Conference Theme - New Directions in English Language Assessment

Realising Potential: Policy, Engagement, and Impact

The 7th British Council New Directions in English Language Assessment in East Asia will focus on the critical role that language assessment plays in the creation, reform, and implementation of policy. This year’s edition will return to Japan, a country which is in the midst of implementing large-scale language assessment reform. 

Background to Theme

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 as a way to encourage better classroom practice and therefore improve teachers’ and students’ English language proficiency. An example of this is the introduction of performance skills assessment – speaking and writing tests – as a requirement for university admissions, job placement, or entrance to other study programs. 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.  

This year’s New Directions conference will seek to answer these questions: 

  • How do policy-makers decide on the creation of new policy or the reform of existing policy? What are their motivations when introducing new tests? 
  • How do educators interpret these changes and implement these in the classroom? What is the effect of this? 
  • What are the results of policy reform on language learning and proficiency? 
  • How have policy makers sought to align their policy with local contexts and needs, and what has the impact of this been? 
  • What steps have testing boards and policy makers taken to make tests more inclusive for all test takers? 
  • What is the impact of adding speaking and writing tests in contexts where students were previously not tested in these skills?  
  • Consequences of the use of technology: Testing boards are often quick to adapt technological assessment solutions, but what affect does this have on test-takers and institutions? 


The critical role that language assessment plays in the creation, reform, and implementation of language assessment policy. We invite papers that focus on issues surrounding assessment policy, including how policy is created, how it is implemented, and the effect it has on stakeholders. This theme includes the effect this has on test-takers, how teachers orient syllabuses towards tests, decisions based on test results, the motivations of policy makers when introducing tests and the overall effect of test use on language proficiency. 


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. For this subtheme, we invite proposals that 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. For this subtheme, we invite proposals that look 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 subtheme invites proposals that explore 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. For this subtheme, we invite proposals that look 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 subtheme invites papers on the consequences of the use of technology in language assessment. 

General Strand

In addition to the theme and subthemes above, the general subtheme aims to provide an opportunity for researchers to submit outstanding proposals on topics or innovative research and projects of general interest to the region or the wider field of language testing. For the general strand, we invite contributions of a more general nature dealing with other areas of inquiry in language testing and assessment not directly related to the main theme.

See also