Preliminary study of the role of eye contact, gestures, and smiles produced by Chinese-as-a-first-language test-takers on ratings assigned by English-as-a-first-language examiners during IELTS speaking tests




Thompson, Christiani Pinheiro

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This study investigated the role of gestures, smiles, and eye contact on scores assigned to English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) speakers during standardized face-to-face speaking tests. Four English-as-a-first-language examiners and four EAL test-takers participated in simulated IELTS Speaking Tests. Qualitatively, an inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Quantitatively, scores were holistically (overall scores assigned) and analytically (by criterion). Nonverbal cues were examined by the total number of cues produced by all test-takers, the frequency of production by test-taker, the frequency of production of subcategories of nonverbal cues by test-taker, and by production alongside speech or in isolation. Mimicry of nonverbal cues generated by test-takers was investigated. Test-takers’ lexical range was also analyzed vis-à-vis the scores assigned to the criterion lexical resource. Conclusions drawn from the triangulation of data sources indicate that nonverbal cues may have played a role in the assessment of the criteria fluency and coherence and pronunciation. This study adds to the current body of literature on second language assessment, which has suggested that variables other than language proficiency may play a role in scores assigned to test-takers during face-to-face speaking tests.



EAL, Assessment, Speaking Test, Nonverbal Communication, Intercultural Communication, IELTS