Keynote Speakers - EALTA 2023
The keynote speakers at EALTA 2023 Conference are Dr. Jamie Schissel from the University of North Carolina, USA and Dr. Ari Huhta from the Centre for Applied Language Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
Ari Huhta

Ari Huhta is Professor of Language Assessment and Director of the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His research interests include diagnostic foreign/second language (L2) assessment, computer-based assessment, and self-assessment, as well as research on the development of L2 reading, writing and vocabulary. He was involved in developing the Finnish National Certificates examination system and the multilingual DIALANG online assessment and feedback system and currently leads a research project investigating a new approach to assessment for supporting L2 learning that combines dynamic and diagnostic assessment. He has co-authored two books on diagnosing L2 reading (2015) and writing (forthcoming in 2023). He has published, for example, in Applied Linguistics, Language Testing, Modern Language Journal, and System, as well as contributed chapters to several handbooks and encyclopedias.

Fairness in language assessment – Why do the purpose and context of assessment matter? 

Assessment is an integral element of all education, and this is very much so in language education, too. Assessment can increase inequality; sometimes this happens deliberately but more often inadvertently, as an unintended consequence. Importantly, however, assessment should normally have such positive effects as supporting learning, which is very much in line with promoting “inclusive and equitable quality education”, one of the Sustainable Education Goals in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. What this might mean in practice and how steps towards this direction could be taken is, however, likely to vary depending on the uses of assessment and on the context in which assessments are carried out. 

Indeed, this presentation will argue that the purpose of assessment and the decisions based on it are key considerations in any evaluations of the equity of assessment. Broadly speaking, fairness in high-stakes summative or proficiency testing used for grading or selection purposes is unlikely to be exactly the same as fairness in formative or diagnostic assessment at the classroom level. Discussions of fairness tend to focus on the high-stakes contexts where specific procedures have been developed to assist all test takers to demonstrate their proficiency, for example, by providing them with specific accommodations such as more time to complete the test or modified versions of the test (e.g., tests written in braille or in large font). There seems to be less treatment in the literature of what equity means in formative assessment and how such assessments could be made fairer. The other key argument made in the talk will be that it is not enough to consider only the assessments when their equity or fairness are evaluated. Assessments never take place in a vacuum but in an educational and societal context and, therefore, it is important to analyse not only what happens during assessment but also what takes place before and after. For example, what procedures are available to examinees and learners who fail to pass an important examination or achieve a required standard? Are there alternatives to assessment to achieve the desired goal, such as the citizenship of a country? 

With reference to the above mentioned two key factors, purpose and context, this talk will discuss in more detail some factors that may contribute to equity in assessment or pose challenges to it. Many such questions have been discussed in the literature on fairness in assessment, in particular, and, therefore, a brief overview of the relevant work on fairness in assessment will be provided as an overall conceptual basis or framework for the talk. The issues to be discussed include, for example, whose fairness is at stake in different contexts, what resources fair assessment requires, and what kind of assessment literacy fair assessment requires from teachers and other stakeholders. Concrete examples of assessments and practices that either support or threaten equity or fairness will be drawn from different countries but particularly from Finland and the Finnish educational context.  

The presentation will conclude with a description of an ongoing research project in Finland that is integrating two very different approaches to classroom assessment, namely dynamic and diagnostic assessment. The new approach aims support language learning in ways that have not used before. The design and implementation of the new approach may shed light on what equity and fairness mean in classroom assessment and how the approach could increase fairness in language assessment. 

Jamie Schissel

Dr. Jamie Schissel is Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA. Her research focuses on assessments with(in) culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Through historical analyses and participatory action research collaborations, these projects emphasize relationship-building to challenge oppressive actions and explore social justice-oriented practices for assessment. She is the editor of TESOL Quarterly Forum and she has published articles in journals such as Applied Linguistics, Language Assessment Quarterly, Language Policy, Language Testing, and TESOL Quarterly. Her book “The Social Consequences of Testing for Language-minoritized Bilinguals in the United States” was published in 2019 (Multilingual Matters). She co-chairs Test-taker Insights in Language Assessment SIG in ILTA. With Drs. Mario López-Gopar and Constant Leung, she co-facilitates Asociación Mexicana de Evaluación de Lenguas Indígenas. In 2021, she received the AERA Bilingual Education Research SIG Early Career Scholar Award. 

A language ecology lens for examining participatory action research in language assessment: Understanding inclusion, equity, and sustainability 

Inclusive and equitable educational opportunities that meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse learners from minoritized communities (henceforth CLD learners) serve to improve the quality of education for all learners (Paris, 2012). Yet in language assessment, CLD learners are test-takers whose complex experiences and skills are often excluded from test construction and design. From the CLD learner perspective, this lack of inclusion asks them to assimilate or disregard vital aspects of themselves. Although many tests ask this of test-takers to a certain extent, for CLD test-takers, this practice operates as one of many processes within systems that function to sustain marginalization with harmful consequences (Schissel, 2019).  

For this presentation, I explore what inclusive and equitable assessment practices mean for CLD learners as related to sustainability by using a language ecology lens to analyze participatory action research (PAR) assessment studies. Language ecology scholarship provides mechanisms to conceptualize the examination and expansion of linguistically diverse practices across macro-, exo-, meso-, and microsystems (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Hornberger & Hult, 2008; Mühlhäusler, 2000). Participatory action research methods importantly involve commitments with community stakeholders (e.g, teachers, students, family members) with respect to decision-making, including research design, implementation, and dissemination (Fals Borda, 2001). Guiding questions posed by Arias and Schissel (2021) regarding language assessment concerns about CLD learners at and across each system level aid in organizing and analyzing the breadth and depth of PAR assessment studies. 

The goal of this presentation is to more clearly articulate both long-standing issues and promising directions for CLD learners with respect to inclusive, equitable, and sustainable assessment efforts. Within this analysis, I highlight the work of a team of researchers, teachers, and community members that I am a part of in Oaxaca, Mexico. Specifically, I focus on how our various PAR endeavors have contributed to the development of guidelines for assessments with/by/for Indigenous communities. These guidelines center trust and interdependence within collaborative assessment approaches that foster socially and culturally responsible language assessments with a commitment to eradicate harmful social consequences of assessments (López-Gopar, 2021). I conclude by summarizing how language ecology and PAR approaches can contribute to more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable assessment practices more generally.