Realising Potential: Policy, Engagement, and Impact

The conference focussed on the critical role that language assessment plays in the creation, reform, and implementation of policy:

Read two conference reports here:

Education Policy and Language Assessment - looking at other countries' practice

New Directions, Yokohama: an unforgettable voyage

Or visit the 2019 conference website 


Realising Potential: Policy, Engagement, and Impact

Since the early 1980s, testing boards have come to realise that the quality of language tests is not only determined by the internal content and behaviour of test items, but also by a number of external, consequential factors such as ethics and fairness. The role that policy plays in determining which tests are selected and how they are used is thus a key element in how we define the quality and usefulness of language tests. 

Across East Asia, governments and ministries of education have sought ways to implement changes to their English language assessment policies with the aim of encouraging better classroom practice and thereby improving teachers’ and students’ English language proficiency. However, there is often a gap between the understanding of policy makers and reformers and those responsible for its implementation in curriculum design, teacher training, and classroom materials. New Directions aims to encourage conversation between these groups to enhance mutual understanding.

Sub themes

Alignment of Policy with Context

An integral consideration of test consequence aims to provide evidence that language tests are oriented in a way that produces results useful to particular groups, communities, or society as a whole. In this sub-theme, we explore how decisions about the use of tests have been made according to considerations of localised group needs and goals and the impacts of an alignment or misalignment of this perspective. 

Stakeholder Engagement

Policy decisions impact all stakeholders when implemented in educational systems, and it is often the end-user – test practitioners and test-takers – that fully feels the effects of assessment policy. This sub-theme looks at how a range of different stakeholders have or have not adapted to policy decisions, their motivations for doing so, and the impact of these decisions on language proficiency.

Assessment and Inclusion 

An important responsibility of test developers is to ensure that tests are fair and accessible for all individuals in educational systems, which is reflected in ILTA’s code of ethics, stating: “Language testers shall have respect for the humanity and dignity of each of their test takers. They shall provide them with the best possible professional consideration and shall respect all persons’ needs, values and cultures in the provision of their language testing service.” This sub-theme explores how policy makers, testing boards, or teachers strive to make tests inclusive for all test-takers. 

Implementing Performance Assessment 

With a greater understanding of international standards and communicative language ability, policy makers around the East Asia region are increasingly interested in the assessment of all four skills involved in communication, include the performance of writing and speaking. Nonetheless, this presents challenges at the implementation level, as institutions and educators may be ill-equipped to deal with the practicalities involved. This sub-theme looks at the challenges and impact of the introduction of performance assessment into classrooms and educational systems. 

Technology and Consequences 

As we advance into the 21st century, technology is playing a more important role in education and particularly in language assessment. Computer-based delivery of tests, computer-automated assessment, and even automated formative feedback of performance skills are increasingly common. This sub-theme invites explores the use and consequences of technology in language assessment.

Key Speakers

  • Dr Talia Isaacs, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, Institute of Education, University College of London
  • Professor Joseph Lo Bianco, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Professor Yoshinori Watanabe, Professor of the Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics at Sophia University, Tokyo
  • Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Head of Assessment Research & Development at the British Council
  • Satoshi Hagiwara, President of National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals (Japan) and Principal of Tokyo Metropolitan Nishi Senior High School

See also