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Department of Linguistics


Language Training and settlement success: Are they related?
Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) Longitudinal Study 
Lynda Yates
Department of Immigration and Citizenship/ Department of Industry, 2008-09 / 2011-14

Project summary and publications

Language Training and settlement success: Are they related? and Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) Longitudinal Study constitute two phases of a national, multi-site, qualitative research study funded by the Commonwealth. They explore the relationship between patterns of language use and language learning in the AMEP among migrants in their first few years of settlement in Australia. The first phase (2008-09) followed 152 new-arrivals for one year as they studied in the AMEP and then moved on to work, further study, and life in the community . In the second phase (2011-14), 60 of the original cohort 152, and a new cohort of 85 migrants were followed. Data collected for the studies include regular interviews, language maps tracking language use, English language teaching materials and class observations, and recordings inside and outside the classroom.

Yates, L., Terraschke, A., Zielinski, B., Pryor, E., Wang, J., Major, G., Radhakrishnan, M., Middleton, H., Chisari, M. and Williams Tetteh, V. (In press). Final report:  AMEP Longitudinal Study 2011-2014.

Yates, Lynda and Maria Chisari (2014). Fact Sheet 1: Confidence and language learning. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. [link as above]

Yates, Lynda and Maria Chisari (2014). Fact Sheet 5: An annotated bibliography of resources confidence building. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. [link as above]

Yates, Lynda, Maria Chisari and Elizabeth Pryor (2014). Fact Sheet 4: Building confidence in the community. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. [link as above]

Yates, Lynda and Elizabeth Pryor (2014). Fact Sheet 2: Activities for building confidence in the classroom. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. [link as above]

Yates, Lynda and Elizabeth Pryor (2014). Fact Sheet 3: Building confidence outside the classroom - preparing learners. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. [link as above]

Yates, Lynda and Agnes Terraschke (2013). Love, language and little ones: Successes and stresses for mothers raising bilingual children in exogamous relationships. In M. Schwartz and A. Verschik (Eds.) Successful family language policy: parents, children and educators in interaction, (pp. 105-125). Series Multilingual Education. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Yates, Lynda and Agnes Terraschke (2013). Which language to use at home and why it matters. In De Gioia, Katey and Whiteman, Peter. (Ed.). Children and Childhoods 3: Immigrant and refugee families, (pp. 41-54). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.

Taylor-Leech, Kerry and Yates, Lynda (2012). Strategies for building social connection through English: Challenges for immigrants and implications for teaching English as a second language. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 35 (2): 138-155. 

Yates, Lynda, Agnes Terraschke and Beth Zielinski (2012). Planning language use in bilingual families. Sydney: Macquarie University. 

Williams, Alan and Charlotte Setijadi-Dunn (2011). Visiting 'home': Contacts with the homeland, self-reflexivity and emergent migrant bilingual identities. TESOL in Context, 21(1): 40-56. 

Yates, Lynda (2011). Interaction, language learning and social inclusion in early settlement. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(4): 457-471. 

Yates, Lynda (2010).  Language Training and Settlement Success: Are They Related? Sydney: AMEP Research Centre.

Taylor-Leech, Kerry (2010). "Now my hope is clear for building my future": How two young refugees build social connectedness. In Ann Dashwood and Jeong-Bae Son (Eds.) Language, Culture and Social Connectedness. (pp. 115-135). Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Zielinski, Beth (2012). The social impact of pronunciation difficulties: Confidence and willingness to speak. In John Levis and Kimberly LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Sept. 2011. (pp. 18-26). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.  Available online at: 

Yates, Lynda (2010). Language Training and Settlement Success: Are They Related? Sydney: AMEP Research Centre.  

Yates, Lynda and Beth Zielinski (2009). Give It a Go: Teaching Pronunciation to Adults. Sydney: AMEP Research Centre.

Feeding back - using linguistic analysis to train clinical supervisors to provide effective communication feedback to health science students on clinical placement 
Dr Kathryn Ogden (University of Tasmania), Kim Rooney (University of Tasmania), Maria Dahm,  Lynda Yates and Steven Campbell (University of Tasmania)
University of Tasmania Teaching Development Grant 2014

Project summary and publications

In this project we analyse data from simulated consultations between standardised patients and trainee doctors from native-English-speaking and other language backgrounds, and also the feedback given to them by both experienced and less experienced medical tutors. Our aim is twofold: to identify any communication issues with the way in which the trainee doctors handle the interactions, and to identify ways in which more targeted feedback can be given through the use of linguistic analyses of the doctor performance. Expected outputs include communications training modules for tutors and doctors in training.

Through the Looking Glass - Teaching international surgical trainees to reflect on their communicative practice
Peter Roger, Maria Dahm, Lynda Yates, John Cartmill (Australian School of Advanced Medicine) and Kristy Forrest (Australian School of Advanced Medicine)
Macquarie Research Development Grant, 2014

Project summary and publications

Good communication between patient and health care professional is crucial to patient satisfaction and outcomes. However developing these skills is challenging for students, particularly those for whom English is not a first language. Linguists can provide insights into the subtle and pragmatic aspects of communication which can facilitate an effective therapeutic relationship. This project seeks to draw on this expertise to provide clinical educators with training to assist them in providing health-care students with feedback which will facilitate effective communication. This will be achieved by developing an online training module for clinical educators, using a variety of media including video-taped presentation, examination of transcripts, video-taped consultations, power-point and interactive quizzes. The evidence base to support the module will be developed by analysis of videotaped student/patient consultations including supervisor feedback, and from previous research conducted by the investigators (MD,LY, KO, KR). The module will be piloted with clinical supervisors from the Schools of Medicine and Nursing and Midwifery at University of Tasmania (Launceston), and evaluated for impact and outcomes.

The Impact of Teacher Cognition and Classroom Practices on IELTS Test Preparation Courses in the Australian ELICOS Sector
Phil Chappell, Heather Jackson
IELTS Australia Research Program, 2014

Project summary and publications

The broad aim of the project is to gain an understanding of English language teachers' knowledge about IELTS, and the relationship this knowledge has with their classroom teaching. While the study has been conceived in order to investigate the impact of the test on the teaching and learning programs of English language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS), its focus is narrowed to the cognitive, as opposed to behavioural impact - what teachers think, know and believe about IELTS tests, and how this knowledge relates to their teaching in preparation courses. The project will contribute to a large language teaching sector in Australia which is intricately linked to IELTS (ELICOS programs run by universities and private providers) by profiling the current state of knowledge about IELTS among a key stakeholder group, and identifying opportunities for developing that knowledge to achieve a greater synergy between the role of IELTS and the role of teachers in preparation courses in ELICOS programs.

Informal language learning in social media environments: A YouTube-based study
Phil Benson
Hong Kong General Research Fund, 2012-2013

Project summary and publications

The rapid globalization of online social media since the turn of the century has opened up new opportunities for informal language and intercultural learning. Using a multiple case study methodology, this project aimed to identify and investigate evidence for language and intercultural learning among users of YouTube comments. Outcomes of the project include a theoretical framework for understanding relationships between the globalization and translanguaging in social media and methodological frameworks for describing interactional processes in the production of YouTube as text and for analysing evidence of language and intercultural learning in comments on videos.

Benson, P. (2015). The Discourse of YouTube: Multimodal text in a global context. London: Routledge.

Benson, P. (2015). Commenting to learn: Evidence of language and intercultural learning in YouTube comments. Language Learning and Technology, 19:3.

Benson, P. (2015). YouTube as text: Spoken interaction analysis and digital discourse. In R. Jones, A. Chik, and C. Hafner (Eds.), Discourse and digital practices. London: Routledge. 

Stakeholder perceptions of test impact: overseas-trained teachers' language assessment
Jill Murray, Judie Cross (Wollongong University), Ken Cruickshank (University of Sydney) 
IELTS Australia Research Program, 2012

Project summary and publications

This project, funded by IELTS Joint-funded Research Program, (Round 17) was a study of test impact.  It involved the investigation of the use of the IELTS academic writing and speaking tests to assess the workplace readiness of overseas trained teachers (OTTs). In the first part of the study primary and secondary principals were interviewed about their experiences with OTTs who had worked in their schools, with particular focus on their language, the contributions made to the schools and the difficulties encountered.  The second part of the study investigated principals' reactions to the current IELTS benchmarks. Focus groups were conducted in the ACT, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Auckland. Participants discussed samples of candidates' written and spoken responses and made recommendations on the appropriate language level for entry to Australian primary and secondary schools.

Murray, J., Cross, J., and Cruikshank, K. (2014) Stakeholder perceptions of IELTS as a gateway to the professional workplace: The case of employers of overseas trained teachers. IELTS Research Reports Series. IDP: IELTS Australia. 

Conference presentations reporting on aspects of the study have been made at AIEC Canberra 2013 and CLESOL Wellington 2014. A further paper based on the findings will be presented at ALTAANZ Brisbane in November 2014. 

Investigating Scalability and Criterion-related (Concurrent and Predictive) Validity of PTE-Academic
Mehdi Riazi
Pearson Education, 2011

Project summary and publications

This study examined the concurrent and predictive validity of the newly developed Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic). The study involved 60 international university students who were non-native English speakers. The collected data included: the participants' scores on a criterion test (IELTS Academic), their PTE Academic scores, and their academic performance as measured by their grade point average (GPA). The academic performance data of a similar norm group of native speakers were also collected. Results of the data analysis showed that there is a moderate to high significant correlation between PTE Academic and IELTS Academic overall, and also in terms of the four communication skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Additionally, significant correlations were observed between the participants' PTE Academic scores (overall and the four communication skills) and their academic performance. Results show that as the participants' PTE Academic scores increased, their academic performance became on par or exceeded that of the norm group such that those in C1 and higher levels of the Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR) outperformed the norm group academically. Findings of this study provide useful implications for the testing community and higher education decision-makers.

Riazi, A.M. (2013). Concurrent and predictive validity of Pearson (Academic) test. Papers in Language Testing and Assessment (PLTA), 2(2), 1-27.  

Performance on TOEFL IBT writing tasks vs. real-life academic writing tasks: implications for validity argument
Mehdi Riazi, Jill Murray
Educational Testing Service (ETS)-TOEFL, 2011

Project summary and publications

This report responds to the research agenda of Educational Testing Service to compare candidates' performance in TOEFL iBT writing with their performance on real-life academic tasks. The study is framed within the validity argument framework (Chapelle et al., 2008), and intends to provide evidence for warrants/rebuttals of the extrapolation inference regarding participants' composing processes and strategies, their performance on test and real-life writing tasks, and the textual features of the produced texts. 18 postgraduate course-work students provided data by taking a simulated TOEFL-iBT writing test and participating in post-test interviews in which they reflected on their experiences of completing the two test tasks. Moreover, these participants provided a graded academic assignment they had submitted for one of the units they were enrolled in and reflected on their experiences of writing the assignment, in another interview session. Finally, they discussed their perceptions of the similarities and differences among the three writing tasks (test tasks and academic assignment). Qualitative analysis of the interview data were done through the NVivo qualitative data analysis software, while the analysis of linguistic and discoursal features of the test texts and academic assignments were done through Coh-metrix computer software and SPSS. 

The results of the qualitative data analysis show that while similarities were found between test tasks and academic assignments in terms of eliciting the same processes (planning, composing, revising, and monitoring), differences were also observed. Some of the salient differences were opportunities available to participants when working on their academic assignments to do the following: seek clarification on task requirements, think of an academic audience, have access to content resources, have access to language and writing resources, do extensive revision, manage emotions, show intrinsic motivation for learning, and face less time pressure. Moreover, participants perceived large numbers of similarities and differences among the three writing tasks (Task 1, Task 2, and academic assignments). Participants believed the test and academic tasks were most significantly different in the areas of access to resources and time constraints. 

The results of the quantitative data analysis indicate similarity among the three tasks in terms of the use of connectives, and syntactic complexity. Additionally, the results show similarity between Task 2 and academic assignments in terms of lexical diversity and indices of coreferentiality (stem and argument overlap). While both Task 2 and academic assignments featured a variety of lexical items compared to Task 1, this task showed higher index of coreferentiality (stem and argument overlap) compared to Task 2 and academic assignments. However, significant differences are observed among the three tasks in terms of word frequency with less frequent words used in academic assignments. Furthermore, while no significant correlation is found between participants' scores on Task 1 and academic assignments, significant high correlation is found between Task 2 and academic assignment scores. The correlation between the participants' total scaled test scores and their academic assignment scores, though not significant, is close to a significant level (p= 0.06).

These findings  have implications for the extrapolation inference within TOEFL-iBT validity argument as they identify  (in)congruence between test and real-life writing tasks  in terms of the processes and strategies and participants' performance on the test and real-life tasks. The implications are discussed in the report along with limitations, recommendations for possible revisions in the test tasks, and suggestions for further research. 

Riazi, M., Murray, J. (under review). The "what" and the "how" of writing academic assignments at Australian universities: Implications for assessing academic English writing proficiency. To appear in J. Fox and V. Aryadoust (eds.), Current Trends in Language Testing in the Pacific Rim and the Middle East: Policies, Analyses, and Diagnoses. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 

Riazi, M., & Murray, J. (2013). TOEFL-iBT writing tasks vs. real-life academic writing tasks: Perceptions of postgraduate students. 12th Symposium on Second Language Writing. October 17-21, 2013. Shandong University, Jinan, China.

Riazi, M., & Murray, J. (2014). Linguistic features of the texts produced by high- vs. low-performers in TOEFL-iBT writing tasks. 11th Annual EALTA Conference, May 2014. Warwick University, Coventry, UK.

Riazi, M., & Murray, J. (2014). Modeling real-life L2 academic writing: Implications for assessing writing proficiency. 36th Language Testing Research Colloquium (LTRC). Amsterdam VU University 4-6 June 2014. 

An Investigation of the Relations between Test Takers' L1 and the Discourse of Written Performance on the IELTS Academic Writing Test
Mehdi Riazi, John Knox
IELTS Australia Research Program, 2010

Project summary and publications

This project examines the responses of IELTS candidates to Task 2 of the Academic Writing Test, exploring the relations between candidates' first language, their band score, and the language features of their texts. The findings show that candidates' first language is one of several factors related to the band score they achieve. The scripts came from candidates representing three L1 groups (Arabic L1, Hindi L1, and European-based L1) and three band scores (band 5, 6, and 7). Quantitative analysis was conducted on 254 scripts, measuring text length, readability of the scripts, Word Frequency Level (WFL), lexical diversity, grammatical complexity, incidence of all connectives, and two measures of coreferentiality (argument and stem overlap). Discourse analysis was conducted on a subset of 54 texts, using genre analysis and Appraisal Theory from Systemic Functional Linguistics. Descriptive statistics of textual features indicate that, overall, scripts with higher band scores (6 and 7) were found to be more complex (using less frequent words, greater lexical diversity, and more syntactic complexity) than cohesive. Significant differences were also found between the three L1 categories at the same band scores. These included: readability at band 7 between European based L1 and Hindi L1 scripts; lexical diversity at band scores 5 and 6 between European-based L1 and Hindi L1 scripts; word frequency at band 7 between Hindi L1 and European-based L1 scripts; cohesion at band 6 between Arabic L1 and European-based L1 scripts; and cohesion also at band 7 between Hindi L1 and Arabic L1 scripts. Some differences were also found in the discourse analysis, with scripts of European-based L1candidates more likely to use a typical generic structure in higher bands, and the scripts of Hindi L1 candidates showing slightly different discursive patterns in Appraisal from the other two groups. A range of measures (quantitative and discourse analytic) did not show any difference according to L1. The measures found to be good indicators of band score regardless of candidate L1 were text length, reading ease and word frequency in the quantitative analysis, and genre and use of Attitude in the discourse analysis. There were also several unexpected findings, and research is recommended in areas including the input of scripts (handwriting versus typed), the relations between task and genre, and the 'management of voices' in candidate responses in relation to academic writing more generally.

Riazi, A.M., & Knox, J. (2013). An investigation of the relations between test-takers' first language and the discourse of written performance on the IELTS Academic Writing Test, Task 2 . IELTS Research Report Series. IDP: IELTS Australia.

International students' experiences of formative assessment: How postgraduate coursework international students interpret and perform formative assignment tasks
Mehdi Riazi, Jill Murray
Macquarie Competitive Grants Scheme, 2010

Project summary and publications

Eighteen international students from postgraduate programs in different departments of Macquarie University were interviewed during their first semester of study about a sample formative assessment task, with the aim of (1) identifying any difficulties they were experiencing in interpreting the task designers' intentions, and (2) of investigating how students managed these uncertainties. A subsequent interview provided data on the feedback received and how it informed the students' subsequent learning.  

Culture and communication for international medical and health professionals 
Lynda Yates, Peter Roger, John Cartmill (Australian School of Advanced Medicine)
Macquarie Internal Seeding Grant, 2010

Project summary and publications

The aim of this pilot project was to explore doctor talk how native-English-speaking doctors practising in Australia and qualified doctors from other language backgrounds with no experience of practising in Australia interacted in the same hospital settings.  Role-play simulations of doctor-nurse and doctor-patient interactions were and analysed for pragmatic effectiveness within a patient-centred approach to medicine in order to identify aspects of communications training that would be useful for international medical graduates seeking to practise in Australia.

Yates, L. (In press). Learning how to speak: Pronunciation, pragmatics and practicalities in the classroom and beyond, Language Teaching.

Dahm, M. & Yates, L. (2013). English for the workplace: Doing patient-centred care in medical communication. TESL Canada. Volume 30, Special Issue 7, 2013.

The influence of L1 phonology, rater familiarity and dimensions of pronunciation on assessments using the revised IELTS pronunciation descriptors Lynda Yates
IELTS Australia Research Program, 2009

Project summary and publications

This project investigated used qualitative and quantitative approaches to investigate how examiners used the new Pronunciation assessment scale to rate speaker performances, and to explore what examiners attend to in order to make their judgements.

Yates, L., Zielinski, B. and Pryor E. (2011). The assessment of pronunciation and the new IELTS Pronunciation scale, IELTS Research Reports, Vol. 12. IDP: IELTS Australia and British Council.

English language for Career Communication
Lynda Yates
AMEP Research Centre

Project summary and publications

This project investigated the English language use and experiences of international students as they completed their English language and academic bridging course and then went on to study on a postgraduate program. 

Terraschke, A., & Wahid, R. (2011). The impact of EAP study on the academic experiences of international postgraduate students at an Australian university. Journal of English for Academic Purpose, 3, 173-182. 

Yates, L. and Wahid, M. R. A. (2013). Challenges to Brand Australia: International students and the problem with speaking. Higher Education Research and Development, 32 (6), 1037-1050