An investigation into the significance of listening proficiency in the assessment of academic literacy levels at Stellenbosch University

Marais, Fiona C. (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Modern Foreign Languages))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Concern surrounding the low levels of academic literacy amongst incoming first year students has prompted universities and other tertiary education institutions in South Africa to implement tests of academic literacy. At Stellenbosch University, the English version of this test is known as TALL (Test of Academic Literacy Levels) and was developed to assess reading and writing abilities in an academic context. The results are used to ‘stream’ students into programmes which assist them in acquiring the various skills deemed necessary for their academic success. This study examines, on the one hand, the significance of listening in the assessment of academic literacy levels; on the other hand, it explores the potential for an academic listening test (ALT) to assist TALL in more accurate screening of students, particularly the borderline cases. The design and operationalisation of ALT is based on the theories and approaches of several researchers in the field. The study began with the compilation of the test specification and design of ALT. This was followed by empirically piloting a project where qualitative data concerning the validity of ALT was collected by means of a questionnaire. The next phase involved assessing the academic listening competency of a sample of first year university students. This assessment comprised an initial test administration followed by a second administration of the same test a month later in order to ascertain consistency of measurement over a period of time. The quantitative results obtained from both administrations were then statistically analysed to determine the reliability and validity of ALT. The final phase of the study involved the correlation of these results with those of TALL to determine the level of criterion-related validity as well as to establish whether ALT could be a useful added dimension to TALL.

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