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ESOL-RESEARCH  February 2007

ESOL-RESEARCH February 2007

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Subject:

Re: IELTS and Trinity

From:

Frances Nehme <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Frances Nehme <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 2 Feb 2007 11:30:55 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (242 lines)

Thanks for answering this question, David,
I had been feeling guilty about not addressing it - I felt it was such a can
of worms. I didn't reply at the time, as I felt it needed a really full
answer and would probably lead to lengthy discussion and some bad feeling.
However, now you have stuck your neck out, I'd like to back up what you say.
In the past I used to prepare students for TOEFL for university entrance in
the States and for IELTS here - this was simply because it was an entry
requirement. In the UK I did this for students who were a pretty strong
Level 2, or higher, had had years of EFL before coming here and who only
needed IELTS to get into University. It was a case of exam prep and
practice, mock exams and cramming, not of ESOL learning as such.
It didn't seem constructive to reply to Stephen by simply being opinionated
and saying that, as far as I'm concerned, IELTS cannot usefully be mapped to
the Core Curriculum and an ESOL scheme of work can't be served by the
attempt to find spurious links with it.
I also feel that ESOL learners working towards Level One - in particular-
cannot be helped by cramming for IELTS - but felt uncomfortable about
stating this as it seems unhelpful to ask someone why they are doing
something when it seems to be established at their place of work.

Thanks again for addressing this
Frances



On 2/2/07 06:56, "David Thornton" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Stephen!
> 
> You asked whether anyone had experience of delivering IELTS or/and mapping
> the ESOL CC Level 1 and Level 2 with IELTS. I have had some experience
> delivering IELTS and my special area of interest is in testing, assessment
> and evaluation. I assume that you want to try to map IELTS on to the ESOL
> core curriculum to see what sort of target IELTS grade your Level 1 students
> are likely to achieve [or should be aiming at].
> 
> My initial reaction is to ask why you would want to map ESOL CC Level 1 and
> Level 2 with IELTS and to develop schemes of work for IELTS and Level 1. It
> seems to me to be a rather pointless exercise given the nature of the IELTS
> examination. I certainly do not think that you can micro-map the two, if
> only because the IELTS descriptors and the descriptors in the curriculum are
> too disparate [and, in the case of IELTS, too woolly at most levels].
> Probably all you can do is macro-map the two.
> With ESOL CC Level 1 and Level 2 you are dealing with moderate-level
> learners at best {Level 1 is equated with GCSE Grades D to G, or Council of
> Europe CEF Vantage Level and Level 2 with GCSE Grades A to C, or Council of
> Europe CEF Operational Proficiency Level]. In terms of IELTS these appear to
> equate with IELTS Bands 5 to 6.5 [see Trinity Certificates in ESOL Skills
> for Life Introductory Booklet and my attached table]. If you wish to be able
> to make statements about specific levels of ESOL learner performance, it
> might be better to tie the course to the 5 ALTE levels and the Cambridge
> ESOL Main Suite. In other words, IELTS might not be the best instrument for
> your purpose.
> 
> Let me explain my views [although this may incur the wrath of Cambridge ESOL
> and IELTS].
> 
> My first problem is with the reference to Œdelivering‚ IELTS. This seems to
> imply that IELTS is a deliverable course and has a suitably specific and
> specified syllabus upon which teaching [or instructional delivery] can be
> based. IELTS is not really like this. It is only a fairly restricted
> examination. The appropriate delivery mode for IELTS is an intensive
> examination preparation course, which is hardly healthy TESOL. Having said
> this, however, I suppose that it would always be possible to design and
> write a course targeted on Vantage Level plus that could be tested through
> IELTS, should anybody see the point of doing so. It strikes me that it would
> be the equivalent of reinventing a rather eccentric wheel.
> 
> Essentially, my view is that IELTS is an inappropriate qualification at any
> level: it is only a selection test and is not a ESOL qualification in any
> real sense of making statements about proficiency at any level [except
> perhaps around band 6 but even then I am not sure what is represents in
> terms of proficiency levels]. IELTS offers a limited statement about
> proficiency that is only valid within a narrow band and within a narrow
> range of operational contexts.
> 
> A more substantial problem for me concerns the nature of the IELTS
> examination. Although widely used [and probably misused] for other purposes,
> in practice IELTS was originally created for a very specific purpose, to
> identify and select suitable candidates for entry into Higher Education [in
> much the same way that TOEFL originated], as I have suggested above. In the
> case of non-native users of English, most universities in the UK nominally
> ask for an IELTS Band 6 or better, and this appears to be the target level
> upon which IELTS is predicated. IELTS primary purpose remains the
> identification of relatively higher-level users of English, and it is
> probably reasonably effective in doing this.
> 
> In connection with the nature of IELTS, I would be concerned that a focus on
> IELTS as a curricular driver in FE TESOL might encourage learners to develop
> unrealistic perceptions about the ease with which they might meet language
> requirements for university entrance or other forms of HE. In my experience,
> they find it difficult to appreciate that IELTS Bands 4 or 4.5 or 5 or 5.5
> represent an inadequate performance [let‚s call it failure]. I have
> significant current experience with undergraduate students who have been
> allowed to enter an Honours course with IELTS 4.5 or the equivalent.
> Incidentally, I recognise that IELTS is also [mis]used as a selection tool
> for non-degree HE/FE courses. Foundation courses or pre-sessional courses,
> for example, may require relatively low IELTS Bands for entry, perhaps as
> low as 4.5, an achievement that is almost meaningless.
> The attraction of IELTS may lie in its purported levelling [or banding] of
> performance, and indeed IELTS sets out to report performance in terms of 9
> bands. This appears to make it a type of proficiency test. However, in my
> view, it is best seen as essentially a selection test rather than a true
> proficiency test. For me, true proficiency tests are represented classically
> by the Cambridge ESOL Main Suite examinations, where there is a specified
> body of target language and detailed descriptions for each proficiency
> level. IELTS may possibly be viewed as a placement test with clear levels,
> but I do not believe this to be the case. The 9 IELTS levels do not have 9
> discrete descriptions of language. It has one level that can be
> characterised as the target level [Band 6 to Band 7] plus 3 levels that
> represent more than sufficient performance and 5 less than sufficient
> performance.
> 
> There is a further dimension to this argument. The test items for IELTS have
> to be designed to discriminate accurately at the cut-off point [probably
> around Band 6.5]. A consequence of this is that the test items in IELTS
> certainly do not appear to be graded over the full range of proficiency
> represented by the bands and their descriptors. Indeed the descriptors for
> Bands 1 to 4 seem to me to be essentially negative statements about
> performance, and test outcomes below IELTS Band Five, in my view, tend to
> tell us more about what candidates cannot do rather than what they can do.
> This is one of the systemic design feature that make IELTS an inappropriate
> qualification aim for people below, say, ALTE Level 4 [NQF Level 2].
> 
> Let me explain a little more closely. As a selection test, IELTS focuses on
> a specified cut-off point: by their nature, all selection tests have this
> pre-determined cut-off point below which learners are rejected and cannot
> take the target course of instruction [and are often excluded from the
> target learning programme altogether]. Selection tests are constructed
> around that cut-off point in terms of reliability and validity: a selection
> test is predicated on a specific and narrow band of scores, no matter what
> comprehensive range of proficiencies it might claim to sample. This focus in
> practice often means that selection tests such as IELTS [and, incidentally,
> TOEFL] generally operate more efficiently around their cut-off point and
> increasingly less efficiently as scores move away from that point. This is
> basically because at the cut-off level, the test outcomes enable statements
> to be made about what individual learners can do in terms of the target
> language, whereas the further scores move down from this norm the more
> statements will actually be about what individual learners cannot do in
> terms of the target language [and because the criterion point is placed
> relatively high in the scale, this is especially true of the reliability of
> scores below the cut-off]. The corollary is that as scores move up from the
> norm, they will increasingly fail to make statements about what individual
> learners can do in terms of the target language.
> 
> I suggest that IELTS cannot work equally well as a test at each of its
> levels largely because doubts about the reliability and validity of
> selection tests increase the further test scores move away from their
> central norm. In my experience, IELTS requires a very high upper
> intermediate [that is a good FCE] or an advanced [CAE] level of proficiency
> in English for candidates to have a realistic expectation of a worthwhile
> band result [that is a Band Six or better]. It seems logical to suggest that
> IELTS outcomes below Band 5 may not necessarily be worth the paper that they
> are printed on. I would not be sure what sort of performance Band 4 actually
> represented reliably and I would certainly regard IELTS Bands 1 to 3 as
> essentially meaningless statements about performance.
> 
> Another issue that seems very pertinent is variation in ability across
> skills and the problems this can cause in reporting IELTS. It seems quite
> typical to find ESOL students testing at one level for speaking and
> listening, while testing at a significantly different level for reading and
> writing. Indeed there may be significant variation between speaking and
> listening and between reading and writing levels. This can make IELTS bands
> less than useful as statements of performance [and even harder to map IELTS
> levels to the ESOL core curriculum.
> 
> ATB,
> 
> David Thornton.
> 
> 
> 
>> From: stephen woulds <[log in to unmask]>
>> Reply-To: stephen woulds <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: IELTS and Trinity
>> Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2007 15:20:20 -0000
>> 
>> Hi there
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Does anyone have experience of delivering IELTS or/and mapping the ESOL
>> CC Level 1 and Level 2 with IELTS? The ESOL team at Leeds Thomas Danby
>> is currently attempting to develop schemes of work for IELTS and Level
>> 1. Our previous 'expert' at these levels has left and those that have
>> taken over his classes are adrift without a paddle. Any thoughts and
>> suggestions would be most welcome.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> Regards
>> 
>> Stephen
>> 
>> 
>> ______________________________________________________________________
>> This email has been scanned by the MessageLabs Email Security System
>> on behalf of Leeds Thomas Danby. For more information please visit
>> http://www.messagelabs.com/email
>> ______________________________________________________________________
>> 
>> ***********************************
>> ESOL-Research is a forum for researchers and practitioners with an interest
>> in research into teaching and learning ESOL. ESOL-Research is managed by
>> James Simpson at the Centre for Language Education Research, School of
>> Education, University of Leeds.
>> To join or leave ESOL-Research, visit
>> http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/ESOL-RESEARCH.html
>> A quick guide to using Jiscmail lists can be found at:
>> http://jiscmail.ac.uk/help/using/quickuser.htm
>> To contact the list owner, send an email to
>> [log in to unmask]
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> 
> ***********************************
> ESOL-Research is a forum for researchers and practitioners with an interest in
> research into teaching and learning ESOL. ESOL-Research is managed by James
> Simpson at the Centre for Language Education Research, School of Education,
> University of Leeds.
> To join or leave ESOL-Research, visit
> http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/ESOL-RESEARCH.html
> A quick guide to using Jiscmail lists can be found at:
> http://jiscmail.ac.uk/help/using/quickuser.htm
> To contact the list owner, send an email to
> [log in to unmask]
> 
> 
> 
> 

***********************************
ESOL-Research is a forum for researchers and practitioners with an interest in research into teaching and learning ESOL. ESOL-Research is managed by James Simpson at the Centre for Language Education Research, School of Education, University of Leeds.
To join or leave ESOL-Research, visit
http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/ESOL-RESEARCH.html
A quick guide to using Jiscmail lists can be found at:
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