Strategic Competence and L2 Speaking Assessment

Seong, Yuna P.

Assessing second language speaking has long been an important part of language testing in both large-scale assessment settings and in smaller scale classroom-based assessments. Accordingly, researchers in the second language (L2) assessment field have made efforts to establish a better understanding of the nature of speaking ability and its underlying competences. With speaking tests increasingly involving test takers’ performances on certain tasks, test takers are required to utilize their language knowledge by means of their strategic competence (i.e., skills necessary to put language knowledge into use), which has been considered an integral component of communicative language ability (e.g., Bachman & Palmer, 1996) and L2 speaking ability (e.g., Bygate, 1987; Fulcher, 2003). However, what strategic competence in speaking entails remains unclear, as its definition has varied greatly across different theoretical models and empirical studies. This paper provides a brief overview of the varying approaches to defining strategic competence, and reports on major empirical findings related to the conceptualization of this important facet of speaking ability, surveying the extensive literature in the broader fields of applied linguistics and L2 assessment in particular. The paper starts with (1) a review of the applied linguistics literature on the major influential approaches to understanding oral strategic competence, followed by (2) an in-depth review of how the L2 assessment literature has conceptualized strategic competence in relation to different theoretical models, and lastly, (3) a discussion of empirical studies examining strategic competence in the context of speaking test performance. The paper concludes with directions for future research.


Also Published In

Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Published Here
November 9, 2015