Enhancing Language Assessment Literacy:
Sharing, Broadening, Innovating
16-17 September 2016, Lancaster University (UK)
10th anniversary of the MA in Language Testing; a unique online Masters programme delivered by Lancaster University. Since the start of this programme, we have trained – and learned from – students based all over the globe. Many of these students were in professional positions as language test developers and examiners at the beginning of the MA, and have since extended their responsibilities to implementing exam reforms, performing validation research, and training others in the principles and practice of language assessment.
At the same time, the last decade has seen increased attention in the field on language assessment literacy: how best to enhance the knowledge, skills and practices of language testing professionals. Although there have been some core recommendations from different scholars concerning the fundamental elements of professional training in language assessment (e.g., Brindley, 2001; Brown & Bailey, 2008; Davies, 2008; Fulcher, 2012; Taylor, 2013), practices naturally differ across contexts and training modalities. There is a need to share knowledge about different training approaches, and to explore practices within the academy and within the workplace. There has also been a call for language testers to develop a deep and critical understanding of language assessment and the broad discipline of Applied Linguistics with which it interfaces. Language testing training should not be narrow, but should engage with state-of-the-art developments, both theoretical and methodological, in other sub-fields of Applied Linguistics if it is to stay relevant and useful.
To celebrate this anniversary, we held a two-day symposium on 16-17 September 2016 designed to explore Language Assessment Literacy. The symposium addressed the themes of “sharing” and “broadening” on consecutive days, with the aim of mapping out innovations for Language Assessment Literacy across different contexts. The first day – “sharing” – saw a series of papers on the topic of training language assessment professionals. Two invited speakers – Professor Glenn Fulcher (University of Leicester, UK) and Dr Meg Malone (ACTFL & Georgetown University, USA) – addressed the key theme of enhancing language assessment literacy, and the remaining papers and posters were drawn from an open call. The second day – “broadening” – saw a series of parallel workshops in related sub-fields which represent particular strengths of the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster. These workshops – taught by specialists in those areas – presented theories and techniques which provide novel and stimulating perspectives on language assessment practice:
- Corpus linguistics for language assessment (Dr Vaclav Brezina & Dr Dana Gablasova)
- Critical discourse analysis for language assessment (Dr Johann Unger)
- Ethnographic approaches for language assessment (Prof Uta Papen)
- Psycholinguistic approaches for language assessment (Dr Tineke Brunfaut, Dr Marije Michel & Dr Patrick Rebuschat)