Contexts and constructs: Implications for the testing of listening in pilots’ communication with air traffic controllers




ESP Assessment, Aeronautical English, Listening Comprehension, Testing Listening, ICAO


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published the Language Proficiency Requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers (ATCOs) in 2003. Research has shown that there is still a lack of clarity regarding what needs to be assessed in terms of the English used by pilots and ATCOs in radiotelephony (DOUGLAS, 2014; EMERY, 2014; KIM; BILLINGTON, 2016; KIM; ELDER, 2015; MONTEIRO, 2019; READ; KNOCH, 2009). The purpose of the present study was to investigate the nature of the listening tasks performed by pilots as an essential step in test development and validation. This explanatory sequential mixed-methods study (CRESWELL, 2015), elicited questionnaire responses from 156 pilots (Phase 1) and subsequently interviewed six aeronautical English experts (Phase 2) to better understand the characteristics of the listening tasks that pilots undertake during radiotelephony communications. Quantitative and qualitative data were analysed, and findings were merged. They provide information that may usefully inform the development of the listening test construct and the test specifications.


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Author Biographies

Angela Carolina de Moraes Garcia, Carleton University

Angela Carolina de Moraes Garcia is in her first year of the PhD program in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies at Carleton University. She has been working as a language test developer and raters’ trainer at the Brazilian Civil Aviation National Agency (ANAC) since January 2008. Angela holds a Master’s degree in Language Testing from Lancaster University. Her research interests include English for Specific Purposes and Language Testing, especially aeronautical English testing, validity, reliability, construct definition and rating scale development. E-mail:

Janna Fox, Carleton University

Janna Fox, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Applied Linguistics, in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Her current research interests include validation theory, language testing, classroom based assessment, and pre-service/in-service teacher development. Email:


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How to Cite

Garcia, A. C. de M., & Fox, J. (2020). Contexts and constructs: Implications for the testing of listening in pilots’ communication with air traffic controllers. The ESPecialist, 41(4).