (including the rating scales)

Bio-data of workshop facilitators


Carol Spoettl is based at the University of Innsbruck where she is currently setting up a language testing research group within the School of Education. Since 2007, she has been project leader on a government awarded research project to develop a national CEFR linked written school leaving exam in the subjects English, French Italian and Spanish. This work has involved extensive training of item writers, raters and stakeholders for standard setting. Her current focus is on supporting teachers delivering the speaking exam. She has presented on various areas of this work at international conferences and offered workshops on assessing writing, speaking and language in use in several countries.


Nivja de Jong is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication at Utrecht University and principal investigator in a research project on second language fluency. Her current research is in the field of language testing and applied linguistics, with a focus on psycholinguistic backgrounds of speaking proficiency. She has investigated how judges rate (perceive) speaking performances and how speakers come to produce successful performances. She has published in journals for psycholinguistics and applied linguistics, presented at international conferences from both areas, and has delivered workshops in the areas of experimental research methods, statistics, and fluency.


Jayanti Banerjee works for CaMLA, a not-for-profit collaboration between the University of Michigan and the University of Cambridge. In her role as research director, she oversees research and development activities for all of CaMLA’s international testing programs. Prior to joining CaMLA, Jay worked at Lancaster University, UK, where she managed one of their TESOL master’s degrees, taught graduate-level courses, and supervised master’s- and PhD-level projects. More recently she has delivered workshops on the assessment of listening, research methods, and qualitative approaches to data analysis. She has published in the areas of language testing and English for academic purposes and presented papers at a number of international conferences.



Tuesday 27.5.2014, 2pm to
Thursday, 29.5.2014, 12.30pm

For the Schedule click here

Workshop is fully booked.


Ramphals Building
Room R1.03

Online Registration:
Costs: £65
Registration is on a first-come first-serve basis, so please book early to avoid disappointment.
We will accept 30 participants.
To register click here.

Warwick Conferences will hold rooms for you at a special price. A link for booking will be provided in due course.