Professor Tao-Chung (Ted) Yao was hired at the University of Hawai‘i in 1995 to serve as the overall language program coordinator for the University’s Mandarin Chinese program. Part of his duties is to oversee curriculum planning and articulation among the core language classes – including setting performance objectives for each level, matching curriculum and methodology to these objectives, and testing students before and after each year of training to assess both the effectiveness of instruction and the appropriateness of goals. We are now creating a testing enclave for Mandarin Chinese within the University’s new multimedia center, where students will take each of the following tests at a time of their choosing:
To assess reading proficiency, students will take the Computer-Adaptive Test for Reading Chinese (CATRC), developed by Tao-Chung (Ted) Yao with assistance from Cynthia Ning. For most beginning level students, CATRC takes between 5 and 15 minutes. On average, intermediate students spend about 30 minutes on the test. Most advanced and superior students can finish the test in an hour, but a few might take up to two hours. We will also write and test approximately 40 new items per semester to add to the CATRC test bank (currently at 445 items).
We have developed a battery of 85 graded writing tasks in Mandarin Chinese, ranging from Novice (“Fill in your name, nationality, age, gender… on this form”) through Intermediate (“Write a note to X, suggesting that s/he meet you for lunch tomorrow. Specify time and place”) and Advanced (“Write a paragraph from a letter to a friend, comparing your home town with another city you have visited recently. Give details”) to Superior (“Write a paragraph explaining the US position on human rights in China”). These 85 writing tasks were distributed into 5 forms of the test, which will be administered to students in Chinese language classes near the end of the Spring semester in 1998. Concurrently, we will devise a way to administer the test by computer, with student responses being recorded on paper and scored manually.
The Visual-Oral Communicative Instrument (VOCI) in Mandarin Chinese was co-authored by Hawai‘i’s Cynthia Ning for the San Diego State University NFLRC. This is a simulated OPI interview administered by videotape, with the student’s responses recorded on audio tape. It is estimated that a Novice/Intermediate student would complete this test in approximately 15 minutes, while an Advanced/Superior student would take up to 25 minutes. A rater then listens to the audio tapes at leisure and provides an approximate rating of speaking proficiency. In most cases, VOCI ratings are likely to be exact enough to place students, but in individual cases where VOCI results might prove misleading or inconclusive, the program can retest the students through a regular OPI.
Prof. Chuanren Ke of the NFLRC at the Iowa State University is currently working on a computer-adaptive test of listening comprehension in Mandarin Chinese. We are in contact with him, and as soon as a field test version is available, we will include this instrument as well in the testing line-up. We propose to test all incoming students using the instruments listed above. Placement into the four core levels of Mandarin training will be on the basis of the following schedule (proficiency levels are stated for listening, speaking, and reading only; it is expected that students’ writing ability will be lower):