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  • School of Language, Literature & International Studies Exams (SoLLIS Exams) and English language testing

    Writing exams

The School of Language, Literature and International Studies has been developing English language tests for over ten years and currently produces examinations for its own examination board, School of Language, Literature & International Studies Exams (SoLLIS Exams), as well as for other awarding bodies. Over 18,000 candidates annually take our examinations in the UK, Greece, China and Spain and our work is expanding into other countries. Members of the School are involved in producing research connected to the examinations in order to ensure that not only do the tests demonstrate reliability and validity but that they are underpinned by research; an essential feature of any examination which wishes to be credible. The research carried out for the examinations falls into two areas:

  1. Developing innovative English language assessment methods through which to assess student proficiency against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR);
  2. Analysing spoken and written language, based on corpora data, with a view to developing examination criteria and alongside international projects such as English Profile to define the framework.

Impact

UCLanEB’s work and research has demonstrated both reach and benefit. Each year around 18,000 candidates are assessed using the English language tests, resulting in hundreds of teachers being aware of the work of UCLanEB and being influenced in their preparation of students for the examinations. Through training seminars the board has been able to emphasise the communicative focus on the examinations in order to influence teaching in the English language classroom, such as the role of discourse in speaking and writing performances.

A number of contracts have been won with the British Council in China – the Cultural Section of the British Embassy. In 2009, 10 lectures were given by two members of the Research Cluster, Christian Jones and Nicola Halenko, to around 500 teachers in each session focussing on the teaching of grammar and emphasising communicative approaches as well the link between functions and outcomes in models such as the CEFR and classroom practice. The sessions involved training the participants on how to unpack ‘can do’ statements from the CEFR, in order to teacher grammar communicatively and therefore supports the work done on the tests produced by UCLanEB.

In 2010, Daniel Waller won a bid from the British Council to deliver the first stage of a programme pitched at ‘researcher teachers’ in China (19th – 22nd July), the trainers in each area who are responsible for developing assessment. These sessions drew on examples from UCLanEB’s work and resulted in the researcher teachers developing more communicative language tests for their own areas and in cascading the training to other teachers (in this case the city of Tian Jin, with a population of roughly 13,000,000). This work generated £1,181.

In 2011, Daniel Waller was approached by the British Council, China to deliver stage two to researcher teachers in Shanghai and Tianjin (16th – 19th and 24th – 27th March), with a particular emphasis on the CEFR, as well as moderating the online stage of this project. Over 50 researcher teachers were trained and the British Council has expressed considerable interest in future cooperation and possibly in rolling the programme out around the world. Many of the teachers are engaged in examination production and they were expected to cascade the training to other teachers. This work generated £7,495.

In 2012, Daniel Waller delivered the stage two of the above programme with Foreign Language Teaching and Research Publishing, the largest educational publisher in China and the organisation that has just published the CEFR for China. The training focussed on examination developers and writers and was aimed at familiarising them with the CEFR but FLTRP also requested sessions on the UCLanEB examination and the research that underpins them. Since the course, the participants from FLTRP have been developing English language tests, following the principles set out on the course and getting feedback from the trainer. The training generated £3,000. Daniel Waller has also been involved in assisting the British Council with the re-design of the testing training programme in China.

In 2012, Daniel Waller, working with Dr Stephen Bax at the Centre for Research in English Language Teaching and Assessment, won a bid for £15,000 from Cambridge ESOL as part of English Profile to investigate metadiscourse markers in timed student writing. The initial research was based on examination papers from the UCLan examinations and was reported in two seminars at English Profile, Cambridge.

Publications and Outputs

  1. Jones., C., Orme, M., & Waller, D. (2011). Interpreting the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR): applying the global to the local. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving Student Learning: Global Theories and Local Practices: Institutional, Disciplinary and Cultural Variations, pp. 215-23. Oxford: The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. ISBN:978-1-873576-80-9
    [This is an international conference with global representation from colleagues researching pedagogic research across a wide range of disciplines]
  2. Jones, C. & Waller, D. (2011), “If only it were true: the problem with the four conditionals”, English Language Teaching Journal, vol. 65 / 1, pp. 24-32
    [Impact factor: 10] doi: 10.1093/elt/ccp101
  3. Waller, D. (2010), “Are you listening to me? Interaction in the Lancashire Examinations Speaking Tests In J. Mader, & Z. Urkun (Eds.). Recent Approaches to Teaching and Assessing Speaking. Selected Articles by the Presenters of the IATEFL Testing, Evaluation and Assessment Special Interest Group Conference in Famagusta, Cyprus 23 - 24 October 2009. Canterbury: IATEFL, pp. 129 =- 135. ISBN: 1901095312.
    [IATEFL is a world-wide body for ELT specialists with over 4,000 members]
  4. Jones, C. (2010).”Spoken Discourse Markers:What Are They and Why Teach Them?” In J. Mader, & Z. Urkun (Eds.). Recent Approaches to Teaching and Assessing Speaking. Selected Articles by the Presenters of the IATEFL Testing, Evaluation and Assessment Special Interest Group Conference in Famagusta, Cyprus 23 - 24 October 2009. Canterbury: IATEFL, pp. 84 -89. ISBN: 1901095312.
    [IATEFL is a world-wide body for ELT specialists with over 4,000 members]

Members

Daniel Waller
Senior Lecturer in ELT, TESOL and Testing and Project Manager for the Examinations Project

Dr. Tania Horak
Lecturer in ELT / EFL Coordinator

Shelley Byrne
PhD student and Associate Lecturer

Links

http://www.uclanexams.org/

Contact Details

Daniel Waller
School of Language, Literature and International Studies
University of Central Lancashire
Preston
PR1 2HE
UK

Email: dwaller@uclan.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1772 893672

Related Projects

  • Investigation into the use of metacognitive discourse markers in the timed essay writing under exam conditions by candidates at B2 and C1;
  • Investigation into the cognitive validity of the use of timed essays in examinations at B2 and C1;
  • Development of a multi-modal spoken corpora of successful language use in oral examinations at levels B1, B2 and C1;
  • Investigation of features of successful candidates in speaking examinations;
  • Investigation into the genre of role-play tasks in interactive speaking examinations;
  • Integration of the cognitive framework into English language examinations;
  • Lexical profiling of reading examinations at different levels of the CEFR;
  • Development of new testing formats for skills testing at different levels of the CEFR.