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  • Use of test results

The last factor under evaluation involves ways of how test results or students’ final scores in test performance are used. As previously described in 4.1, students’ oral test scores are used to grade them in terms of their progress or achievement after a term/course of study. This is the most popular and common purpose of all achievement tests, that is to make the final decision on students’ proficiency kept in their study record in the form of grades. Furthermore, teachers and students are really interested in receiving feedback on students’ progress which helps students ‘guide their own subsequent learning’, and helps teachers ‘modify their teaching methods and materials so as to make them more appropriate for their students’ needs, interests and capabilities’ (Bachman&Palmer, 1996, p. 98). However, TNU students’ test scores have never been used to either evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs or make any improvement in teachers’ teaching methods and materials. In other words, oral testing at this institution has no effect on the teaching and learning of speaking skill which is named negative washback or backwash by Hughes (1989), Heaton (1988) and McNamara (2000). Information regarding inferences about students’ proficiency made from test performance can be really useful for assessing the efficiency of a teaching program as well as teachers (Bachman&Palmer, 1996, p. 98).

In conclusion, the analysis of TNU current practices of developing oral language tests reveals a number of weaknesses as follows:

There is no principled basis for oral test operationalization and administration

Oral tests in use lack construct validity and reliability

There is lack of consideration of communicative stress in oral test operationalization

There is lack of test administration standardisation

There is lack of a supportive test taking environment

These current practices are thus far from being consistent with the theoretical framework for test development.

4.2 evaluation of tnu staff’s perceptions of oral testing

As previously mentioned, the questionnaire survey was carried out on 12 members of TNU English teaching staff with the purpose of investigating their perceptions of oral language testing. The questionnaire consists of 10 questions, 8 of which help to elicit the staff’s perceptions of oral testing, and the other two indicate the staff’s working experience and their qualifications in language testing. Concerning information elicited about the staff’s perceptions, in particular, questions 1&2 reveal their awareness of the two functions of spoken language, questions 3 of the number of oral test types and elicitation techniques involved in a test, questions 4&5 of communicative stress in tasks suitable to students’ proficiency levels, and question 6 of the procedure for oral test design and operationalization. Meanwhile questions 7&8 elicit the teachers’ reliability degree within their own inferences about students’ oral test performance. This section (1) presents the data collected from the teachers’ responses to all the questions of the questionnaire, and (2) analyses the data to evaluate their understanding of this kind of assessment.

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