ALTE members and affiliates are actively involved in a number of different projects and special interest groups, bringing pan-European experience to the discussion of issues ranging from the specifics of test development to the impact of language assessment on international migration policy.
Please click on the links to find out more:
When ALTE was formed in 1990 a key objective was to establish common levels of proficiency in order to promote the transnational recognition of language certification in Europe. The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) made significant progress towards this goal, and a number of tools have since been developed to help test providers relate their exams to the CEFR.
Before the CEFR was launched, ALTE produced its own system of levels – this was updated to make reference to the CEFR, and as a result of this process, an ALTE Special Interest Group (SIG) produced the ALTE CEFR/Manual, which provides a means for ALTE members to share their experiences of working with the CEFR, and a platform for the development of CEFR-related tools, documents, workshops and events.
The ALTE CEFR/Manual SIG has been especially active in the area of performance testing. It has developed two different grids for the analysis of sample performances and tasks, and several members of ALTE have provided material designed to help other testing organisations establish the characteristics of performance at particular CEFR levels. This is an ongoing project, and participation in the SIG is open to all ALTE members and affiliates.
By the late 1990s, a number of ALTE members and affiliates had been asked by their governments or state authorities to develop language testing systems for migration, residency or citizenship purposes. This represented a shift of emphasis away from the use of language tests to facilitate language learning to connecting financial and civic rights sanctions to language test results. As a result, these ALTE members and associates had to bridge the gap between their professional and ethical position as language testers and the demands made by politically motivated sponsors.
This led to the establishment of the Language Assessment for Migration and Integration (LAMI) Special Interest Group (SIG). The Group provides a platform for language testers to discuss these issues, and also supports ALTE members and affiliates in their attempts to ensure issues of test fairness, and that the relationship between testing and civil and human rights is properly understood and considered by policy makers.
The LAMI SIG has been very active in organising workshops and stimulating debates within ALTE meetings and SIG members have also initiated and participated in external events.
The LAMI group also cooperates with external bodies such as the Council of Europe. This cooperation has resulted in a survey on developments in language testing and migration in the European countries and the publication of a document with the title “Language tests for social cohesion and citizenship – an outline for policy makers”. In this document, guidance is offered to language testers and policymakers involved in setting up assessment programs in relation to immigration, integration and citizenship. Issues covered include the use and impact of language tests, test purposes and validity, levels of language proficiency, data analysis and quality assurance.
Many education authorities across Europe want to lower the age at which children start to study foreign languages (in response to a variety of geopolitical and economic drivers) and need some form of external certification to validate learners' skills. However, many institutions and teachers are often confused by the administrative decisions resulting from such a policy, and by descriptions of teaching materials and of strategies used in teaching and teacher training. Parents also sometimes view language teaching as secondary to the teaching of more basic subjects and with no means of verifying either goals or results.
The ALTE Young Learners (Teenagers and Children) Special Interest Group (SIG) was set up in response to this ongoing debate. Its objectives are to discuss the issues involved more widely; to provide teachers with suitable materials both in terms of topics and language; and to establish ability levels ('Can do' statements) relevant to the needs of children. This is an important area of education as a language test may represent a child's first experience of serious formative evaluation, and even though such tests are primarily aimed at motivating candidates because everybody succeeds, and only the degree of success varies they can also help to prepare children for future test-taking experiences.
The Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) Special Interest Group (SIG) focuses on examinations designed to measure the language proficiency needed to function within general work-related contexts (rather than specific professions or industries). A key issue for the group is the relationship between LSP and general language examinations; as a result, the ALTE Framework of Levels allows both to be compared so users can see which language qualifications are at the same level.
The LSP SIG also discusses issues such as the role of LSP examinations as an instrument for selection within the job market; LSP in the context of migration; the development of examinations for specific professional needs; and the development of modules or tailor-made examinations for specific groups of candidates.
The Content Analysis Checklists Projects focused on the development of an instrument to allow for a systematic comparison of examination materials across various languages. The result comprises a brief checklist to permit rapid assessment of a test's salient features, and a more detailed checklist which provides a specific description of materials within components of a test battery or test tasks used for various purposes.
The CEFR Grid for the Analysis of Writing Tasks and The CEFR Grid for the Analysis of Speaking Tasks were produced by ALTE members on behalf of the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe. They are part of a ‘tool kit’, available from the Council of Europe, which helps test providers align their examinations to the CEFR, and is designed to analyse test task content and other attributes, facilitating comparison and review.
This project produced a guide for materials writers employed in the production of test materials. The guidelines have been translated into many of the ALTE partner languages and can be used as the basis of a taught course, or can be adapted as self-access materials. The areas covered include: models of language ability; the test production process; item types; and issues in marking and scoring.
The Lingua Project 2002 extended four existing Lingua products in the field of competence of test development to Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian and Lithuanian. The materials comprised a glossary of testing terms; Can Do statements; guidelines for test item writers; and checklists for test evaluation.
A breakthrough level was also developed and extended into Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian, tailored to the specific needs of learners in those countries.
The project FEI was funded by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals - Annuity 2012 - Action 8 "Exchange of experiences and good practices".
The aim of the project was to carry out research at European level, developing recommendations of good practice for the professional development of migrant workers, the improvement of their competencies, conditions and security, and ultimately to contribute a potential increase in the number of migrants employed from third-countries.
The three organisations who collaborated on the data collection for the research were: the University of Perugia – CVCL (Centro per la Valutazione e le Certificazioni Linguistiche), the Goethe-Institut, and Universidade de Lisboa- CAPLE (Centro de Avaliação do Português Língua Estrangeira). The statistical analysis was carried out by Cambridge English Language Assessment.
The results of the project were presented during the final Conference in Rome, Italy, Friday 20th June 2014.
As part of Progetto Lingue 2000, covering foreign language teaching from nursery to high school, the Italian Ministry of Education signed an agreement with a number of foreign exam boards, including ALTE members Alliance Française, Goethe-Institut, Instituto Cervantes, and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations. The agreement gave schools access to international certificates and funding for extra language tuition, training and materials.
The Lisbon Strategy prioritised the recognition of vocational qualifications in Europe, and resulted in the 'New Europass', which aimed to increase transparency and recognition of competences, thus helping transnational mobility. TRANSVALP also resulted from this development; using an on-line evaluation system to recognise vocational language competences, it allows users (workers, the unemployed and trainees) to demonstrate their competences when applying for jobs or as part of their career development.