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Online Diagnostic Assessment: Potential and Limitations (The case of DIALANG in the Greek Junior High School Context)

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Author(s): Vassiliki Baglantzi

Journal: Research Papers in Language Teaching and Learning
ISSN 1792-1244

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 293;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: DIALANG | diagnostic assessment | placement tests | self-assessment

ABSTRACT
This study explored the potential of DIALANG to serve placement purposes in the 1st grade of Greek state junior high school. The DIALANG system of language assessment is an application of the Common European Framework of Reference (Council of Europe, 2001), which assesses the user’s level in five skills (listening, writing, reading, vocabulary and structures) and places them on one of the six (A1-C2) CEFR levels. It is a valid and reliable, online diagnostic test, which makes extensive use of self-assessment and provides several types of feedback. So far, DIALANG has been mainly used by adult learners in 14 languages in self-access, low-stakes contexts around Europe. However, the research focus in this study is whether DIALANG can replace teacher made placement tests for younger learners of English. Teacher-made tests are often criticized on the grounds of validity, reliability and content, therefore the use of a standardized alternative would facilitate placement procedures in a valid and reliable way. 20 students took DIALANG and then reported on their experience through a questionnaire. The students were also involved in self-assessing their reading, writing and listening skills using the DIALANG self-assessment statements. Their teacher also used the DIALANG scales to assess the students’ proficiency level in these three skills. The research findings showed that DIALANG can be a highly practical and useful placement tool provided that it is limited to the assessment of three skills (listening, writing and reading) out of the five it can assess. Results also showed that neither the students nor the teacher are adequately familiar with the DIALANG statements and consequently the CEFR skills level descriptors, although these levels are extensively used in the description of textbooks, language courses and exams in the ELT field in Greece.
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