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Main theme

Connecting contexts: Linking Assessment, Learning and Language Use

There are ongoing changes in the way we learn, work and communicate, as well as increasing globalization, all facilitated by rapid technological development. These changes are challenging traditional ideas of work and learning. In such a dynamic context, shared understanding is crucial to mitigating divides and supporting transitions. Language plays a crucial role in this mutual understanding.

The 8th East Asia New Directions conference focuses on the role of language assessment at the nexus of shifting systems, ideas and lives. Good language assessment practice provides an opportunity to connect teaching, learning and the curriculum; to serve as a frame of reference for comparing performance and ability; and to link test scores to real-life use of language in the workplace, schools and academia. We will explore how language assessment is used as a tool for transition between different stages of the education system and between education systems, how it can facilitate preparation for communication in a globalised world, and the increasing interconnectedness between technology and language use, learning and assessment. As a key regional conference that brings together people from different disciplines, professions, sectors of education and countries across East Asia and beyond, New Directions 2020 aims to provide a rich forum for discussion that extends across various contexts of language assessment and connects a range of different stakeholders.


Alternative approaches to assessment in learning systems 

High-stakes tests have traditionally served as milestones in the educational careers of learners from a young age and these have impacted how they are taught as well as what and how they learn. As education systems look to adapt in order to produce the skills needed in a rapidly changing world, formative, continuous or other alternative methods of assessing learners’ language skills are being considered or introduced. For this strand, we invite proposals that present research or theoretical models that focus on alternative approaches to testing. 

Connecting assessment and real-life language use 

The primary purpose of most language tests is to evaluate a learner’s ability to function in a particular target-language use situation. Reflecting real-life communication contexts in a test environment is challenging and test designers are limited by practical and other constraints, however. Presentations of research into or theoretical perspectives on the relationship between assessment and the real-life use of language and how this might be strengthened are invited for this strand. 

English ownership, identity and consequences for assessment 

It has long been recognised that English has a multifaceted, shared ownership, most often manifest in the variety of forms and the myriad of speakers who leverage and shape the language to describe their own experience and identity to a global audience. With the intrinsic link between language, power, and identity, as Asian economies have grown and Asian cultures have grown in influence, there has been an increasing assertion of Asian Englishes as bona fide forms of the language. While the recognition of diversity within a language so widely used is to be celebrated, multifariousness poses a particular conundrum for language assessment where proficiency is frequently measured in relation to a standard. This strand invites papers that explore the connection between Englishes and language testing or present examples of how the diversity of English can be reflected in language assessment. 

Assessment practices across lifelong learning 

As changing economies and rapidly emerging technologies shape labour markets, traditional perspectives on the skills necessary for future learning and employability are being disrupted and people are required to be more flexible and adaptable, and engage in continuous learning throughout their careers. How do different phases of learning build on each other, and how can language assessment play a greater role in connecting learning across different stages of formal education and beyond? Proposals around these topics are invited for this sub-theme. 

The impact and consequences of technology 

The future is here: computer delivered tests, automated assessment of language proficiency and personalised learning apps are commonplace. Increasingly widespread use of technology for learning, teaching and testing provides rich data for exploration of the effects of this trend and rapid improvements in AI offer an opportunity to experiment with potential iterations of testing tools. In this strand, we invite papers that focus on the impact and consequences of new technology on language assessment. 

A teaching-perspective: quality assessment and the impact in the classroom 

At the centre of education and assessment lies the learner. While discussions at theoretical and policy levels are important, consequences are felt in the classroom and that is where real change emerges. In this sub-theme, we invite teachers and practitioners to present on practical implications of testing for teaching. In particular, action research and in-practice examples of overcoming the challenges or positively leveraging test washback are welcomed.

See also