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Dr Talia Isaacs
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
  • Senior Lecturer in 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 November 2016 to take up the role of Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL and I am now Programme Leader for the MA TESOL Pre-Service. I currently serve on the Editorial Boards of Language Testing and Language Assessment Quarterly, am an elected Member-at-Large on the International Language Testing Association (ILTA) Executive Board, an Expert Member of the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA), and a founding member of the Canadian Association of Language Assessment (CALA). I am co-editor (with Pavel Trofimovich) of Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2017, Multilingual Matters).This book 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 on-line under a CC BY licence at the following link: https://zenodo.org/record/165465#.WC7lvvmLSUl

In 2017, I launched the world's first comprehensibility scale together with Canadian collaborators (Isaacs, Trofimovich, Foote). This empirically-based pedagogically-oriented tool is designed to help teachers more effectively target the most important linguistic factors for understanding second language English speakers when they perform oral production tasks. The scale development "process" and "product" is featured in an article in Language Testing. The scale and accompanying instructions are freely available on the IRIS digital repository: 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 and recently led a systematic review on ethnic minority representation and the role of language in patient recruitment to telehealth diabetes trials. My current project (pump priming) 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 also acted as an expert evaluator for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants and European Commission Horizon 2020 fellowships (MSCA-IF-2017) and have served as a panel member or Chair for best article awards for the fields of language testing and second language pronunciation. I have also served as an evaluator for graduate student presentation/scholarship awards and workshop funding.

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, I assumed the role of programme leader for MA TESOL Pre-Service, which is currently the largest programme in our department. I also designed Language Testing and Assessment, a new Master's-level module offered for the first time at the UCL Institute of Education in 2017. 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 methodological workshops in this area externally. 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 both 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 through my funded projects. 

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