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Research Methodology in L2 Education



Background Information on the Topic Presented in the Articles

The idea of introducing self-assessment techniques in ESL testing have long been discussed by many scholars and have been used as the topic for numerous research studies. Although it is a challenge to discover the current research project on the issue, there are many research studies dedicated to the topic, which were discussed several decades ago. As such, Ross (1998) has dedicated his research study to the second language testing in the context of a meta-analysis and analysis of experiential factors. Self-assessment has been used in language analysis, but it has introduced diverse results.

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Although many research studies prove that self-assessment is considered to be a good option for formal assessment of second language among students, the very fluctuations in self-assessments place the testing approach in question. The difficulty in reaching the accuracy in interpreting the results is also presented. The summary of 60 correlations presented in the ESL testing literature has been introduced. There are also the foundational estimates of effect extend for the second language listening, speaking and writing tests. The second part of the study refers to the empirical analysis of the reliability and validity of self-assessment techniques. In the study, the scholars have regression analyses introduced for differential validities for self-evaluation. It is represented in comparison with the teacher assessment that depends on the extent of learners’ experience with foreign language skill assessment.

In addition to the study presented above, Harris (1997) assumes that self-assessment could be considered as the key learning strategy for language learning, encouraging students to control their progress and relate learning to individual preferences. However, the role of self-assessment in formal context is has not been properly identified yet. The scholar is particularly interested in the fact that such educational settings demonstrate that self-assessment is essential for learners to focus on their perceptions of improvements. Students are often reluctant to develop their own approach to learning. Anyway, they can also lack incentives if they fail to see any progress.

Self-assessment deals with learners who are more focused and motivated and who can be more encouraged to see their own progress in terms of both foreign language skills and communication. The scholar also focuses on these issues to introduce practical suggestions for performing self-assessment at different levels.

There are also current studies dedicated to self-assessment among young learners of the English Language. In particular, Butler and Lee (2010) have conducted the research on the effectiveness and relevance of self-assessment among 254 young students of English studied as a second language. The research focused on sixth grade students from South Korea who were required to carry out self-evaluation on a regular basis during English classes. The students worked on improving their ability to self-evaluate their performance within a specific time.

A range of qualitative research studies detected the positive influence of self-evaluation on English performance, including their performance, as well as their confidence and objectivity in studying English Language. The research study has also found that students and teachers have defined the effectiveness of self-assessment that forms a part of foreign language instruction in the context of teacher-cantered teaching and measurement-induced evaluation, which have been traditionally valued.

In the studies by Chen (2008), the attention has been paid to students’ learning to self-evaluate the oral skills in English by means of comparing students’ performance with teacher’s evaluation. The scholar has introduced the program that included observation, evaluation, training, discussion, feedback and response, involving two weeks of educational training and 10 weeks of assessment. The criteria involved for aspects within a five-level standard.

Comparison between teacher and self-assessment was conducted in the context of comments and scores provided. The results of the studies differed during the first stage of evaluation, but they were almost similar during the second phase. Comments produced by students during the second cycle were identical to teacher’s involvement in the evaluation and self-assessment confused to learning. The study shows that practice and feedback allow students to participate in learning and evaluating performance that invite students to become assessment partners. In such way, Chinese students can achieve expected learning outcomes.

Major Arguments in the Paper Related to the Topic: Main Points of Agreement and Disagreement

The articles chosen for a comparative analysis relate to the self-assessment trends of foreign language skills among ESL learners. The first article under analysis is called “Self-Assessment of Foreign Language Skills: Implications for Teachers and Researchers” and it is written by Blanche and Merino (1989). In the research studies, the scholars discuss the main facets and influences of self-assessment accuracy, which introduces the condition of learner’s autonomy. In case students are able to evaluate their own performance efficiently, they should not depend fully on the teachers’ appraisals. Additionally, they will also be able to make teachers become more aware of the individual learning needs.

At this point, the authors seek to look through the literature that focuses on self-evaluation techniques of foreign language skills, as well as to demonstrate what such issue can imply for researchers and teachers. The conclusion of several studies on self-assessment is contradictory, but the differences are aimed at discovering the model proposed by Krashen. Therefore, both researchers and teachers should take into consideration foreign language that is affected to the different extent by the use of the Monitor.

The second article under analysis is called “Self-Assessment of Foreign Language Skills: Does it Work?” and it is written by Blue (1994). The main idea of the article is confined to student self-assessment techniques of foreign language program at the University of Southampton in English. The survey is conducted with regard to students who study English as a foreign language, as well as to any progress and improvement revealed to foreign language learning. It has been reported that students are not affected significantly if they assess their own language level.

At the same time, it should be recognized that if test scores checked by instructors are accurate and objective reflections of student’s language level, then the assessment conducted by students could not be a reliable one because it can relate to their subjective evaluation. The research is also premised on the review of literature related to self-assessment techniques of foreign language skills. The analysis of such skills could be used for further evaluation of the effectiveness and rationale for introducing self-assessment techniques.

Criteria Employed to Evaluate the Research, Explaining How These are Informed by the Educational Research Methodology Literature

The first article under analysis focuses on the assessment of qualitative information providing review of studies that relate to the effectiveness and accuracy of self-assessment techniques. The study has been divided into two parts. The first one focuses on the summary of the literature on self-evaluation, as well as on the implications these assessment techniques have. The conclusions of the studies are controversial because, on the one hand, students are often not objective in promoting self-evaluation procedures, whereas on the other hand, the objectivity and transparency of assessment can only be controlled by educators. In contrast to this qualitative research, the study introduced by Blue (1994), focuses on the development of survey of ESL learners who study English as a foreign language.

Therefore, the research introduces the quantitative research on the study alongside with the review of literature contributing to the results of the study. The results of the study are much more efficient because the author has managed to analyze both student’s and teacher’s perspective with regard to self-assessment techniques. It has been assumed that self-assessment for students is a serious challenge, even if the teacher’s feedback is presented. At the same time, it has been discovered that students who fail to evaluate their language level realistically may be greatly confused in the process of language learning, as compared to those students whose evaluation is significantly low or high. Both progress and performance must be controlled by educators, with permanent feedback for students to self-assess the progress in language learning.

Further, the criteria for evaluating the articles under consideration differ, as well. For instance, the studies presented by Blue (1994) investigate self-assessment questionnaires provided to all students that register both pre-session and in-session questionnaires. In particular, pre-session courses were compared with teacher’s assessment of students. Students were not aware of the grades assigned by the instructors when they filled out the self-assessment questionnaires. The comparative analysis of self-assessment with the IELTS has been carried out.

Post-evaluative dynamics have also been assessed for teachers to understand whether students become more aware of the scores they have achieved during the English Language courses. In general, the author resorts to the analysis of different questionnaires, student’s attitude to those questionnaires and self-assessment programs, as well as how teachers and educators perceive the value of self-assessment questionnaire. However, although the article discusses the effectiveness of self-assessment techniques, the author does not explain whether these self-assessment techniques work effectively. Besides, there is no conclusion and implications for future teachers and educators. Nonetheless, the paper still introduces the information on different forms and kinds of self-assessment techniques.

The studies promoted by Blanche and Merino (1989) rely more on theoretical information drawn from literature review related to the effectiveness of self-assessment techniques. What is more important is that the authors refer to Krashen's Monitor model/theory explaining the principles of second language acquisition. In particular, the theorist discusses the language acquisition in the context of meaningful interaction within the instruments proposed by the target language, in which speakers do not pay attention to the form of their utterances. Instead, they are more concerned with the messages they render and understand. The best methods in acquiring language, therefore, are those that delivery comprehensive contribution to situation containing messages that students expect to hear.

Such approaches do not imply the early development in the second language, but provide students with the recognition of the tangible shifts deriving from the delivering comprehensive and communicative input, correcting production. According to Krashen, there are two isolated systems of ESL performance: ‘the learned system’ and ‘the acquired system’. The ‘acquired system’ is the outcome of subconscious procedure that is similar to the process that children encounter, while acquiring the first language. It demands a reflective interaction in the first language, in which speakers are not associated with the utterance forms but with the communicative act. Such theoretical explanation could be used for understanding why students should resort to self-assessment technique.

Educational Research Methodology Literature

The methodological approaches that are applied in education differ significantly, but the application of evidence based practice is always an opportunity to promote insights and synthesize information. However, the possibility of introducing other methodological tools is possible, as well. As such, Pathak (2008) introduces the value of action research, which is often one of the most popular research tools as it allows the scholars to conduct accurate and objective observations of the focus group. Hence, Pathak (2008) also assumes that “if teachers are to make an active contribution towards effective learning, better achievement of learners and resolving their problems, it will probably be in the area of action research” (p. 11). Hence, real-to-life problems could be studied in the context of a scientific research.

Additionally, Newby (2010) asserts the research process itself should be regarded as a mere collection, analysis and synthesis of information. On the contrary, it is also an opportunity for the scholars to consider the role of external factors. Specifically, the researchers state that “unless you know the decisions you have to make about the way in which you are going to do your research and unless you know on what basis to make those decisions, your work could be seriously flawed and your could be walking into controversy and an unfavorable critique of your research” (Newbey, 2010, p. 33).

In this respect, the more research tools are used, the more chances there are to make the results more accurate and valuable for the future studies in the sphere. The mixed method approaches, therefore, are among the most popular techniques used by the researchers because they embrace both quantitative and qualitative traditions with regard to research questions in education, which might often be sophisticated (Willis, 2008). An emotional response to a situation could be qualitative but the original sources for the analysis might draw from quantitative study. At the same time, the qualitative observations can be used for understanding how these issues could be conducted with regard to the quantitative aspects.

Two Different Research Approaches Used in the Articles With Respect to Their Main Arguments, Conclusions and Knowledge Claims

In fact, the contrast between theoretical and practical evaluation of the effectiveness of self-assessment techniques demonstrates that different research approaches used in the article reflect the functions, reflections and discussion issues that can contribute to a deeper understanding why students should resort to self-assessment programs. From a practical perspective, students who agree to undergo self-assessment programs can be more aware of real-to-life situations, in which they can use the second language. The assessment of foreign skills, therefore, not only reflects student’s readiness to enter the real situations, but also signifies their adequate evaluation of personal readiness to acquire knowledge and apply it in practice. Additionally, the process of self-evaluation itself is already considered to be the means of defining the relation between learning and acquisition.

It should be stressed that evidence in evidence-based educational research should relate to the practices that students undergo during learning, as well as the knowledge and experience they acquire. What is more important is that the analysis of evidence-based aspects could also define the extent to which students are ready to acquire knowledge in the context of ESL education. Hence, the educational research presented in both articles can be used for understanding practical dimension and can contribute to the analysis of the topic under analysis.

The reliability and validity of the study is often identified by the presence of the target groups. Additionally, the comparison groups can also provide a deeper insight into the exploration of a specific topic. In the article under analysis, the attention is given to the role of self-assessment of foreign language skills and their influence on student’s attitude to knowledge acquisition. On the one hand, the analysis is essential because it provides new skills for assessment. On the other hand, the research approaches of each article are not sufficient enough.

The first article refers more to the theoretical materials and overview of recent resources related to the self-assessment programs. However, the studies fail to provide an adequate assessment of both practical and theoretical parts. In particular, the research conducted by Blanche and Merino (1989) focuses more on the evaluation of the existing materials. However, the topic of the discussion differs slightly from the one concluded by Blue (1994). Specifically, the latter is more concerned with the essence of self-assessment of foreign language skills, whereas the former is focused on the development and expansion of knowledge related to the analysis of foreign language skills.

While analyzing the studies from the perspective of evidence-based practice, the research investigation provided by Blanche and Merino (1989) fully meets the requirements because it relies both on other practices in the sphere that correspond to the principle of evidence-based practice research. Specifically, the authors rely more on qualitative studies and ignore the presence of theoretical approaches. Although Krashen’s model is represented in the study, it is analyzed in the context of practical decisions based on other research studies. The methodological criteria are also properly applied.

Hence, the main essence of the research is to promote new decisions by integrating the currently existing research endeavors and deliver practitioner expertise alongside with other resources, including needs, values, preferences and characteristics. The environmental and organizational context plays an important role, as well. In this respect, the studies presented by Blue (1994) refer more to the analysis of different opportunities for the students to introduce new expertise and experience that can later create new implications for the future research.

Although the essence of evidence-based research was originally used in the sphere of medicine, its use in educational spheres should not be underestimated (Chiappelli, Prolo, Rosenblum, Edgerton, & Cajulis, 2006). Therefore, the use of evidence-based approach in education is a veritable means of expanding and enhancing the value of the knowledge drawn from the related studies. The perspectives of educational evidence-based research are promising and multidimensional. It is caused by the fact that they allow the researchers to generate a great amount of theoretical information and introduce possible options for delivering new measures, schemes and conclusions that would later allow for shaping new concepts, networks and theoretical frameworks. In this respect, the article proposed by Blanche and Merino (1989) is much more effective because it reflects all possible perspectives in comprehending and discussing the issue of foreign language skills in the context of self-assessment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the selected articles for the analysis provide a full evaluation of self-assessment of foreign language skills because they rely on different research methods. The purpose of the research presented in the articles differs, as well. For instance, Blanche and Merino (1989) are more concerned with the theoretical implications for teachers and educators, as well as their relation to the necessity of developing self-assessment techniques. At the same time, Blue (1994) pays more attention to the practical part of the study, understanding the major principles and rules in developing self-assessment programs for ESL learners.

One way or another, both articles have managed to provide exhaustive information on the topic, as well as introduce new implication for further research. The arguments presented in both articles are sufficient and consistent. However, there are still certain gaps which should be reconsidered. It is of particular concern to the studies by Blue (1994) who failed to provide the methodological explanation of the research article. Instead, he introduces the discussion and conclusion part for the readers to understand how such issues could be used for understanding the effectiveness and essence of self-assessment of foreign language skills. Additionally, there is no hypothesis or research question that would shape the study and make it more structured and organized. As a result of the gaps, the attention should still be paid to another study, which is more consistent and structured.

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