Friday 2 July 2021

While most people will readily acknowledge the need for the elements that make up a typical learning environment to somehow fit together, it is not at all unusual to find that these elements are seen as being very different entities; developed by individuals or teams working in isolation. The elements I refer to are the curriculum, all things related to the delivery of the curriculum, and all aspects of assessment.  

In this talk I will outline a working model of what I have referred to in the past as a comprehensive learning system. The model presents the learning context as a system, into which the three elements described above contribute symbiotically. Where no clear link is made between the elements the system is destined to fail – a situation that exists all too frequently across the world. This situation is made more likely given the typical isolationist approach to development described above. The solution to this involves some significant changes in the way we currently view learning professionals. The concept of the expert whose focus is solely on one element of the system is essentially redundant. The benefits of designing and building learning systems with integrated teams simultaneously overseeing all three elements and consisting of individuals with specific expertise but with broader system and contextual knowledge will be outlined. 

While all three elements are equally important, my focus in this talk will be on the integration of assessment into the system. The primary concern here is the need for appropriate, system-specific assessment, which brings to mind the associated need for local or localised assessment systems. These ideas will be presented and examples of good and bad practice will be discussed and pitfalls pointed out.


 Professor Barry O’Sullivan Picture

Professor Barry O’Sullivan

Head of Assessment Research & Development at the British Council, he was responsible for the design and development of the Aptis test service. He has undertaken research across many areas on language testing and assessment and its history and has worked on the development and refinement of the socio-cognitive model of test development and validation since 2000. He is the founding president of the UK Association of Language Testing and Assessment (UKALTA).