Cambridge Michigan Language Assessments

Shaping English Language Assessments
with Research + Experience

An Intern’s Words: Dan Isbell
September 29, 2016
Categories: Internships

CaMLA’s internship program provides professional training and research opportunities for English language teaching and assessment professionals and graduate students. In 2016, CaMLA had two interns in the office. The following is from Dan Isbell, one of our 2016 interns.

isbell_summer-2016-internship

Dan Isbell, one of CaMLA’s interns in 2016.

Dan Isbell is a PhD student in the Second Language Studies program at Michigan State University. His main interest is language assessment, where he has investigated test equating, specific-purposes language tests, and vocabulary in context. He is also interested in instructed SLA and L2 pronunciation.

Previously, most of my hands-on experience in language testing was in small-scale programs where tests were linked to a specific curriculum and local context. One of the main reasons I applied to intern at CaMLA was to experience working with large-scale international assessments and broaden my perspective. I also knew a few of CaMLA’s past interns, who all spoke highly of their intern experiences and their time in the lovely city of Ann Arbor, which made me all the more eager to submit my application.

During my time at CaMLA, I learned a great deal about the development, quality assurance practices and procedures, and logistics of large-scale international English tests. A series of orientations and workshops provided informative introductions, and then I received hands-on experience through activities such as item and form reviewing. Additionally, I attended regular departmental meetings, which provided another window into the inner workings of CaMLA.

Beyond learning about how CaMLA operates, I also had the opportunity to contribute in CaMLA’s drive to further improve their testing practices and procedures. Specifically, I was tasked with collecting and aligning information on the rating process for four CaMLA tests (ECCE, ECPE, MELAB, and MET) and draft recommendations to promote enhanced quality assurance, scalability, and consistency across tests. This process allowed me to draw on my prior experiences and knowledge of language testing and at the same time required me to gain a detailed knowledge of CaMLA’s practices and a deeper understanding of the literature on L2 writing assessment. In the end, my work resulted in a document that sparked exploratory analyses of scoring data and, most rewardingly, a new working group at CaMLA that meets to discuss and implement enhancements to scoring writing.

Throughout the internship, I genuinely felt that the work I was doing mattered, and I greatly appreciate all of the learning opportunities I had. The CaMLA staff were always willing and eager to answer my questions and explain the specifics of the work they do. They were also always ready to give excellent recommendations for coffee and food in Ann Arbor, which made the summer all the more enjoyable!

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