|dc.description.abstract||In recent decades, the field of assessing speaking has seen an increasing emphasis on
‘interaction’. In defining the construct of interactional competence (IC), both the
theoretical formulation and empirical evidence suggest that the competence is coconstructed
and context-specific. This poses a multitude of conundrums for language
testing practitioners and researchers, one of which is the extent to which we can
extrapolate candidates’ performance in the target non-testing context from their
performance in a test. This thesis considers these questions in the case of the Group
Interaction (GI) task in the School-based Assessment (SBA) for the Hong Kong
Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE).
Validation studies on the SBA Group Interaction task to date have generated somewhat
contradictory results as to whether the task elicits authentic oral language use. Moreover,
studies to date have not compared students’ interactions under different task
implementation conditions (such as the amount of preparation time), or have
investigated in detail what exactly students do during preparation time and how that
might impact on their subsequent assessed interaction.
This study explores what kinds of interactional features constitute interactional
competence; how IC is co-constructed in discourse, and what complexities there might
be in assessing the competence through a group interaction task. It also investigates
whether the SBA GI task elicits authentic oral language use, and how the task
implementation condition of preparation time might influence the validity of the task.
Video-recordings of the assessed group interactions were obtained from two schools,
with students given extended preparation time in one school but not the other. The
assessed group interactions are analyzed using a Conversation Analytic approach,
supplemented by data from mock assessments and stimulated recall interviews with
student-candidates and teacher-raters.
This study contributes to the construct definition of interactional competence – its
components and the specific ways they are performed in discourse. Drawing on findings
about students’ overhearer-oriented talk, it also problematizes the assumption that a
group interaction task is necessarily eliciting and assessing candidates’ competence for
interacting in a peer group only. More specifically to the SBA GI task, this study has
produced evidence that group interactions with and without extended preparation time
are qualitatively different, and has identified some of the ways in which extended
preparation time might compromise the task’s validity in assessing interactional