Session 3C

John Gardiner and Stephen Howlett - The University ofSydney

Efficacy: Student perceptions of English language tests as indicators of academic preparedness

Student voice can be a powerful driver for change. It can also call us into contested territory. For years, tests of English language have been used as one gatekeeper for the entry of international students into university in Australia. The preparation and administration of tests is a multimillion dollar business worldwide. That business has generated significant research and reporting on the utility, validity and reliability of the many English language tests available. But what do international students think of English language testing as an indicator of their preparedness for higher education
in Australia?

This study presents a comparative analysis of students’ qualitative perceptions of the efficacy of four different English language tests used in a 25‐week direct entry course for university. In discussion with the researchers, students’ perceptions before and after test‐taking, and throughout their first semester in university are analysed using thematic coding and logical cross‐analysis to better understand the relationship between testing and preparedness for postgraduate study and the
development of graduate attributes.

Efficacy provides a qualitative review of the students’ perceptions of the capacity of English language tests to produce a meaningful indicator of preparedness for postgraduate study and graduate attributes. The study will contribute further evidence to the debate on English language testing for international students by listening to student voice and examining students’ perceptions and attitudes towards the efficacy of these tests in preparing them for learning at university. The study
also demonstrates the need for obtaining additional evidence from test‐takers for validating largescale language tests.

Bio data:

John Gardiner has taught on a variety of courses at tertiary level in Japan and the UAE, and spent over eight years working at Bond University, Gold Coast. He holds a Dip.Teach. (Primary) from UNSW and an MA in TESOL from Bond University. John is currently working at The University of Sydney Centre for English Teaching as a teacher/course developer. Since participating in the 2011 English Australia Action Research Project with Professor Anne Burns, he has presented a number of papers at industry conferences.

Stephen Howlett is a strategic education and development manager, and Head of Administration at The University of Sydney Centre for English Teaching. He has more than 20 years' hands on
experience in Australia and overseas, helping people and education organisations to synthesise whatit is they want to do, and to then devise the strategies to achieve it. Stephen is qualified EdD, Med (International Education) and is also a vocational teacher, adult educator and research supervisor.