Language learners’ views on automated assessment of oral language skills

The DigiTala project investigated high school students’ perceptions of automated assessment and a web-based test of oral language skills. The students' feedback was mostly positive and the content of the speaking tasks were considered appropriate.

The participants studied Finnish as a second language or second mother tongue in Finnish high schools. The participants completed a speaking test with a proficiency level of B1–B2. At the end of the test, the students had the opportunity to give feedback on the speaking tasks as well as tell about their views on automated assessment. 

Speakers of different levels

The research brought up a question related to Finland's education policy. The level of the students’ Finnish skills varied greatly within the teaching groups. The groups included students who spoke Finnish as their second mother tongue and students who had only recently moved to Finland, which made speaking assessment very challenging. As a solution, the researchers suggest an adaptive speaking test, where the student can choose their own skill level or, alternatively, the system would assign tasks suitable to the student's skills based on the student's speaking performance. 

Speaking anxiety

Many students showed awareness of privacy policy and were very interested in why their voice was recorded and how the recordings will be used. In addition, some students were nervous about speaking out loud because they were afraid of being mocked by fellow students. This was caused by the students’ previous experiences. 

A necessary tool

The tool developed in the project makes it possible to learn languages independently, regardless of time and place. With the help of the tool, it is possible to create a stimulating training environment where students receive immediate feedback, which, in turn, supports lifelong learning. The tool is currently being expanded to also work in Swedish.