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FLOW: Fluency in Oral interaction Workshop

Date - Thursday, 15th June 2017 (10:00 am - 6:00 pm)

Department of Education, University of York

This workshop will be of interest to all researchers interested in second language oral fluency in the narrow sense (i.e. fluidity of oral production) and its development, including those interested in the acquisition of fluency in instructed and immersion contexts as well as those interested fluency assessment.  Fluency, even when narrowly defined as fluidity of oral production, is a complex construct and measuring it presents a number of challenges. The purpose of this workshop will be to provide researchers basic training in the use of PRAAT to code oral data for a range of fluency measures, as well as an opportunity to discuss some of the many challenges associated with measuring oral fluency (see programme, below).

Thanks to the Centre for Research in Language Learning and Use (CReLLU), Department of Education, University of York, this event is free to attend. Places are, however, limited and will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. Coffee will be provided in the afternoon. Participants joining the PRAAT workshop in the morning are, however, asked to provide their own lunch.

To reserve your place, please complete the following online form: https://goo.gl/forms/ZKIsz1PxXwgkBT7u1

For further information about the event, please contact the organiser Dr Zoe Handley (zoe.handley@york.ac.uk)


10:00 – 12:30      Exploring oral fluency using PRAAT

(Zoe Handley , University of York, Stewart Cooper, PhD student, University of York, & Ann-Marie Hunter, St. Mary’s University)

12:30 – 14:00      Lunch break

14:00 – 15:00      Challenges in measuring and assessing second language oral fluency

(Parvaneh Tavakoli, University of Reading)

15:00 – 15:30      To be confirmed

(Clare Wright, University of Leeds)

15:30 – 16:45      Coffee break and poster session

16:45 – 17:15      To be confirmed

(Amanda Huensch, University of South Florida)

17:15 – 17:45      What is oral fluency?

(Zoe Handley, University of York)

17:45 – 18:00      Summing up

(Zoe Handley, University of York)


Challenges in measuring and assessing second language oral fluency

Parvaneh Tavakoli, University of Reading

This talk is an attempt to analyse the challenges involved in the measurement and assessment of second language (L2) fluency from two different but inter-related perspectives: L2 research and L2 assessment. In the first strand of the talk, a number of theoretical, methodological and operational challenges in measuring L2 fluency will be evaluated and discussed. Focusing on measurement of fluency in dialogic and interactive tasks, I will discuss the way natural features of communication, e.g. turn-taking, backchanelling, and overlap complicate the measurement of fluency, and affect the measurement outcomes. The discussion will also highlight Issues such as L1 cultural norms of oral communication and individual differences as some of the key challenges researchers face when measuring fluency in dialogic data. Dealing with these challenges requires researchers to make important decisions about what is considered fluent in a monologue versus a dialogue. A systematic response to such questions can enhance reliability of our measurement.

In the language assessment strand of the talk, I will highlight the challenges language testing discipline is facing when assessing L2 fluency. Although for a long time fluency has been recognised as a key component of communicative language ability, and has been customarily assessed by most language testing organisations, there has been limited research systematically examining the assessment of fluency in language testing and in the development of the relevant rating scales. The challenges in measuring fluency reported above, in the first strand of the talk, will be coupled with the challenges the variations in raters and rating scales bring to the process of assessing L2 fluency.


What is oral fluency?

Zoe Handley, University of York

This paper presents a study designed to help better understand the relationship between second language proficiency and oral fluency, where fluency refers to fluidity of oral production.

34 Chinese learners of English studying for a master’s in language education in the UK participated in the study. Each learner completed three tasks: 1) a watch-then-tell task, 2) a picture naming task, and 3) a sentence construction task. A range of measures of oral fluency, including measures of speed and breakdown fluency were calculated based on their performance in the watch-then-tell task. Accuracy and completion times were recorded for the picture naming and sentence construction tasks.

The results suggest that lexical processing is associated with between-clause pausing – the slower learners performed the picture naming task, the longer they paused between-clauses – and grammar processing is associated with mid-clause pausing – the slower learners performed in the sentences construction task, the more often they paused mid-clause.

These results highlight the importance of carrying out fine-grained analyses of pause patterns which distinguish pauses according to location, mid-clause or between-clause, when assessing second language oral fluency.