Events and conferences

New Directions in English Language Assessment is an annual conference organised by the British Council in East Asia, providing perspectives and insight on trends and approaches in English language assessment locally and internationally. 

New Directions English 2016

Conference Theme: Standardised testing and the development and use of prociency scales: addressing local challenges, meeting global standards. 

The focus in Hanoi 2016 will be to look at the role and effects of standardised testing and the development and/or use of proficiency scales to describe language  ability. We will also consider performance-based testing: its benefits and challenges. Previous New Directions have provided an important forum for the interaction of local and global perspectives, reflecting the wide range of challenges facing language education both within the region and internationally. The theme aims to highlight the approaches and solutions to these challenges being proposed in the region and internationally. 

Conference Sub-themes:

1. Standardised Testing

While standardised testing first occurred in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), its application in assessing language ability is relatively recent, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Standardised tests have been praised for providing equal opportunities and promoting social justice and meritocracy as well as allowing score comparability among test takers owing to high reliability of test administration, tasks and scoring procedures. However, standardised testing has been criticised for negative consequences such as teaching to the test and even accused of being a mechanism to control teachers and education systems. The debate continues and is relevant to regional education authorities who are undertaking educational reforms in English language teaching and assessment and who may have set student and teacher proficiency benchmarks. 

Call for Papers: Papers are invited that address all aspects of standardised testing, in particular where the focus is on the extent it can address regional ambitions related to language proficiency amongst its language learners and teachers. These papers can be either of a theoretical or a practical nature, with priority given to solutions-based papers.

2. Proficiency Scales

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the most widely used and influential proficiency scale, has seen wide application in the development of language syllabi, materials and tests. Though the CEFR has shown to be a useful framework to which many tests are aligned, it has been criticised for lacking a sound theoretical basis and having inadequate descriptors. There is also an on-going debate as to its application to non-European languages and many countries in the region have extended and refined the CEFR (e.g. Japan), are in the process of developing their own proficiency scales (e.g. China), are considering developing their own scales (e.g. Vietnam) or are mapping their own tests to the CEFR. 

Call for Papers: Papers are invited that address all aspects of the use or refinement of existing scales or on the development and validation of country-specific proficiency scales as well as on the validation of tests aligned to proficiency scales.

3. Performance-based Testing

The development, administration and scoring of large numbers of performance-based tests of speaking and writing present a number of challenges. However, the cited benefits of such tests include being able to test a wider range of competences other than just linguistic competence, as well as adding support to the inferences we make based on the test scores as learners are asked to perform similar types of tasks to those that they encounter outside of the testing context. In addition, the positive washback on teaching and learning is well documented. This conference is interested in the tension that exists between the region’s desire for language learners to be able to use English effectively to communicate and the challenges of administering and scoring performance-based speaking and writing tests to large numbers. 

Submission of Proposals

Proposals are invited for papers that address the main theme of the conference, focusing in particular on any of the sub-themes addressed above. Presentations slots will be 30 minutes (20 minutes for the presentation with 10 minutes for Q&A). 

Criteria for Submission of Extracts

  • Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and meet the submission guidelines below. 
  • The subject of the proposed paper should clearly reflect one or more of the sub-themes of the conference.
  • The proposed paper should be relevant and of practical interest to the audience.
  • A paper of a more general or international focus should indicate its relation to the region or add a regional perspective.
  • Work presented should be original and offer insight.

Submission Guidelines

We ask prospective presenters to fill in a proposal form and return it to newdirections@britishcouncil.org.

Deadlines

Submission of abstracts by 10 June 2016
Notification of acceptance by 8 July 2016
Submission of presentation by 1 September 2016

*It is expected that a selection of the papers presented at the conference will be published in an edited collection. Further information will be available in due course.

For any other questions, please contact newdirections@britishcouncil.org.