Washback to Classroom Climate: The Case of an IELTS Speaking Preparation Course

Document Type: Research Article


Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran


In applied linguistics, washback, or backwash, refers to the influence of tests on teaching and learning. Though there is now a large body of research investigating the impact of tests on educational processes and outcomes, the possible effect of language tests on the psychological environment of language classrooms remains underexplored. This study examined the effect of IELTS on the classroom climate of IELTS speaking preparation courses. To isolate the washback of IELTS, the classroom climate of an IELTS speaking preparation course was compared with that of a general conversation course, both taught by the same teacher. Data were collected using classroom observations and a questionnaire. Sixty-seven participants responded to a measure of classroom climate and 4 sessions of each of the noted courses were observed. Data were analyzed, using parametric and nonparametric statistics. It was revealed that IELTS exerted some negative influence on 3 dimensions of classroom climate: student involvement, teacher support, and investigation. In contrast, the washback of IELTS on class cohesiveness, teacher support, investigation, task orientation, as well as on cooperation and equity appeared to be positive. Findings carry implications for language teaching, test preparation, and language classroom management.