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Home Journal Index 2022-1

Assessing Pronunciation Proficiency of Chinese Learners of English: Development and Validation of an Intelligibility Rating Scale

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Zijie Niu
East China Normal University, China

Yuanyue Hao
University of Oxford, UK

Sen Liu
East China Normal University, China


Language assessment is playing an increasingly important role in English as a Second Language teaching. During the past decades, researchers have made great efforts in assessing students’ language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, few studies have focused on pronunciation proficiency assessment. The shift in the focus of pronunciation instruction from nativelikeness to intelligibility also calls for a new rating scale for pronunciation assessment. Therefore, the authors attempted to develop and validate a rating scale for pronunciation assessment with intelligibility as the construct. This paper reported the results from the piloting study which investigated the psychometric properties of the rating scale by adopting mixed methods design. The task of passage reading was used to elicit participants’ (N = 30) pronunciation performance, which was assessed by four raters using the proposed rating scale. The rating scale with seven dimensions demonstrated satisfactory reliability, and exploratory factor analysis revealed a high level of unidimensionality and internal consistency. The qualitative analysis suggested that the raters could effectively use the performance descriptors to guide their scoring decisions and well distinguish students with different levels of intelligibility. Despite small sample and preliminary results, the proposed rating scale could serve as a reliable and valid instrument to assess learners’ pronunciation intelligibility. Since the development and validation of a rating scale is a dynamic procedure, future research should be conducted to glean more validity evidence from different perspectives using more assessment tasks and learners of different intelligibility levels.
Key Words
Pronunciation Assessment, Intelligibility, Rating Scale, Validity, Reliability, Exploratory Factor Analysis