A perspective on language testing/assessment in the context of migration and integration
Given the importance of this year’s theme and relevance to current events in Europe, this invited symposium brings together views from inside and outside Europe on the role of language assessment for migration and integration. Views from Europe are presented by Philia Thalgott from the Council of Europe (Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants – LIAM Project), and by Lorenzo Rocca from the ALTE LAMI group (Language Assessment for Migration and Integration). Views from outside Europe take us the United States and Israel. Margaret Malone (ACTFL Centre) presents tests of adult language progress in the context of U.S. migration, and Elana Shohamy, Ofra Inbar-Lourie, Marina Niznik (Tel Aviv University) present the case of Israel: Ideologies, research, practices and future testing policies for immigrants; Tim McNamara (The University of Melbourne) discusses the view that It’s not really about language: Language tests, citizenship and values. Our discussant is Peter Lenz from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and the moderator is Claudia Harsch (University of Bremen, Germany).
Philia Thalgott, Leader of the Language Policy Progamme, Council of Europe, Strasbourg
(main website : www.coe.int/lang - LIAM website : www.coe.int/lang-migrants)
The Council of Europe (47 member states, Strasbourg) has been working on migration related issues for over four decades and has affirmed the importance of education for migrants in nearly 30 recommendations and resolutions. As affirmed by official texts of the Council of Europe but also the European Union, access to education is particularly important for migrants.
The project on the Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM) is thus embedded in the wider frame of the Council of Europe’s Language Policy Programme which produced for instance the CEFR. It offers support to Council of Europe’s member states in developing language integration policies and practice based on shared fundamental values and on the recognition of adult migrants’ human rights.
The issue of language (of the host country) education for migrants must be addressed as a whole, and not only in relation to tests and requirements for entry, residence and citizenship (which were explored across 3 Council of Europe surveys). Language is inevitably a central aspect of the many issues raised by migration, and particularly integration and the maintenance of social cohesion. The report (published in April 2017) of an academic symposium organised by the Council of Europe offers research findings which can inform the development of policy and practice.
The presentation will offer an overview of the Council of Europe’s resources developed to support linguistic integration and aimed at policy makers, practitioners and bodies concerned by such issues.
Margaret Malone, ACTFL: U.S. migration and tests of adult language progress
With migration to the United States growing, the number of programs that provide language and cultural education services to adult learners also continue to increase. Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) administers, provide support to programs that provide adult education and literacy, career and technical education as well as support to community colleges. Such programs are required to demonstrate progress toward language and cultural goals. This presentation describes the three tests currently approved by OCATE. It then explores the challenges and opportunities provided by the OCTAE program and the tests provided, including the Basic English Skills Test, the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems and the Test of Adult Basic Education. The paper reviews some research conducted on the tests (Farnworth, 2013), as well as some recommendations for both test-specific and program-wide improvements that would improve test delivery and decision-making processes for adult learners of English. It also explores recommendations for improvements in both test delivery and positive washback to language teaching and learning (Farnsworth, 2013; Smith and Gillespie, 2007) and reflections on policy implications and best practices from across the world.
Margaret E. Malone (Ph.D., Georgetown University) is the Director of the ACTFL Center for Assessment, Research, and Development and the Director of the Assessment and Evaluation Language Resource Center and Teaching Professor at Georgetown University. She is the former Associate Vice President for World Languages and International Programs at the Center for Applied Linguistics. Dr.Malone currently directs a variety of projects, including a study investigating student outcomes in three typologically different languages, how to help students and instructors understand language assessment, and a study of similarities and differences between English language academic writing and test tasks. She also directs the development and improvement of a number of language tests.
Elana Shohamy, Ofra Inbar-Lourie, Marina Niznik (Tel Aviv University): The case of Israel: Ideologies, research, practices and future testing policies for immigrants
In Israel tests play a major role in driving the centralized educational system as they propel and impact most educational policies and reforms. Students are tested from a very early age on throughout the educational systems on both content and language by ample types of tests (e.g., centralized national tests, international tests as the PISA, matriculation tests at the end of high schools). At the same time, Israel is a country with high language diversity of immigrants and minority groups. Migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees who speak multiple languages are immersed into Hebrew, the official language along with Arabic, and the language of instruction in schools and Universities. Arabic speakers (forming 20% of the population) study in Arabic as a language of instruction in schools and are then expected to master academic Hebrew as the language of instruction in higher education. Our presentation will pose questions about the interactions between these two phenomena - massive testing and the massive linguistic diversity, and suggest possible modes of action to address these interactions.
In the talk we will first look at how ideologies regarding the revitalization of Hebrew and its perceived national role impact testing requirements for new immigrants and Arabic speakers. We will then examine various strategies to introduce full language repertoires via multilingual (ML) assessment procedures as part of a new ML policy. As part of these strategies, we will report interview data with immigrant students experiencing multi-language testing as well as on new ML assessment policies, part of a new research project of ML educational policies in Israel.
Elana Shohamy is a professor of Multilingual Education at Tel Aviv University where she teaches and researches various sociolinguistics issue related to coexistence and rights in multilingual societies within the frameworks of Critical Language Testing, Language Policy, Migration and Linguistic Landscape. Her current work in language testing focuses on multilingual assessment. Elana authored The power of tests: A critical perspective on the uses of language tests (2001), Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches (2006), and edited various books on the above topics. She was the editor of the 2008 edition of the present volume on language testing and assessment of the Encyclopedia of Language Education (Springer). Elana served as the editor of the journal Language Policy (2007-2015) and the founder and current editor of the new journal Linguistic Landscape. Professor Shohamy was granted the 2010 ILTA Lifetime Achievement Award in Cambridge LTRC for her work on critical language testing.
Ofra Inbar-Lourie heads the Unit for Teacher Education at the School of Education at Tel-Aviv University and lectures in the Multilingual Education program. Her teaching and research interests focus on language teaching and assessment in the areas of language teacher education, curriculum planning, and national and assessment- for-learning policies and practices, and she is involved in policy setting initiatives in these fields. Her current research interests and publications are in the areas of language assessment literacy and the language of instruction in higher education. She is the co-editor of two recent volumes on language education and policy (Challenges for language education and policy: Making space for people, with Bernard Spolsky and Michal Tannenbaum), and on research on language education in Israel (Issues in language teaching in Israel, with Smadar Donitsa-Schmidt).
Marina Niznik is currently teaching Russian at the School of Foreign Languages and Russian literature at Cummings Center for Russian and East European Studies in Tel Aviv University. She is involved in several projects which explore the acculturation of Russian immigrants in Israel and didactic problems of teaching Russian as foreign and heritage language. Her research interests include linguistic-didactic problems of teaching Russian as foreign and heritage language, and socio-cultural and linguistic aspects of Russian language outside Russian Federation. She herself wrote and co-authored a number if textbooks for teaching Russian.
Tim McNamara (The University of Melbourne): It’s not really about language: Language tests, citizenship and values
The use of language tests as instruments of policy in the context of immigration and integration in Europe and elsewhere is a clear example of the political function of language tests. Language testing, as Terry Quinn pointed out, is an inherently political activity. Discussions of this issue in language testing have focused on the ethics of language testing, and have tended to emphasize issues of fairness (test quality) rather than justice (test use), to use the distinction proposed by McNamara and Ryan (2011), with some notable exceptions, particularly in the work of Elana Shohamy (2001, 2006). Very recent proposals by the Australian Government to increase the salience of tests of English language proficiency in a more restrictive process of access to Australian citizenship are a classic example of the use of language tests in Government policy, and call for a response from language testers. In what terms should we respond? And what preparation should language testers have to enable them to respond most effectively in such situations? This paper uses the context of recent developments to discuss the role of social values in theories of the validity of language tests, and the limitations of current approaches.
Tim McNamara is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor in the School of Language and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne, where he was closely involved in the founding (with Terry Quinn) of the graduate program in applied linguistics and (with Alan Davies) of the Language Testing Research Centre. He is best known for his work in language testing, where his research has focused on performance assessment, theories of validity, the use of Rasch models, and the social and political meaning of language tests. He developed the Occupational English Test, a specific purpose test for health professionals, and was part of the research teams involved in the development of both IELTS and TOEFL-iBT. His work on language and identity has focused on the impact of poststructuralist approaches. Tim is currently serving as the President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL).
Lorenzo Rocca, CVCL, University for Foreigners of Perugia
This abstract is submitted on behalf of the Language and Migration Special Interest Group (LAMI SIG) of the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE).
My contribution within the EALTA Symposium aims to clarify the role of assessment in the context of migration. It focuses on the ethical use of assessments and test results. I will contextualize and support the aim by considering the role that ALTE-LAMI played and continues to play through its collection of concrete evidence of assessment requirements across Europe. These assessments range from language tests at different levels for different purposes and Knowledge of Society tests. More in details, the data collected by LAMI via questionnaires has been compiled and collated into posters, tables and summarized in a LAMI Booklet entitled: Language tests for access, integration and citizenship: an outline for policymakers. I will summarize what LAMI members learned while completing the Booklet (such as the difficulties of comparability across contexts) what the issues are now (e.g. our concerns over assessment use as a barrier to entry and integration, how to deal with the most vulnerable groups represents by illiterates ) and our recommendations for the future.
Lorenzo Rocca has a degree in Classics and a postgraduate degree in the Didactics of L2 Italian. After having been a teacher of Italian as a Foreign Language, he has worked at the CVCL (Centre for Evaluation and Language Certification) since 2004. His duties range from marking and examining to item writing and running seminars. Since 2006 he coordinates research projects focused on the link between teaching and evaluation in the migration context, on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Internal affairs too. He has published both the Specifications for the CVCL exams for adult migrants and a KoS (Knowledge of Society) book for A2 learners of Italian. Lorenzo is the chair of the LAMI group (Language Assessment for Migrants’ Integration) in ALTE since 2008 and he takes part to the workshops and meetings of the LIAM group (Language Integration of Adult Migrants) of the Council of Europe since 2014.
Discussant: Peter Lenz, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Current position: Senior Researcher and Research Manager, Institute of Multilingualism, University of Fribourg & University of Teacher Education Fribourg; Lecturer of German as a Foreign Language, Domain "Multilingualism and Foreign Language Education", University of Fribourg (Switzerland).
Peter Lenz specializes in language testing and assessment, curriculum development, language teaching research, and quantitative methods for research and evaluation. He has contributed to regional and national large-scale assessments, including study design, task development and data analysis. He made major contributions to the development and dissemination of the European Language Portfolio, as well as the Swiss Educational Standards for School Foreign Languages, and he has led the development of the Swiss Framework Curriculum for the Promotion of Migrants' Language Skills. His research and teaching focus on language assessment and language teaching and learning.
Moderator: Claudia Harsch, University of Bremen, Germany
Current position: Professor for Language Learning and Teaching at at the Faculty 10 Languages and Literature, Academic Director of the Languages Centre, University of Bremen, Germany.
Claudia Harsch is a professor at the University of Bremen, specialising in language learning, teaching and assessment. She has worked in Germany and in the UK, and is active in teacher training worldwide. Her research interests focus on areas such as language assessment, educational evaluation and measurement, intercultural communication, and the implementation of the CEFR. Claudia is the current president of the European Association of Language Testing and Assessment.