A study of ESL students’ performance and perceptions in face-to-face and virtual-world group oral tests
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of my dissertation was to explore whether a virtual world could be a suitable platform for second language assessment. It specifically looked at the validity evidence of a virtual-world group oral test compared to that of a face-to-face group oral test by means of test-retest reliability, concurrent validity, face validity, and discourse features in the two testing modes. A total of 64 ESL students who were enrolled in a large language institution in the southwestern part of the United States participated in the study. Thirty students served as a control group and took two sets of face-to-face and virtual-world tests. Thirty-four students served as an experimental group and took two sets of face-to-face and virtual-world tests after receiving familiarity training in the virtual-world setting. Data were drawn from the students’ group oral test scores, a survey asking for their perceptions on the two testing modes, interviews, and speech samples from their group oral tests. The findings showed that students produced similar scores when tested again in the virtual world, confirming the test-retest validity. The results also revealed that the students’ group oral test scores in the virtual world were comparable to their face-to-face group oral scores, providing concurrent validity of the virtual-world testing mode. It is noteworthy that students produced comparable scores in the virtual world only after they experienced the virtual world. Students’ perceptions on the virtual-world testing mode were promising in terms of anxiety, ease of the testing mode, and ease of turn-taking. Qualitative analyses of interviews showed that virtual worlds have some benefits, including interesting, relaxing testing conditions as well as a feeling of co-presence in the virtual world. Conversation analysis of the students’ interactions revealed four interactional features unique to the two testing modes: 1) different strategies to start the conversation in each testing mode, 2) more scaffolding in face-to-face, 3) more successful instances of showing agreement and disagreement in face-to-face mode, and 4) different turn-taking patterns in each testing mode.