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Hong Kong secondary students' perspectives on selecting test difficultly level and learner washback: Effects of a graded approach to assessment

Tsang, CL; Isaacs, T; (2021) Hong Kong secondary students' perspectives on selecting test difficultly level and learner washback: Effects of a graded approach to assessment. Language Testing 10.1177/02655322211050600. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

This sequential mixed-methods study investigates washback on learning in a high-stakes school exit examination by examining learner perceptions and reported behaviours in relation to learners’ beliefs and language learning experience, the role of other stakeholders in the washback mechanism, and socio-educational forces. The focus is the graded approach of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education English Language Examination (HKDSE-English), incorporated in 2012, that allows test-takers to choose between easier and more difficult sections for reading and listening-integrated skills papers. Inductive coding of focus groups involving 12 secondary students fed into the development of the Washback on Students’ Learning questionnaire, which was administered to another 150 learners. Exploratory factor analyses of identified washback effects revealed four major types straddling different settings (classrooms, tutorial schools, learners’ personal environment), and seven categories of mediating variables pertaining to learners themselves, other stakeholders, and societal influences. Simultaneous multiple regressions identified influential clusters of mediating variables and showed the strongest predictors for each macro-level washback type varied. At least one intrinsic and one extrinsic factor category significantly contributed to all types, reaffirming learner washback as a socially situated, negotiated construct. Implications related to the consequences, use, and fairness of the graded approach are discussed.

Type: Article
Title: Hong Kong secondary students' perspectives on selecting test difficultly level and learner washback: Effects of a graded approach to assessment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/02655322211050600
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/02655322211050600
Language: English
Additional information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: Factor analysis, impact, multiple regression, second language learners, test preparation, test-taker perceptions, washback
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10134584
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