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Volume 12 Number 4, Winter 2015, Pages 1-158 PDF Download

Interlanguage Pragmatic Test Tasks: Does a Low-Stakes Test have Washback to L2 Teachers and Learners?

    Zia Tajeddin, Ali Dabbagh

Despite the international surge of interest in the measurement of L2 pragmatic competence, the washback of pragmatic test tasks has remained a noticeably under-researched issue. To bridge this gap, this study sought to investigate the washback of a written discourse completion task (WDCT), as a pragmatic measure, to L2 teachers and learners in two different testing contexts, i.e., one with the addition of WDCT as part of summative assessment (pragmatic testing context) and the other with no such addition to the tests (non-pragmatic testing context). Data from teacher and learner interviews and classroom observations were subjected to content analysis. The results revealed various aspects of pragmatic assessment washback. First, the added pragmatic test tasks in the pragmatic testing context enhanced learners' noticing of pragmatic aspects of listening materials and teacher talk, whereas learners in the non-pragmatic testing context expressed more concern for lexical and grammatical features. Second, pragmatic context learners specified the production of pragmatically appropriate discourse as the ultimate objective of language learning. Finally, most teachers in the pragmatic testing context emphasized the utility of pragmatic-based teaching activities. The findings indicate that low-stakes pragmatic assessment has a positive washback to learning and teaching activities.

Keywords: interlanguage pragmatics, pragmatic competence, pragmatic tests, washback, discourse completion tasks