The construction and validation of a new listening span task

Article appearing in Shiken 25.1 (June 2021) pp. 39-56;
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by Bartolo Bazan
Department of English, Ryukoku University Heian Junior & Senior High School
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The listening span task is a measure of working memory that requires participants to process sets of increasing numbers of utterances and store the last word of each utterance for recall at the end of each set. Measures to date have contained an exceedingly demanding processing component, possibly leading to insufficient resources to meet the word recall requirement, which may have affected the sensitivity of the measure to distinguish different levels of working memory. Further, tasks thus far have asked participants to verify the content utterances based on knowledge, which may have confounded the measurement of working memory capacity with world knowledge. An additional weakness is that they lack sound psychometric construct validity evidence, which clouds what these tools actually measure. This pilot study presents a listening span task that accounts for preceding methodological shortcomings, which was administered to 31 Japanese junior high school students. The participants listened to ten sets (two sets of equal length of two, three, four, five and six utterances) of short casual utterances, judged whether they made sense in Japanese, and recalled the last word of each utterance in the set. Performance was assessed through a scoring procedure new to listening span tasks in which credit is given for the words recalled in order of appearance until memory failure. The data was analyzed through the Rasch model, which produces evidence for different aspects of validity and indicates if the items in a test measure a unidimensional construct. The results provided validity evidence for the use of the new listening span task and revealed that the instrument measured a single unidimensional construct.

Keywords: working memory, listening span task, validation, Rasch model, Japanese

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