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Dr Talia Isaacs
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
  • Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL
  • IOE - Culture, Communication & Media
  • UCL Institute of Education

After completing my PhD in Second Language Education from McGill University, Canada (2011), I moved to the University of Bristol, where I was Lecturer then Senior Lecturer in Education and Founding Director of the EU-funded Second Language Speech Lab. I moved to the UCL Institute of Education in Nov. 2016 to take up the role of Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL and  served as Programme Leader for the MA TESOL Pre-Service, the largest programme in our department. I am currently on the Editorial Board of Language Testing, having previously served on the Boards of Language Assessment Quarterly and Journal of Second Language Pronunciation. I am an expert member of the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA), a strategy group member of the UK Association for Language Testing and Assessment (UKALTA), founding member of the Canadian Association of Language Assessment (CALA), and served as a Member-at-Large on the International Language Testing Association (ILTA) Executive Board. I am co-editor (with Pavel Trofimovich) of Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2017), which breaks new ground in at least two respects. First, it is the first edited collection dedicated to the topic of pronunciation assessment. Second, it is the applied linguistics publisher Multilingual Matters' first “gold” open access book, freely available here: https://zenodo.org/record/165465#.WC7lvvmLSUl

In 2017, I launched the world's first comprehensibility scale together with Canadian collaborators. This empirically-based pedagogically-oriented tool is designed to help teachers more effectively target the most important linguistic factors for understanding international university students performing oral production tasks. The scale and accompanying instructions are freely available here: https://www.iris-database.org/iris/app/home/detail?id=york:932362

I have growing research interests in specific purposes assessment, particularly in language discordant health communication. I am currently a member of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Hubs for Trials Methodology Research (HTMR) Recruitment Working Group, which investigates methods for improving recruitment to trials. I recently led a systematic review on ethnic minority representation and the role of language in patient recruitment to telehealth diabetes trials and a small-scale consultancy on analysing senior doctors' simulated consultations in collaboration with a local National Health Service (NHS) Trust. My pump priming project examines the language demands of ethical materials provided to patients in health intervention research. I am also interested in educational assessment in both classroom and high-stakes settings, particularly in higher education contexts and to do with large-scale international assessments (e.g., the OECD's PISA). Another emerging research interest is in technology-mediated assessment related to automated speech recognition, automated scoring, and dialogue systems and I would welcome collaboration in these areas.

Research Summary

My research interests are varied and eclectic, straddling the areas of language assessment, second language acquisition, higher education, speech sciences, psychology, and medicine. My research broadly addresses the pressing social-educational challenge of reducing language barriers and improving the oral communication skills of speakers for whom English is a nondominant language to foster their success in workplace and academic settings and promote social integration. A major research strand relates to profiling the linguistic difficulties that most impede the production of comprehensible (clearly understandable) speech in adult second language learners of English so that these can be targeted in instruction and assessment. Emerging research interests include health communication, automated scoring of speech, and helping learners and assessors calibrate their performances through feedback provision. Much of my work is situated in the mixed methods research paradigm. My primary-authored papers have been published in international peer-reviewed journals, including Applied Psycholinguistics, Health CommunicationInternational Journal of Inclusive EducationJournal of Medical Internet Research, Language Assessment Quarterly, Language Teaching, Language TestingStudies in Second Language Acquisition, and TESOL Quarterly. I have a growing track-record of leading test development and validation projects through funded research or consultancy activities for major assessment organisations and regularly serve in an assessment advisory role for different educational stakeholder groups both locally and internationally. I have acted as an evaluator for grants of reports funded by the British Council, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), European Commission, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC; forthcoming), and Swiss National Science Foundation. I have also served as a Chair or panel member forbest article awards in language testing and second language pronunciation, workshop funding, and student prizes.

Teaching Summary

I have taught a wide range of applied linguistics courses in the UK and Canada, having led modules in second language acquisition, pedagogy and curriculum in TESOL, teaching and assessing pronunciation and fluency, questionnaire design and analysis, and mixed methods research. In 2017-18, I served as programme leader for MA TESOL Pre-Service, which trains future language teachers. I also designed and launched Language Testing and Assessment at the UCL Institute of Education in 2017, which has been among the most popular optional modules, attracting in excess of 50 MA students each year. This module explores fundamental considerations and current trends in language testing and assessment. It is designed for students interested in understanding and being able to critically evaluate the design, use (and misuse) of language tests and assessments and/or to apply these principles to construct their own instruments. I additionally contribute to the MA dissertation module on mixed methods research in the social and behavioural sciences and have conducted invited methodological workshops on this and on questionnaire design and analysis and abstract writing. I also lead assessment literacy and training initiatives and disseminate my work to different stakeholder groups, including faculty education directors, exam board personnel, academic staff and program administrators, secondary school teachers, graduate students, and members of the general public, including via the traditional media (e.g., BBC Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and social media (e.g., Twitter, blog posts, The Conversation). I enjoy supervising and mentoring early-career researchers and have been actively involved in training graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in all aspects of the research process. 

01-NOV-2016 Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL Culture, Communication and Media UCL Institute of Education, United Kingdom
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