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Vocabulary Assessment Norbert Schmitt University of Nottingham
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Vocabulary Assessment Norbert Schmitt University of Nottingham

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  1. Vocabulary AssessmentNorbert SchmittUniversity of Nottingham

  2. Vocabulary Assessment • Nearly all teachers do vocabulary assessment of some sort, ranging from informal observation, to short quizzes, to more formal examinations • While informal assessment may not be difficult, designing good vocabulary measures for higher stakes purposes requires a considerable amount of expertise • Most teachers (and educators and researchers in general!) lack this expertise

  3. Vocabulary Assessment • I’ve been thinking about vocabulary measurement since the early 1990s. • Here are 4 questions on test development which I came up with in 1994 (Thai TESOL Bulletin).

  4. Vocabulary Assessment 1. WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) 3. WHAT ASPECTS OF THESE WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? 4. HOW WILL YOU ELICIT STUDENTS' KNOWLEDGE OF THESE WORDS?

  5. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement)

  6. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement) • To see if students have vocabulary gaps (diagnostic)

  7. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement) • To see if students have vocabulary gaps (diagnostic) • Placement

  8. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement) • To see if students have vocabulary gaps (diagnostic) • Placement • Part of a proficiency test

  9. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement) • To see if students have vocabulary gaps (diagnostic) • Placement • Part of a proficiency test • Motivation

  10. Vocabulary Assessment • WHY DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • To see if students have learned taught words (achievement) • To see if students have vocabulary gaps (diagnostic) • Placement • Part of a proficiency test • Motivation • Washback (tests reflect educator goals)

  11. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • It depends on the purpose of the test

  12. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Achievement = ?

  13. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Achievement = lexical items that have been taught

  14. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Diagnostic = ?

  15. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Diagnostic = The lexical items a student is expected to know, or should know at a certain level

  16. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Placement = ?

  17. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Placement = The lexical items that will be taught in a course, or that a student may know at the level being taught in the course. Also the foundation vocabulary expected to be learned before entering the course.

  18. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Proficiency = ?

  19. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Proficiency = A range of vocabulary, especially some that will be challenging for the best students

  20. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Motivation = ?

  21. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Motivation = Lexical items that were recently taught, or the items that the students see as useful for reaching their goals (e.g. TOEFL, university entrance exam) (or any vocabulary : testing always makes students study?)

  22. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Washback = ?

  23. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • Washback = any vocabulary, as the act of putting vocabulary on a test shows that it is important • Is a way of highlighting education goals

  24. Vocabulary Assessment 2. WHAT WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? (AND HOW MANY?) • It depends • How long should the test be? (low/high stakes) • Longer is better, but it must be a practical length • What sampling rate will you accept?

  25. Vocabulary Assessment Sampling Rate • You typically cannot test every lexical item • So you need to extract a representative sample • Depends on item format: checklist format allows more items than multiple-choice • 1/5, 1/10, 1/100, 1/1,000? Many vocabulary tests have very low sampling rates (e.g. VLT is only 3/100)

  26. Vocabulary Assessment How to Sample? • Random • Systematically: every nth item, every nth page, etc. • Equal proportions of different word classes (nouns, verbs, etc.) • Only the most difficult (least frequent?) items, on the assumption that these are the items which will not be known)

  27. Vocabulary Assessment 3. WHAT ASPECTS OF THESE WORDS DO YOU WANT TO TEST? • Which word knowledge aspects will you cover? • Form-meaning link is the minimum specification • It is also the typical specification (Why do you think this is so?)

  28. Vocabulary Assessment • HOW WILL YOU ELICIT STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE OF THESE WORDS? • Which item format will you use?

  29. Item Formats Let’s look at a number of item formats • What word knowledge aspects do they address? • Are they receptive or productive? • Are they size or depth tests? • What are their advantages and disadvantages? • For what testing purposes might they most useful? Least useful?

  30. Size & Depth Test Formats • Next, let’s look at a number (semi-) established test formats: • Vocabulary Size test formats • Multiple-choice formats • Vocabulary Levels Test • Vocabulary Depth Formats • Developmental Scales • Vocabulary Knowledge Scale • Schmitt and Zimmerman Scale • Word Associates Format

  31. Checklist (Yes-No) Tests • Checklist tests are straightforward to take • Learners just check () which words they think they know • Here is a checklist test from one of the best known studies into the vocabulary size of native English speakers (NZ university students)

  32. Checklist (Yes-No) Tests • Checklist tests are an efficient way of testing a lot of lexical items • This allows to a high sample rate • Easy to build and easy to mark • But learners sometimes overestimate their knowledge (i.e. they check words they don’t actually know) • How to control for this? • Meara’s 1992 Checklist Tests