Assessing L2 learners’ pragmatic ability in problem-solving situations at English-medium university
This paper discusses the oral pragmatic ability of current and prospective university students (international students) in an English-speaking country by examining how they are differentiated in the assessed levels of this target ability. A total of 67 students, all of whom were second language (L2) speakers of English, completed a set of oral discourse production tasks simulating interpersonal settings encountered at university. Their task performances were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. The results show a substantial gap between the highest performing university students and the prospective students in terms of their measured pragmatic ability. However, some university students scored quite poorly and were actually outperformed by a certain number of prospective students who were preparing to satisfy the English language requirements for university admission. These findings suggest that being a university student is not necessarily an indicator of having sufficiently developed pragmatic ability to participate in interpersonal settings in an academic environment. The findings shed light on the importance of providing students learning and assessment opportunities for pragmatics so they can gain greater awareness of their own developing pragmatic ability in an English-medium university.
Keywords: oral pragmatics, performance assessment, English as a second language, higher education