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2017 Conference - The language skills of classroom-ready teachers
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Strong English speaking skills are considered central to effective teaching in Australian classrooms. Oral communication is emphasised in professional standards and in English language criteria for professional registration and practice, which include a minimum speaking score of IELTS 8 for teachers from non-English speaking backgrounds. However, the appropriateness of general proficiency tests, such as IELTS and TOEFL, for these contexts has been questioned (e.g. Hall, 2010; Farnsworth, 2013) and there is compelling evidence suggesting that classroom communication requirements extend well beyond general or academic language proficiency (e.g. Elder & Kim, 2013). Nonetheless, it is questionable that the diverse and contingent oral communication demands of different classroom contexts can be adequately captured in a standardized test, specific purpose or not.

The current paper addresses this conundrum by using a verbal reporting method with trainee-teacher test takers to explore the construct underlying the speaking tasks of Aptis for Teachers, a domain-specific variant of Aptis, a general proficiency English language test developed by the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/aptis). Aptis for Teachers is designed for use in education sectors around the world, with test content that relates to the themes and scenarios routinely faced by teachers but not specific to any local education context. Verbal report findings were compared with test taker and teacher educator perceptions of the oral communication demands faced by teachers in different classroom settings to investigate if the content relevant tasks of Aptis for Teachers offer a sufficiently expanded construct to enable a more appropriate measure of teachers’ speaking ability than a general proficiency test in the Australian context.

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