Research Behind The TOEFL® Program

People in this video

Xiaoming Xi, Senior Research Director, English Language Learning and Assessment
Larry Davis, Associate Research Scientist
Youngsoon So, Associate Research Scientist
Spiros Papageorgiou, Managing Research Scientist
Brent Bridgeman, Distinguished Presidential Appointee
Veronika Laughlin, Associate Research Scientist
Don Powers, Principal Research Scientist
Jonathan Schmidgall, Associate Research Scientist


Transcript Body

On Screen: [Research Behind The TOEFL® Program, ETS – Princeton, NJ USA]

Xiaoming Xi: I take a lot of pride in what I’m doing now, and this pride and satisfaction really come from knowing we have opened new doors for many people around the world. We are the Educational Testing Service and we have been around since 1947, and we are the largest nonprofit educational research organization in the whole world.

On Screen: [More Than 3,000 ETS Employees Worldwide]

Area Staff Doctoral Degrees
Assessment Development 741 111
Research & Development Management 56 23
Statistical Analysis, Data Analysis & Psychometric Research 277 104
Research 187 100
Total 1261 338

Xiaoming Xi: Our mission as a nonprofit organization is to support equity and quality in education for people by providing assessments, learning tools, and services built on our rigorous research. And because we are a nonprofit organization, what we earn above and beyond what we need to run our test programs is invested back in research. And this allows us to do the more exciting foundational research to help advance the field.

Larry Davis: My name is Larry Davis.

Youngsoon So: I’m Youngsoon So.

Spiros Papageorgiou: My name is Spiros Papageorgiou.

Brent Bridgeman: My name is Brent Bridgeman.

Veronika Laughlin: My name is Veronika Laughlin.

Don Powers: My name is Don Powers.

Jonathan Schmidgall: My name is Jonathan Schmidgall.

Xiaoming Xi: Our English-Language Learning and Assessments Center is the largest in the world, and our research in this area has also been significantly enhanced by our first rate research centers in other areas, including cognitive and learning sciences, natural language processing and speech technologies, and advanced psychometrics. We now have a whole TOEFL® Family of Assessments including TOEFL® Primary™, TOEFL Junior®, TOEFL ITP®, and TOEFL iBT®.

The design and the development of the TOEFL assessments, including the TOEFL iBT test, is supported by a few cornerstones.

On Screen: [Cornerstones of ETS' English language test development. Pyramid with five levels. Standards for Educational Testing and Psychological Testing is at the base; Rigorous Test Development is at the 2nd level; Strong Research Base is at the 3rd level; Internal Test Audit Programs is at the 4th level; External Oversight Committees is at the top.]

Xiaoming Xi: At the very foundation are the standards for educational and psychological testing, which are the standards used by educational testing around the world. Using these standards as a guide, we follow very rigorous test development and review process, using highly trained assessment specialists.

Our test development efforts are also supported by very strong research. We also conduct internal audits of our test programs every year, to make sure that the test content, procedures, and research are in compliance with the Standards. We also invite leading experts to sit on oversight committees for our assessments.

Brent Bridgeman: We don’t just make a claim because we think it would be nice; we make sure that there’s research to back up everything that we say.

Youngsoon So: Assessing young students is an area that should be researched carefully.

Jonathan Schmidgall: Research is absolutely critical for us to ensure that people have the information they need to make decisions.

If you’re going to use a test score to potentially inform a life changing decision, these are questions that you should be able to ask or even demand that a test developer answer.

Spiros Papageorgiou: Your ability to speak and communicate in English is very very important, and many students, they need to develop those skills.

Larry Davis: The TOEFL iBT test was the first comprehensive, robust test of English that was delivered by computer online.

On Screen: [TOEFL iBT, Innovation, Rigorous Research, Quality, Validity/Fairness]

Spiros Papageorgiou: It integrates all four skills, which is exactly what learners need to do when they communicate in an academic environment. They need to listen, speak, write, and read.

Larry Davis: It's not just a bunch of multiple choice items. Test takers really have to do some meaty tasks that require them to do things like write from sources. They have to listen to lectures and do readings and synthesize this information.

These kinds of tasks they’re not easy, but these are the things that students in college really have to do.

And that's based on research, not just on our own idea of what students do.

Brent Bridgeman: We’re making a difference by making sure that our tests are valid and fair.

Larry Davis: It’s very cool to think that what I do will make for a better test, which in turn will make for better decision making, and I hope ultimately make for better learning of English.

Jonathan Schmidgall: We don’t hope to make a difference; we purposefully strive to make one.

Veronika Laughlin: We are using one language to actually communicate across borders and cultures, English.

Xiaoming Xi: These R&D people are actually the intellectual engine of ETS, who are committed to delivering the highest standards of quality and innovation. And these are the people who will make the TOEFL name stand strong in the many years to come.

On Screen: [ETS®, Copyright© 2014 Educational Testing Service. All rights reserved. ETS, the ETS logo, LISTENING. LEARNING. LEADING., TOEFL and TOEFL iBT are registered trademarks of Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States and other countries.]