Instances of Repair in Oral Exam Settings

  • Jasmin Hirschberg University of Alberta


What started off as a field of interest in studies revolving around Conversation Analysis in the late 1970s (Sacks et al.), has experienced an increasing interest in research on second language learning in institutional settings – repair. Many studies have found that repair is not exclusively targeted at error correction but has been shown to fulfill discourse-related functions as well (e.g. Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain; Razfar). However, despite its crucial role in institutional settings, assessment situations have been largely neglected in this research. This study aims to fill this gap. It examines how repair is done amongst the instructor and beginner students of German during oral exams. The instances of repair are categorized as self- or other-initiated self-repair (Schegloff et al.). Self-initiated repair is described following the categories identified by Levelt. Nine beginner learners of German, who have previously shown different levels of learning success, were video-recorded during their oral exams. Using conversational analyst methods, this study aims at identifying 1) What forms of repair occur and which functions they fulfil, and 2) How successful repairs are depending on the learners’ level of success. While self-initiated self-repair and error corrections are the most dominant form, the findings also indicate that the oral exam setting elicits economic and pragmatic functions as well and further sharpens the learners’ self-perception of their own performance depending on their success level, which influences the ability to spot and repair trouble sources. Pedagogical implications of these findings will be discussed.