The psycholinguistic approach to speaking assessment: An interview with Alistair Van Moere

Article appearing in Shiken 16.2 (Nov 2012) pp. 15-20.

Author: Aaron Batty
SRB General Editor

Alistair Van Moere is the vice president of product and test develop- ment at Pearson's Knowledge Technologies Group, and is responsible for the development, delivery, and validation of their automated language tests, including the Versant test (previously known as PhonePass). Versant is a telephone- or computer-mediated, computer-scored test of speaking proficiency, available in six languages, including English. Although computer scoring is widely used for multiple-choice test formats, Versant is revolutionary in its use of computer scoring of speaking proficiency. Van Moere and his colleagues have written extensively on the validation of the Versant test and its methods of automated scoring (e.g. Bernstein, Van Moere, & Cheng, 2010; Van Moere, 2010), and he has most recently raised eyebrows with his calls for a "psycholinguistic" approach to speaking assessment from the pages of Language Testing (2012).

Prior to his employment at Pearson, Alistair was instrumental in the development of the Kanda English Proficiency Test at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, and drew from his experience with its speaking test in his PhD work under Charles Alderson at Lancaster University -- work which won him the Jacqueline Ross TOEFL Dissertation Award in 2010 (a portion of which can be read in Van Moere, 2006).

We were pleased that Alistair was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the psycholinguistic approach to language assessment, the Versant tests, and the communicative/psycholinguistic divide.

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