A conference on professionalising English assessment in learning systems: sharing practicalities and implications

The 2nd New Directions conference in Latin America will focus on professional development in the area of English language assessment

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Our second New Directions conference in Latin America is the highlight of our year. This year is no different, but in order to prioritise the health and safety of our stakeholders, employees and the English Language Assessment community, we’ve decided to host it as an online event from 1 to 3 July.

In 2021, the conference will focus on professional development in the area of English language assessment at all levels of the education system, as well as the the impact of planned, systemic, high-quality investment in development and the practicalities of implementing such programmes and the implications of not.

The significance of assessment in learning systems is rapidly increasing. The impetus for this has been the rapid growth in global mobility for education and employment, as well as demands for accountability. On a macro level, global education systems have attempted to place assessment in the foreground as they plan for a more mobile, linguistically proficient and skilled labour force. English Language proficiency is one of the key indicators of success in gaining access to education and better employment prospects. On a micro level this has had a huge impact on those working with these national and sometimes regional changes, giving rise to accelerated interest in professional development and training in all areas of assessment to ensure the highest quality of assessment practices and procedures for learners.

What topics will be addressed at this year's conference?

The main theme of New Directions Colombia 2021 conference will be Professionalising English assessment in learning systems: sharing practicalities and implications. We will explore how institutional, national and even regional systems attempt to professionalise the variety of stakeholders involved in deciding, planning and implementing programmes and the English language assessments with which they work.

Sub-themes of the conference

Language assessment literacy

Language assessment literacy forms the knowledge base needed both to understand essential language assessment concepts as they apply to an individual (e.g. as a test-taker, a parent or a teacher) and to conduct language assessment procedures, that is, to design, administer, interpret, utilize, and report language assessment data for different purposes. Increasing importance has been placed on assessment as an integral part of teaching and learning. This has had implications at all levels of the education system starting with what happens in the classroom. Papers in this strand explore language assessment literacy for teachers and also for other stakeholders involved in language testing and assessment.

Assessing productive skills

Productive skills considered to be crucial skills in order to function on a daily basis, open doors for education, employment and international mobility. Both speaking and writing are tested in most international tests of English and increasing national and local tests as well. The effective assessment of productive skills is intensely discussed and has been widely researched and this even before the advent of Artificial Intelligence. Now, automated systems which aim to support both test-takers and developers and streamline processes have added another dimension to the testing and assessment of productive skills. The presentations in this strand showcase research and work being done in the area of assessing productive skills in local, regional and international contexts.

Operationalising the ESP construct As the worlds of work and study change, the need for a deeper understanding of the role of English for specific purposes (ESP) increases. ESP, seen as slightly separate from more general language testing because it focusses on groups with specific language skills, for example, medical practitioners, lawyers and those in the tourism industry. English needed to perform specific function as part of work is obviously very important and, in some cases crucial. Therefore, the assessment of such language is not only important but requires careful planning and precision at all stages of development and implementation to ensure that participants are ready to participate fully in their daily work.
Assessment in times of Crisis

This has been an unprecedented year for all of us. It has been it has been a year of uncertainty, disruption, delay and suspension of all activity in all spheres of society. It has also been a year of resilience, perseverance, strength, innovation and team-working. The Pandemic has caused chaos but has also been a catalyst to prioritise issues in education and find solutions to these concerns that are realistic, effective and enduring. This strand aims to showcase compelling examples of work done in the area of assessment during the Coronavirus Pandemic in order that students and test-takers continue to have testing and assessment opportunities in these exceptional times. 

IELTS Strand

The IELTS Strand focusses on two different aspects of English for Academic Purposes (EAP). On Day 1 the presentations explore possible future constructs of EAP particularly in light of this new virtual reality we find ourselves in. The presentations discuss the findings of exploratory research into different features of EAP and the implications for the different stakeholders involved. On Day 2, the presentations consider different stakeholders who engage and interact with IELTS from a development, operational or administrative perspective. They touch on aspects of language assessment literacy (LAL) that are beginning to come to the foreground in discussions and research around language testing and assessment.

What can you expect from New Directions 2021?

  • Get inspired. Hear from leaders, policy makers, educational experts and practitioners in the field of English Language Assessment.
  • Gain expertise. Join plenaries, collaborative workshops as well and open meeting spaces to discover best practices in the Americas and around the world.
  • Network with fellow professionals. Engage with a regional community of English Language Assessment experts.

Find out what we have planned for New Directions 2021!