Purdue Language and Cultural Exchange (PLaCE)

Research Studies

Research Studies on ACE-In Testing and PLaCE Program.

Resource 1

Allen, M. Measuring Silent and Oral Reading Rates for Adult L2 Readers and Developing ESL Reading Fluency through Assisted Repeated Reading. Dissertation, April 2016.

Resource 2

Cheng, L., & Allen, M. Timed oral reading: A useful method for L2 reading fluency assessment and intervention. Paper presented at the Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) 2016 conference, March 2016, Washington, DC.


Timed oral reading is a widely used method to assess reading fluency in L1 instructional contexts; fluency is typically operationalized as the ability to read aloud accurately with appropriate expression (prosody, phrasing), at a speed such that the oral reading aligns with the meaning of the text (Rasinski, 2004). Fluency is the key because it provides evidence that the reader understands what is being read (National Reading Report). By contrast, in L2 instructional contexts, the development of reading fluency and the use of timed oral reading for assessment (or instruction) is almost nonexistent (Anderson, 1991, 1994; Grabe, 2014; Chang, 2010, 2012; Taguchi, Gorsuch, Takayasu-Maass & Snipp, 2012).

This study investigates the efficacy of timed oral reading as both an assessment and intervention method for evaluating and improving L2 reading fluency. A pre- and post-test was given to 77 international graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course at a large public Research I university in the Midwestern United States. Read Naturally®, a web-based program for improving L1 English reading fluency, was used as the intervention tool with our ESL group; and eight texts at Grade 6 L1 English level were implemented as homework assignments and materials or topics for teacher-student conferences. At the end of the 13-week intervention, this group of ESL learners was found to have a statistically significant improvement, with a very large effect size, in reading speed: an increase from 131 words per minute (wpm) to 144 wpm.


Anderson, N.J. (1991). Individual differences in strategy use in second language reading and testing. The modern language journal, 75(4), 460-472.

Anderson, N.J. (1994). Developing active readers: A pedagogical framework for the second language reading class. System, 22(2), 177-194.

Chang, A. (2010). The Effect of a Timed Reading Activity on EFL Learners: Speed, Comprehension, and Perceptions. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(2), 284-303.

Chang, A.C.S. (2012). Improving Reading Rate Activities for EFL Students: Timed Reading and Repeated Oral Reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 24(1), 56-83.

Grabe, W. (2014). Key Issues in L2 Reading Development. Alternative Pedagogies in the English Language & Communication Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.nus.edu.sg/celc/research/books/4th%20Symposium%20proceedings/2).%20William%20Grabe.pdf

Rasinski, T.V. (2004). Assessing Reading Fluency. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL).

Taguchi, E., Gorsuch, G., Takayasu-Maass, M., & Snipp, K. (2012). Assisted Repeated Reading with an Advanced-Level Japanese EFL Reader: A Longitudinal Diary Study. Reading in a Foreign Language, 24(1), 30-55.

Resource 3

Cheng, L., Ginther, A., & Allen, M. The Development of an Essay Rating Scale for a Post-Entry English Proficiency Test. Presented at Midwest of Language Testers (MwALT) conference. October 3, 2015. Iowa City, IA.


The dramatic increase in enrollment of international undergraduate students at U.S. universities not only reflects a national trend of shifting undergraduate demographics but also highlights the need for effective evaluation of newly admitted international students’ English language proficiency. To better inform language instruction in an English for Academic Purposes program at a large public university, an internet-based post-entry English proficiency test, the Assessment of College English-International (ACE-In) was developed. This presentation focuses on the development of an empirically derived rating scale for the writing assessment included in the ACE-In.

Drawing on the literature of L2 rating scale development (e.g., Fulcher, Davidson, & Kemp, 2011; Upshur & Turner, 1995), we began by analyzing a sample (n=42) of first-semester international students’ ACE-In essays to identify the categories and elements (i.e., constructs and variables) present and emerging levels of performance. A series of rating and discussion sessions were iteratively conducted with 33 additional essay samples until agreed-upon descriptors were established and an acceptable level of inter-rater reliability reached. These rater norming sessions not only served the purpose of developing and refining an essay rating scale, but also helped to build a community of practice by providing a venue for raters to share what they value as writing instructors (Kauper, 2013).

This presentation provides a practical example of developing an empirically derived rating scale for a timed writing assessment. With the emphasis on instructor values, we provide a model for creating effective communities of practice through rating scale development.


Fulcher, G., Davidson, F., & Kemp, J. (2011). Effective rating scale development for speaking tests: Performance decision trees. Language Testing, 28 (1), 5-29.

Kauper, N. (2013). Rating the Oral English Proficiency Test. ESL GO! Newsletter, 2013 (6), 2-3. Retrieved from http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~eslgo/pdf/2013_Issue6_of_the_ESL_GO_Newsletter.pdf.

Upshur, J.A., & Turner, C.E. (1995). Constructing rating scales for second language tests. ELT Journal, 49 (1), 3-12.

Resource 4

Allen, M., Cheng, L., & Fehrman, S. Administration + Assessment + Curriculum Design + Teaching = Purdue Language and Cultural Exchange. Invited program presentation at the ESL Speaker Series event to faculty and graduate students from Second Language Studies, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics at Purdue University, September 2015, West Lafayette, IN.


Three staff members from PLaCE — the Purdue Language and Cultural Exchange — will discuss their experience of developing an English language support program at the University. We will discuss our respective roles in administration, assessment and teaching, with a focus on how these roles overlap and interact. Other topics to be addressed include curriculum design, research, professional development and collaboration across campus, with various individuals, groups and departments. After providing information about the PLaCE program to this point and some of our goals for the future, we plan to leave ample time for discussion with audience members.

Resource 5

Baechle, J., & Climer, T. Navigating Cultural and Academic Differences: How International Students Find Their Place in University Life. Presented at Indiana TESOL (INTESOL) conference. November 2014. Indianapolis, IN.

Resource 6

Cheng, L., & Song, S. Student Needs Analysis for an EAP Support Program at a Large Midwestern Public University. Presented at Indiana TESOL (INTESOL) conference. November 15, 2014. Indianapolis, IN.


To provide language support and facilitate cultural transition for new international undergraduate students, an English language bridge program was recently established at a large Midwestern U.S. university. Our presentation focuses on the use of an early-semester student survey as a tool for needs analysis in an integrated-skills English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course offered by this program. The five-point Likert Scale survey was developed by a team of experienced ESL instructors and researchers, based on published studies on international students’ perceived needs for support in academic (including language) development and socio-cultural adaptation (e.g., Andrade, 2006; Peelo and Luxon, 2007). This Qualtrics survey was administered to 292 first-year international undergraduate students taking the EAP course. Survey results suggest that writing essays for language and social science classes, understanding humor and jokes, and giving oral presentations in class are among the language tasks perceived as most difficult by this group of international undergraduate students, about 90% from mainland China. Some of the curricular and cocurricular components will then be presented to show what has been (or perhaps needs yet to be) incorporated in the EAP course to help students hone their language skills in the above areas.

Resource 7

Levy, M., & Rodriguez-Fuentes, R. Analysis of C-test Items from the ACE-In Test: A Preliminary Study of a Colombian Population at Purdue. English 618 course paper.

Resource 8

Thirakunkovit, S. An Evaluation of a Post-Entry Test: An Item Analysis Using Classical Test Theory (CTT). Dissertation in progress.

Resource 9

Yan, X. (2015). The processing of formulaic language on elicited imitation tasks by second language speakers. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Purdue University.

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