Postgraduate diagnostic test brings new opportunities for collaboration

radboud agreementRadboud in’to Languages, the language centre at Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands, and ICELDA have recently agreed to collaborate on the design and development of another electronically delivered test of English. Like ICELDA’s first generation postgraduate test, the Test of Academic Literacy for Postgraduate Students (TALPS), this test will gauge the academic literacy levels of postgraduate students in an integrated manner. But it will have a further, specific intention: to diagnose areas of risk.

TALPS was designed, refined and implemented with great success in South Africa a few years ago by ICELDA. It will now be expanded by including measurements of integrated academic listening and speaking ability.

As before, the test will identify students who may be at risk even before they enrol for further studies, and indicate areas where support is needed. Collaborating institutions will benefit through increased student throughput. A further benefit is its specificity: its focus on academic language. It is a well-known fact that the TOEFL scores often presented as proof of academic language ability in English at institutions of higher education are nowadays interpreted with suspicion, not the least because universities themselves do not have control over the test administration. A third benefit, control over costs, which is increasingly important internationally, is likely to have benefits for all the partnering institutions.

Like ICELDA’s other tests, the development of the new diagnostic test will provide ample opportunity for empirical analysis and research. Some of the groundwork has already started: Rebecca Patterson, an ICELDA bursary holder and postgraduate student at the UFS, is doing an initial analysis of the diagnostic information in TALPS. ICELDA’s experienced research associate in Nijmegen, Frans van der Slik, will again be involved.

The project will, however, engage a wider range of expertise than any so far tackled by ICELDA. “We welcome this opportunity to collaborate more widely with our colleagues from the Radboud University,” says Tobie van Dyk, ICELDA’s chief administrative officer and project leader for the South African side of the venture.

Originally posted 18 August 2012.