Diagnostic English Language Assessment (DELA) Standard setting

DELA is used to determine if new students entering with the minimum required English test or VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) results are likely to meet the standards of English needed to succeed in their studies, or if they are at risk and in need of additional English language skills support.

The Diagnostic English Language Assessment (DELA) has been used at the University of Melbourne since the early 1990s. The assessment comprises tasks of listening, reading and writing and results are reported on a 7-point scale for each sub-skill. Students also receive a diagnostic profile on their performance in the writing sub-skill, reported as three sub-scores (for content, organisation and form).

This project aimed to set meaningful standards on the DELA in the context of an increasingly diverse student population. The project was prompted by a recently proposed policy change to broaden the student base that would be assessed post-entry which sparked discussions about standards on the assessment. To ensure the standards used are current and set empirically, standard-setting workshops were convened to establish the minimum required standards of English proficiency expected by: (1) content lecturers from a range of disciplines and (2) academic skills advisory staff. Standards were set by both groups for students requiring compulsory support, recommended support and no language support. The results show that the standards are remarkably similar across the two groups of stakeholders. A qualitative analysis of the reasons given for judgements during the workshops, however, showed some differences between the aspects of language valued.