If the aim is to measure how well learners can actually use a foreign language, then competence-oriented testing with near-authentic tasks is the method of choice. There is, however, a need for renewal in the design of such test tasks, especially because real-world language use often uses electronic channels. Chat, Internet searches and the like are part of everyday life. In addition, computer-based testing has increasingly become the norm in recent years, especially in the field of large-scale studies. The studies on the attainment of the basic competences (ÜGK), conducted by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), are also computer-based. The Institute of Multilingualism is significantly involved in the development of the test items for the foreign language assessments.
The IFB project develops and investigates innovative computer-based test tasks for listening and reading comprehension. Based on likely language use scenarios, framework tasks are defined within which both reading and listening comprehension skills can be measured. The framework tasks can be set in private life or in a school context, such as researching for a trip or for a class project.
The target audience for the tasks are students from German-speaking Switzerland who are at the end of their compulsory schooling. In our empirical studies, each task is used in a French and an English language version within each class. Students also complete questionnaires and tests on partial competences (e.g. memory, vocabulary, grammar and fluency of language processing).
The new scenario-based tasks are researched with qualitative and quantitative research methods. In the qualitative part, we use introspective interviews to understand the approaches the students take to do the tasks. Among other things, this allows for conclusions about the functioning of the tasks. The quantitative part comprises psychometric analyses of the data from the reading and listening comprehension tests. In addition, we analyze the relationship between the results on these competence-oriented tests and the results on the tests capturing partial competences.
The IFB project develops and researches innovative tasks. The combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods will provide insights into the functioning and demands of these tasks and will, among other things, give indications as to what information should be obtained by which type of test instrument. Furthermore, information on competences in two foreign languages can be gathered from an important target group.