AL/TESOL Presents David Wei Dai
You’re invited! AL/TESOL Presents Dr. David Wei Dai:
On the conceptualization and assessment of interactional competence
Dr. David Wei Dai, Monash University
Tuesday, May 30th 12-1pm
There is a growing body of research on the teaching and testing of Interactional Competence (IC). However, to date the definition of IC predominantly focuses on the sequential dimension of interaction due to the influence of Conversation Analysis (CA). The context-fitting nature of CA poses constraints on the practicality of teaching and testing IC.
In the present study (Dai, in press, 2021), I took a different approach by first eliciting everyday-life language users’ high-inference criteria of IC. I then theorized their criteria using Sequential-Categorial Analysis, which combines CA and Membership Categorization Analysis. The resultant IC construct and rating scale defined IC in a multidimensional manner–describing interaction at the sequential, emotional, logical, moral and categorial levels. The context-independent nature of the IC scale improves the practicality of IC assessment, as the scale can be applied to different languages, tasks and contexts.
To validate the IC construct and scale, I administered a computer-mediated nine-item IC test I developed to 90 L2 and 15 L1 speakers of Chinese. Their performances were rated by two raters in a fully-crossed design using the abovementioned IC rating scale. Many-Facet Rasch Analysis showed satisfactory item performance, rater reliability and rating scale functioning. Rasch Principal Component Analysis demonstrated the unidimensionality of IC as a test construct, which makes the assessment of IC possible from a psychometric perspective. I supported the divergent validity of IC assessment by corelating test-takers’ IC scores with an external measure of proficiency, with the result being weak: r (104)= .42, p<0.05. This finding further challenges the longstanding native-speakerism in language teaching and testing since it shows that L1 speakers are not the gold standard of IC. IC therefore is an ability that needs to be taught and assessed separately from language proficiency for L1 and L2 speakers alike.
Dai, D. W. (in press). Assessing interactional competence: Principles, test development and validation through an L2 Chinese IC test. Peter Lang (Language Testing and Evaluation series).
Dai, D. W. (2021). Design and validation of an L2-Chinese interactional competence test [PhD thesis, The University of Melbourne]. ResearchGate Access. https://www.
David Wei Dai is Lecturer (equivalent tenure-track Assistant Professor) of Clinical Communication at Monash University in Australia. He is Editor for the journal TESOL in Context, Visiting Scholar at University College London, and Nominating Member of the International Language Testing Association. His PhD dissertation on assessing interactional competence has won the 2023 American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Dissertation Award. David’s research program focuses on interactional competence, language assessment, psychometrics (Many-Facet Rasch Measurement and Classical Test Theory), discourse analysis (Conversation Analysis and Membership Categorization Analysis) and clinical communication. His work has appeared in journals such as Language Assessment Quarterly, Language Teaching Research and Applied Linguistics Review. He is currently working on two monographs on language assessment under contract with Peter Lang and Routledge.
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