Author: Yang, Yanfeng
Title: Promoting L2 English learners' reading abilities through computerized dynamic assessment
Advisors: Qian, David (ENGL)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Reading -- Ability testing
Reading comprehension -- Ability testing
Dynamic assessment (Education)
Second language acquisition
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: xiv, 243 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Derived from Vygotsky's proposition of the zone of proximal development (ZPD), dynamic assessment (DA) distinguishes itself from traditional testing in that the assessor intervenes in the assessment process to help learners perform beyond their independent functioning and concurrently promote learner development. It not only reveals the learners' actual level of development through their independent problem solving but also their potential level of development through the interaction between the learner and the mediator, the latter of which is more useful for future learning and instruction. However, the number of learners a DA assessor can help is limited due to the time demand of mediator-learner interactions. To overcome this weakness, researchers are turning to computerized dynamic assessment (C-DA). Despite valuable insights gained from the few C-DA studies in second language education (e.g., Poehner & Lantolf, 2013; Poehner et. al., 2014), the effectiveness of C-DA sessions is still not very clear. Longitudinal studies of between-group design are therefore needed. Targeting at Chinese EFL learners' reading comprehension, a hidden and complicated process, the present research intends to use C-DA as a teaching and assessment method to promote the learners' reading comprehension abilities. It consists of two studies. Study 1 is the preliminary study, the purpose of which is to test the appropriateness of the C-DA program and gain insights for the future improvement of the program. Study 2 consists of two phases. Phase 1 aims at identifying appropriate mediational strategies that promote learner development through one-on-one interaction between the mediator and several learners, the results of which serve as the basis for the writing of the C-DA mediations in Phase 2, the main study. Enlightened by the results of the previous two studies, Phase 2 of Study 2 investigates the extent to which C-DA promotes learner development as compared with traditional methods of teaching/assessing reading comprehension. Study 1 consists of two reading tests, one in traditional multiple choice questions (MCQs) and the other in C-DA. The former was administered to a group of students who were asked to write down their thinking processes of doing the test, from which the students' difficulties in reading comprehension were identified and mediational strategies were worked out for the C-DA program. Then another test in C-DA was given to the second group of students and questionnaires were distributed afterwards to get the students' reflections on the C-DA program. It was found that the learners mainly encountered three difficulties in their reading comprehension test: (1) new words were the biggest barrier; (2) learners felt hard to locate the relevant sentences in the original passage from the information provided in the question; (3) their inferential abilities were weak. The analysis of the data generated by the C-DA program indicates that C-DA far exceeds the traditional static assessment for its stronger diagnostic capacities and the deeper insights it provides for subsequent teaching. The results of the questionnaire show that C-DA is greatly welcomed by the students and believed to be particularly helpful in building up confidence for those low achievers as identified in traditional static assessment.
Phase 1 of Study 2 was conducted among five participants and lasted for 7 weeks. It consists of three tests: pre-test, post-test, and transfer test. After each test that was made up of multiple choice questions (MCQs) selected from the original TOEFL pBT tests, one-on-one DA interactions were conducted between the mediator and the learner. The pre-test and the problems identified during the DA interactions serve as the baseline for the subsequent four-week enrichment program. Post-test comparable to the pre-test in terms of their difficulty levels of the items contained is used to find out the extent to which the students have benefited from the enrichment program. Transfer test, consisting of items more difficult than those in the previous tests, is employed to find out to what extent the students can regulate their functioning when the context changes. Through analyzing the interactions between the mediator and the learners, the problems in reading comprehension are identified as well as the mediational moves required by the students. The results indicate that DA is an effective method to understand the learners' difficulties in reading comprehension and promote learner development. Based on the research findings of Phase 1 of Study 2, especially those of the DA interactions between the mediator and the students, the mediations were written up for each item of the three tests and applied to large-scale study through the implementation of C-DA. In order to get more convincing evidence for the effects of C-DA, between-group design including an experimental group and a control group was adopted in Phase 2 of Study 2. Like in Phase 1 of Study 2, both groups were administered with pre-test, post-test, and transfer test but in different formats. C-DA was employed for the experimental group whereas traditional MCQs for the control group. The two groups also differed with each other in their four-week enrichment program (EP). The experimental group was instructed using the results of DA and through the use of C-DA while the control group was taught using the traditional teaching method. The results of the three tests were compared within each group and between the two groups using repeated measures mixed factorial ANOVA, from which the advantages of C-DA over the traditional teaching and assessment method were revealed. Results show that the two groups were very close in their reading comprehension ability at the beginning of the study, but after four weeks of learning, they improved respectively. However, the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group. To sum up, the present research provides rich insights of advantages of CDA over traditional teaching and assessment methods in promoting second language learning, contributing to Vygotsky's theory of SCT and ZPD, as well as knowledge of DA and C-DA in the field of L2 research.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: restricted access

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