A Dynamic Assessment of Interactional Competence in Japanese Learners of EFL: The Act of Requesting
Nicholas, Allan Leslie John
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish papers based on the thesis.
This thesis aims to bring together the area of pragmatics in second language learning (SLL), and dynamic assessment (DA), and in doing so offer an alternative way of both assessing pragmatics and providing its instruction. DA aims to provide a detailed analysis of not only a learner’s current stage of development, but also their still developing abilities. Unifying instruction and assessment, the learner and a mediator co-construct a task, with the mediator providing assistance when necessary. By examining both the types of mediation practices and their frequency, insights can be gained as to the learner’s still maturing abilities, and future potential. DA also aims to uncover sources of learner difficulty, offering a diagnostic function as part of assessment. Drawing on conversation analysis research, the work of Gal’Perin and DA methodology, this study carried out a DA of the speech act of requesting in spoken interaction, assessing the effectiveness with which the DA promoted development in the learners. Further, the ability of the DA to uncover specific locations of learner difficulty was examined, as well as the ways in which the interlocutors successfully negotiated the opening and closing of mediation sequences. Six Japanese EFL learners in a university context co-constructed a number of role-play type language tasks with the researcher. In the first stage of the study, the researcher did not offer support to the learners, while in the following stage, mediation was provided when appropriate. The findings were used to inform the enrichment programme (EP) portion of the study, in which the learners met with the researcher for a period of four weeks, receiving tutoring. This was followed by further non-dynamic and dynamic assessments, to allow analysis of learner development. The study’s findings indicate that DA methodology, when applied to the speech act of requesting, can be an effective way to both promote learner development and assess learners’ abilities. Compared with the pre-EP assessments, participants produced more complex interactions that frequently showed evidence of taking the social context of the role-plays into account, as well as assuming greater responsibility for successfully completing the tasks. Participants were also more frequently able to verbally explain their language choices with reference to the target concepts of the assessments and EP. Further, overall, the opening and closing of mediation sequences were accomplished with more implicit negotiation practices, indicating increased interactive competence. The DA was also successful in locating specific locations of learner difficulty.
PhD in Education