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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
UCL Principal Supervisor,UCL Subsidiary Supervisor

After completing my PhD in Second Language Education from McGill University, Canada (2011), I moved to Bristol University as Lecturer then Senior Lecturer in Education and Founding Director of the EU-funded Second Language Speech Lab. I moved to UCL in 2016 as Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL. I am Programme Leader for the MA TESOL In-Service for experienced teachers, having previously served as Programme Leader for Pre-Service programme. I am an Editorial Board Member of Language Testing and Assessment and Testing and Applied Measurement, 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, strategy group member of the UK Association for Language Testing and Assessment, founding member of the Canadian Association of Language Assessment, and former Member-at-Large on the International Language Testing Association Executive Board. I currently serve on the TOEFL Committee of Examiners (Educational Testing Service), advising on research and development.

I have growing research interests in language for specific purposes, particularly health communication. I co-lead the Trial Conduct Working Group's Communication theme as part of the MRC-NIHR (Medical Research Council-National Institute for Health Research) Trials Methodology Research Partnership (TMRP), investigating methods for improving communication across all phases of a clinical trial. My research interests in this area include improving the recruitment and retention of underserved groups, particularly ethnic minorities, and generating evidence-based best practice recommendations for making information provision more accessible to stakeholders. A corpus of informed consent documents used in cancer trials that arose from my pump-priming project is now available open access through UK Data Service (Isaacs et al., 2019). I am also interested in doctor-patient communication and led a consultancy on analysing senior hospital doctors' simulated consultations in collaboration with a London-based National Health Service (NHS) Trust.

Within the educational arena, I am interested in educational assessment in both classroom and high-stakes settings, particularly in higher education. I am a core member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2025 foreign language questionnaire expert group, advising on the development of teachers', parents', students' and system-level background questionnaires. I have also reviewed language assessment frameworks and reports as an external expertfor the OECD and the Council of Europe (CEFR). Another research interest is technology-mediated assessment (e.g., automated speech recognition, automated scoring). 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 work 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 learners of English so that these can be targeted in instruction and assessment. Other research interests include language for specific purposes, automated scoring of speech, and classroom-based assessment. Much of my work is situated in the mixed methods research paradigm. My primary-authored papers have appeared or are forthcoming in international refereed journals, including Applied Psycholinguistics, HealthHealth CommunicationInternational Journal of Inclusive EducationJournal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), Journal of Second Language PronunciationLanguage Assessment Quarterly, Language Teaching, Language TestingStudies in Second Language Acquisition, and TESOL Quarterly

In 2017, I developed and launched the world's first comprehensibility scale with Canadian collaborators. This data-driven tool is designed to help English for Academic purposes teachers more effectively target the most important linguistic factors for understanding international university students' speech. I am co-editor of Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2017), the first edited collection dedicated to the topic of pronunciation assessment and Multilingual Matters' first gold open access book, with two additional book projects underway (Routledge; Cambridge University Press). 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 or reports funded by the British Council, Economic and Social Research Council, European Commission, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Swiss National Science Foundation. I have served as Chair for the International Language Testing Association Best Article Award, a referee for the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation Best Paper award, and as an evaluator for other academic prizes. 

Teaching Summary

I am Programme Leader for the MA TESOL In-Service, which offers dedicated research and practical training for experienced language teachers, having previously served as Programme Leader for the MA TESOL Pre-service, the largest MA programme in our department. I have taught a wide range of applied linguistics courses in the UK and Canada (e.g., second language acquisition, pedagogy and curriculum, pronunciation and fluency, questionnaire design and analysis). I currently hold an additional appointment of Associate Professor in TESOL at Anaheim University, US, where I teach an online course in language testing and classroom-based evaluation to EdD and MA students. I am also External Examiner for the Distance MA in Language Testing at Lancaster University. I designed and launched the Language Testing and Assessment module at the UCL Institute of Education in 2017, which is among the most popular optional modules on offer, attracting over 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 contribute to mixed methods training in the dissertation module and have conducted workshops on this and other topics both locally and internationally (e.g., questionnaires, abstract writing, scoring systems, academic integrity). I also lead assessment training initiatives and disseminate my work 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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