Editor’s note: TIRF Trustee Nick Saville, Director of Research and Thought Leadership at Cambridge English, shares details from the LTRC event held in June earlier this year.

As highlighted in TIRF’s June Newsletter, the 39th Language Testing Research Colloquium (LTRC) took place in Bogotá, Colombia in July. It was the first time that this annual event was organised in a Latin American country. In conjunction with a team from the International Language Testing Association, it was impressively hosted by the Department of Languages and Culture at the prestigious Universidad de Los Andes, ranked fifth in Latin America, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2017.

The theme of the conference was on “Language Assessment Literacy,” a topical concern within language education. A particular focus was on the way the concept operates across stakeholder boundaries. There were lively discussions on how to achieve better involvement of participants in understanding fundamental issues and how assessment can further educational and societal goals in a positive way. The opportunity to reach a new audience of stakeholders from across the Americas was greatly appreciated and the organisers were warmly congratulated for their initiatives.

Highlights of the conference included the Samuel J. Messick Memorial Lecture, which was sponsored by Educational Testing Service and presented by Dr. Stephen Sireci, University of Massachusetts Amherst. He spoke about “How Would Messick Validate 21st-Century Language Assessments?” Another key address was the Davies Lecture on Language Assessment Literacies and the language testing community, which was sponsored by the British Council. It was delivered by former TIRF grantee Dr. Ofra Inbar-Lourie, Tel-Aviv University, who spoke about “A Mid-life Identity Crisis?”

As usual, LTRC was attended by a large number of TIRF supporters and several previous participants in the DDG Programme. Dr Nick Saville, TIRF Trustee and Director of Research and Thought Leadership at Cambridge English, attended the conference and took part in a number of sessions. He participated in a symposium on multilingualism and language policies in language testing, during which he gave a talk entitled “How Can Multilingualism be Supported through Language Education in Europe?”

As is customary, the gala dinner provided the venue for the annual awards to be presented. The Cambridge/ILTA Distinguished Achievement Award was presented posthumously for the first time to Dr. Sauli Jaakko Takala for his life’s work in the field of language testing, especially in his native Finland and across Europe. Other awards included the Caroline Clapham IELTS Masters Award, which was presented in absentia to Dai Wei for his work on multidialectal listening assessment of young learners, which was supervised by Dr. Carsten Roever at the University of Melbourne.

This year’s Jacqueline Ross TOEFL Dissertation Award will be presented next year to the winner, Dr. Jing Xu (Cambridge English), who was unable to attend the event this time. His dissertation on predicting ESL learners’ oral proficiency by measuring the collocations in their spontaneous speech was supervised by Dr. Carol Chapelle, Iowa State University.

The TIRF 2016 Doctoral Dissertation Grants in Language Assessment were also presented by Nick Saville on behalf of TIRF. Many previous award winners were present but none of the 2016 winners was able to attend. As a result, three well-known figures in the world of language assessment, Dr. Ute Knoch (University of Melbourne), Dr. Lorena Llosa (New York University), and Dr. Liying Cheng (Queen’s University) were happy to accept the awards on behalf of the students whom they had supervised:

  • Christopher van Booven (New York University) – Assessing Interactional Affordances and Gains in the Study Abroad Homestay and the Language Classroom: A Conversation-Analytic Approach
  • Naoki Ikeda (University of Melbourne) – Exploring Construct and Practicality of an Interactional Test for L2 Oral Pragmatic Performance
  • Yongfei Wu (Queen’s University) – Relationships among Students’ Perceptions of and Reactions to Teacher Feedback, Self regulation, and Academic Achievement in the Chinese Tertiary EFL Context
  • Simon Davidson (University of Melbourne) – Investigating and Revising the Standards Set on the Occupational English Test’s (OET) Writing Sub-test

Next year, the conference will be hosted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand – again a first for the hosting of the event – from July 4 to 6, 2018. It will be the 40th Colloquium offered by LTRC.

Left to Right: Ute Knoch, Lorena Llosa, Liying Cheng, and Nick Saville