Professor Paul Seedhouse

Paul Seedhouse PhD is Professor of Educational and Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University, UK. He has published 7 books and over 60 articles and book chapters in the area of applied linguistics and language teaching. His monograph The Interactional Architecture of the Language Classroom won the 2005 Modern Languages Association of America Mildenberger Prize. He has had 4 grants from British Council/IELTS to study aspects of spoken interaction in the IELTS Speaking Test and is due to publish a book The Discourse of the IELTS Speaking Test next year. 


The IELTS Speaking Test: Interactional Design and Practice in a Global Context

The IELTS Speaking Test (one component of IELTS) is used worldwide to assess whether a candidate has the ability to communicate effectively on programmes in English-speaking Universities.  This paper reports on the findings of 3 British Council/ IELTS-funded projects into aspects of the interactional organisation of the IELTS Speaking Test. 

A brief description is provided of the 3 corpora developed, made up of 257 audio recordings and transcriptions of 11-14 minute speaking tests from around the world. I briefly explain what happens in the 3 parts of the Speaking Test and how performance is assessed. Adopting a Conversation Analysis perspective, findings are presented on the organisation of turn-taking, sequence, repair, and topic development in relation to the institutional goal. Interactional design is compared with interactional practice in terms of what is observable in the data.

I then provide examples of application, namely how analysis of data can inform test design and examiner training, looking at topic disjunction and recipient design in particular. I also report on two studies of how features of candidate discourse relate to scores allocated to candidates.

Finally I consider the universal problem: to what extent can oral performance in one variety of discourse predict future performance in another variety of discourse?