Category Archives: Featured Post

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NEWS from Inside IU: TOEFL Research Grant Award

Shin, Darcy win research grant to study second languages

Assistant professor Sun-Young Shin and professor Isabelle Darcy, both in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Second Language Studies, recently won a $122,000 research grant from the TOEFL Committee of Examiners to study how language affects students who take the test.

Students who learn English as a foreign language and want to attend a university are required to take the TOEFL — or Test of English as a Foreign Language — to demonstrate their English-language proficiency.

Shin began his career at IU in 2007 after earning his Ph.D. in applied linguistics from University of California, Los Angeles. He said he wanted to study second languages because he was interested in working with people who do not speak the same mother language, and was fascinated by the surrounding culture and society.

“We still don’t know much about how people learn linguistic systems and cultural references related to second languages,” said Shin, who himself speaks English and Korean.

Confused about what makes something a second language versus a foreign language?  Shin describes a second language as one learned or acquired in a context where that language is spoken, such as learning English in the United States or the United Kingdom. A foreign language, conversely, is one learned in a place where that language isn’t spoken, such as learning English in Korea, China or Japan.

He’ll use his research grant to investigate how a shared first language affects TOEFEL internet-based listening test scores, including seeking to understand how accented speech is related to test bias. The results of his research will help test developers decide whether second language varieties can be included in the TOEFL listening section, and if so, to what extent and under which conditions they should be implemented.

Retrieved from

MwALT 2013 at MSU

MwALT 2013

Dr. Shin, Ryan, and our former LAL members, Rebecca and Stacy presented their papers on “The Effects of L2 Proficiency Differences in Pairs on Idea Units in a Collaborative Text Reconstruction Task” at MwALT 2013 in East Lansing, MI. More details on this project are as follows

Dictogloss, a collaborative text reconstruction task, has been suggested as an effective second language (L2) learning task in promoting meaningful interaction between learners and their awareness of L2 target grammatical structures. However, it is not clear whether the effect of pair interaction on the final dictogloss product may differ depending on the characteristics of co-participants and particularly proficiency disparities between partners. This study thus aims to investigate the extent to which learners’ different L2 proficiency pairings affect their tangible language performance particularly in terms of content accuracy in a dictogloss task when it is used as a listening comprehension activity as well as a productive grammar exercise.  The results show that large gains are seen in idea units reproduced between solo and paired stages of the dictogloss across texts. Low-level students paired with high-level partners benefited most but with largest variation across the board. However, proficiency pairing, in general, did not seem to significantly affect improvement in idea units. In terms of extraneous idea units, more than 50% of the students added other content not present in the original text in the solo version, although these ideas did not make it to the second draft usually corrected by their partner.

AAAL (2013, Dallas, TX)

American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) 2013, Dallas, TX

Dr. Shin, Ryan, and our former LAL members Stacy and Rebecca presented their recent research project on The influence of the learners’ L2 proficiency pairing on dictogloss test outcomes at AAAL 2013 in Dallas, TX.AAAL











Dr. Shin and Ryan Lidster presented their work, “Dictogloss as dynamic assessment?” at Second Language Research Forum (SLRF) held in Pittsburgh, PA.

Trip to MwALT







We Language Testing Lab folks went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to attend the annual MwALT conference held on October 5-6th.

The theme of the conference this year was: “Inferences and Actions in Language Testing.”