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Volume 10 Number 4, Winter 2013, Pages 1-239   

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Does Teaching to the Test Exist?: A Case Study of Teacher Washback in Taiwan

    Yi-Ching Pan

To enhance students' English proficiency and equip them with competitiveness in the workplace, an increasing number of universities/colleges in Taiwan have established English certification exit requirements, through which students must choose from and pass an array of English proficiency tests such as the GEPT, TOEIC, TOEFL, and IELTS in order to graduate. The goal of this study is to determine whether the exit requirements have brought "teaching to the test" to tertiary institutions or rather have acted to motivate teachers to integrate listening, reading, writing and speaking skills with lesson content to improve students' communicative competence. Data was collected from two groups of technical colleges throughout Taiwan, one group with and one group without exit requirements. The researcher distributed 160 teachers' questionnaires, interviewed 25 teachers, and observed about 50 English class sessions to appraise tertiary-level teaching washback. Findings indicated that the exit requirements have elicited a minor degree of changes in teaching. Teachers consider test factors and test-related activities the lowest priority in their selection of materials and pedagogy. However, a significant difference was found that teachers at schools with exit requirements have a higher consideration of test factors and employ more related activities than their counterparts.

Keywords: washback, English proficiency tests, teaching to the test