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Spotlight on... Language assessment for young learners
Friday 11th November 2022

In the fourth of the BAAL TEASIG webinar series, we shone a spotlight on assessment for young learners.

​We were delighted to welcome not one, but two speakers: Dr Szilvia Papp is a language assessment consultant with specific experience in language assessment and young learners. Wenjun Ding (Elyse) is just completing her PhD in language assessment and young learners and discussed her research in the area.

Invited speakers
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DR SZILVIA PAPP (Assessment consultant, UK)

"Young learners’ assessment and the CEFR: Songs of innocence and of experience"

This presentation is about the relevance of the CEFR to young English language learners’ curricula, teaching and learning, and assessment. Based on seminal studies, I will discuss how the CEFR has been adopted to inform and evaluate young learner (YL)-oriented language curricula and to set targets. I will also discuss how the content standards that the CEFR represents have been adapted to develop age-appropriate performance level descriptors to guide teaching and learning. These CEFR-related YL descriptors have been mainly used to offer feedback in self-assessment. The majority of the talk will focus on how the CEFR has been instrumental in designing tests for YLs aligned to its content and performance standards, and to set cut scores in order to facilitate interpretation of test scores in results reports.

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WENJUN DING (ELYSE) (University of Bristol, UK)

“Young language learners’ cognitive processes of computerised picture-based causal explanation speaking tasks: An eye-tracking study”

This session focuses on language assessment and young learners. Language assessments for young language learners (YLLs) are flourishing, with notable examples such as Cambridge English Examinations for Young Learners, Trinity Stars, TOEFL Young Student Series and PTE Young Learners, with the latter two explicitly focused on online delivery. Validation studies of these tests tend to focus on empirical scale alignment to frameworks such as the CEFR, with limited studies examining young learners’ cognitive processes. Additionally, there is limited evidence of how these assessments have been designed to address language learning requirements in specific education contexts. For example, in recent years, EFL curriculum reform in China has promoted the use of open-ended questions like ‘why’ questions and meaning-focused tasks in EFL classrooms, yet there is a lack of assessment tasks designed to measure such an instructional focus. In this session, Wenjun Ding will present her research which investigates how young learners engage with computerised picture-based causal explanation speaking tasks (CEST), which were developed specifically for this research. Ninety-six Chinese primary-school EFL learners (aged from 9 to 12) completed two CESTs in Chinese and English with eye movements recorded, and two English vocabulary size tests. This talk will report the findings and discuss how they shed light on the future of computerised language assessment for YLLs.


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