Can Exams Change How and What Teachers Teach? Investigating the Washback Effect of a University English Language Proficiency Test in the Turkish Context

Asli Lidice Gokturk Saglam
Ozyegin University
Keywords: Integrated language proficiency test, theme-based language proficiency test, washback effect, washback on teaching


This article reports a mixed-method study that examined the washback effect from a locally-produced, theme-based, high-stakes English language proficiency test in tertiary education in a Turkish EAP context. The aim was to explore the extent to which washback on teaching was induced by an integrated theme-based English proficiency test designed to reflect authentic language use in the tertiary education context in Turkey. The data collection involved classroom observations and focus group interviews with 14 instructors from the Preparatory English Language Program (PEP). Classroom observations were conducted using the Communicative Orientation of Language Teaching Observation Scheme (COLT) (Spada & Frohlich, 1995), and data was qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed. Inductive analysis of the transcribed interview data was also used. The findings indicated that both positive and negative test effects were exerted on teaching. In addition to positive washback on materials, this study also found negative washback in the form of narrowing of the curriculum. Findings also implied that although the test had varying amounts and types of washback depending on the particular teacher involved, both content and methodology in teaching are affected. The article concludes by interpreting these results in the light of recent studies on learner washback, discussing implications for teachers, and providing suggestions for further research.

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