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Evaluating a Learning Tool for Young English Learners: The Case of the TOEFL Primary English Learning Center

Timpe-Laughlin, Veronika
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Elementary Education English Language Learning (ELL) English Learning Center (ELC) Instructional Materials Student Evaluation Young Children


The TOEFL Primary English Language Center (ELC) is a web-based platform that contains activities intended to help young English language learners (ELLs) build important communication skills in English. The first generation of the ELC was launched in 2013 and has been used as supplementary teaching material by English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers in Brazil and Mexico since the 2013-2014 school year. Although the ELC is used in different contexts, little is known about how it is used, what stakeholders think about it, and whether the ELC requires revision in order to better meet the needs of EFL teachers and students. Hence, this study aims to investigate the use of the ELC and, thus, provide empirical evidence regarding (a) its implementation and (b) teachers’ and students’ perceptions of it. To explore how the ELC is used and perceived by instructors and students, data were collected via online surveys and on-site interviews with both teachers and elementary-level students. The mainly qualitative analyses provided two key findings. First, the findings show that the ELC was used primarily outside EFL classrooms as a supplementary, self-access learning material. As such, it was perceived as a valuable learning tool for language practice, which additionally prepared students for the TOEFL Primary test. Second, responses provide preliminary evidence to support a number of claims Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Edusoft have made about the ELC. Moreover, some suggestions to enhance the ELC program are discussed in this report, as well as factors that should be considered in future materials evaluation research, especially in research with young ELLs.

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