The 2023 Caroline Clapham IELTS Award winner is Shanshan He from Western University, Ontario, Canada. Shanshan’s research was titled ‘Exploring the Use of Interactive Videos in an L2 Listening Test.’
The Caroline Clapham IELTS Masters Award is for the dissertation which makes the most significant contribution to the field of language testing. Awarded by the IELTS founders (British Council, IDP IELTS, and Cambridge University Press & Assessment), the award is designed to encourage students and researchers to pursue a career in language testing.
Shanshan has been studying at Western University, where she has completed two Master’s degrees in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Applied Linguistics.
She was encouraged to enter the competition by her supervisor, Dr Ruslan Suvorov, who previously won the Caroline Clapham IELTS Masters Award 14 years ago, in 2009. Shanshan said “This award is very meaningful for me and it’s a huge recognition to be awarded. My source of inspiration was my supervisor, Dr Ruslan Suvorov, who encouraged me to apply.”
Shanshan’s research looked at how visual information assists second language (L2) listeners in processing auditory input. The purpose of visual information in L2 listening activities is to provide nonverbal information (e.g., videos and graphs) that replicates and/or illustrates the oral stimulus.
Using such visual information in L2 listening activities appears to be common practice in the language classroom. Studies have also investigated how visual information affects L2 test takers in listening assessment contexts.
Her findings showed that using visuals could contribute to learners’ listening test performance, while others revealed the opposite finding. One reason for this is that test takers oftentimes need to divide their visual attention between looking at the visual input and answering questions presented separately. Test takers have to decide which question needs to be answered and when to answer the questions, which makes the process of completing such listening tests challenging and cognitively demanding for test takers.
Shanshan’s study proposed to use interactive videos, which contain test items that are directly embedded into the video playback, to replace the traditional videos in L2 listening tests. In interactive videos, test items show up only when the video is automatically paused, so test takers have a more linear and straightforward way to complete the listening test, as they do not need to look back and forth between the video screen and test items.
Thirty participants were asked to complete a video-based listening test (Test A or Test B) consisting of three traditional videos and three interactive videos, a post-test questionnaire, and a semi-structured focus group interview.
The results showed that test takers performed better on the test items associated with traditional videos (in Test B only), but most of them preferred listening tests with interactive videos. There was no relationship between test takers’ preference of one video type and their scores on the test items associated with such video type. The results indicated that using interactive videos in listening tests could motivate L2 learners to develop their listening skills.
Shanshan recently presented part of this research earlier this year at the annual American Association of Applied Linguistics in Portland, Oregan. She has put forward a proposal for the annual Language Testing Research Colloquium (LTRC) in Austria, July 2024.
Interested in applying next year? Find out more about the 2024 Caroline Clapham IELTS Masters Award including how to apply.