Diverging task orientations in L2 oral proficiency tests – a conversation analytic approach to participant understandings of pre-set discussion tasks

Erica Sandlund, Pia Sundqvist



Presumably most students strive to do well in school and on national tests. However, even in standardized tests, students’ and examiners’ expectations on what it means to ‘do well’ may diverge in ways that are consequential to performance and assessment. In this paper, we examine how students and teachers in an L2 English peer–peer speaking national test (9th grade) display their understandings of appropriate ways of dealing with pre-set discussion tasks. Using conversation analysis and 38 recorded national tests in English in Sweden, we demonstrate, e.g., how teachers’ displayed understandings of how tasks should be appropriately handled steer the interactional trajectory between students in particular directions. The analysis shows that participants spend much time on negotiating understandings of the task-at-hand. We argue that in terms of valid assessment of oral proficiency, task understandings merit more attention, as task negotiations inevitably generate different conditions for different dyads and teachers.

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Department of Foreign Languages and Translation, University of Agder


ISSN: 1894-2245  Bookmark and Share