Testing the Reading Ability of Low Educated ESOL Learners

Jane Allemano

assessment, reading, low-educated, adult, esol


Current national policy requires all further education courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be accredited, including those in English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL). However, there are issues surrounding this policy, particularly for learners at the lowest level, who bring with them a very wide spectrum of prior language and/or literacy knowledge. Some have little or no experience of literacy in any language and poor English language skills. A major barrier to assessment of beginner readers seems to be the examination process itself. This article summarises an on-going research project into the reasons for wrong answers given by low educated adult ESOL learners in reading examinations and explores how the process of testing is affected by the structure and format of the examination itself. This research focuses on the learners and how they approach an examination strategically or otherwise and how they see the relationship between the rubrics, the questions and the text. The initial findings are that the biggest issue concerns the learners’ interaction with the test. By the time they come to take the test, most of them have become proficient enough readers to take meaning from text but can fail to demonstrate this because of the task set.

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