Lecture by Prof. Norbert Schmitt (Nov 4, 2013) ☆

TESOL & AL Program | November 4, 2013

Developing the Next Generation Vocabulary Test: Challenging Assumptions

Date: Monday, November 4, 2013

Time: 5:00 – 6:30PM

Venue: Horace Mann 152

Vocabulary is an essential component of any language use, and correlates highly with language skills, especially reading. As such, for many language pedagogy purposes, it makes sense to measure learners’ vocabulary knowledge. Most current vocabulary tests measure vocabulary size, such as the Vocabulary Levels Test and the Vocabulary Size Test. However, these tests all have limitations: they were developed around the constraints imposed by a paper-and-pencil format, they used corpora that are now out-of- date, their multiple-choice format makes them prone to guessing, and none have been adequately validated. The presenter is now at the initial stages of developing a ‘next generation’ vocabulary test, which will be developed from a clean sheet and which challenges the assumptions behind previous tests. Issues that need to be resolved in this ‘start from scratch’ approach include at least the following:

1. Which vocabulary items should be tested?
2. How do we identify the target vocabulary?
3. Frequency has been the best tool for identifying important vocabulary to the test, so how can it act as a criterion to inform this new test?
4. What types of vocabulary knowledge should be addressed? Rather than just knowledge of form & meaning, should other aspects like collocation knowledge be measured?
5. Which item formats should be used?
6. How can the test be adequately validated?

Norbert Schmitt is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Nottingham. He is interested in all aspects of second language vocabulary acquisition and use. He has published 8 books on applied linguistics, and over 50 international journal articles, mainly focusing on vocabulary. He is particularly interested in the measurement of second language vocabulary, co-developing the Vocabulary Levels Test, and publishing the vocabulary research manual Researching Vocabulary (2010, Palgrave Macmillan). His vocabulary publications and research tools can be downloaded at <www.norbertschmitt.co.uk>.