YALS 10th Anniversary Conference: “Latest Developments and Practical Application of CEFR in Testing, Assessment and Certification” Belgrade, 16-18 October 2009

by Aleksandra Strahinić, Grammar School, Leskovac

I have the pleasure to inform you about the Conference on Testing, Assessment and Certification held at “Guarnerius” – Centar Lepih Umetnosti / the Center of Fine Arts/ in Belgrade on 17th and 18th October, 2009. This wonderful and successful Conference was organized by YALS – the Association of Language Schools of Serbia on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

On the first day, the presenters were Ms. Mila Angelova with her workshops on Certification and Ms Slobodanka Kitić with her workshops on Assessment. Ms Mila Angelova is the Head of DOS of AVO-Bell School of English in Sofia, Bulgaria and a member of the EAQUALS Certification Project Group of the assessment panel. Ms. Slobodanka Dana Kitić, PhD in Linguistics, teaches at the University of Belgrade, University of Niš, State University of Novi Pazar and Mediterranean University of Montenegro.

On the second day, the presenters were Ms  Annie Broadhead, ESOL teacher, teacher trainer, ELT author, with her workshop on Testing and Mr  Željko Jovanović,  Business Development Manager and Cambridge ESOL Local Secretary, who introduced novelties regarding Cambridge exams. Ms Broadhead is also a Team Leader for the Cambridge University TESOL Speaking Tests, Chair of Proficiency Listening Test and she also writes for the Cambridge ESOL exams.

The presenters provided practical training in the application of CEF levels in testing and assessment, introduced EAQUALS certification scheme, encouraged teachers to further develop, introduced new ways of taking Cambridge exams at the British Council – CB /computer based/ tests which will enable more efficient and effective and more frequent exam taking. They also talked about different procedures of standardization, EAQUALS inspection assessment system, CEFR-related assessment approach, attaching quality to assessment procedures, moderation techniques, alternative assessment as a type of evaluation that directly evaluates learners’ language skills, test as a procedure for measuring ability, knowledge or performance (achievement test, language aptitude test, placement test, proficiency test, diagnostic test, progress test, TOEFL, TOEIC, TSE, TWE), test piloting, reviewing test results, test reliability/validity, techniques, teaching aids, reference materials, supplementary materials, methodology of ELT today,  etc.

The participants, about sixty of them, listened attentively, asked questions, actively exchanged their teaching and testing experiences and were free to express their opinions on different matters covered in the presentations. There was also a representative of ELTA present, the Association that YALS has successful cooperation with.

Here is what some of the participants said about the Conference:

  • “Very useful information concerning CEFR, Cambridge ESOL exam opportunities and future British Council plans.”
  • “The Conference has provided useful advice for my future work with a good combination of domestic and foreign lecturers.”
  • “Everything was well taken care of and my expectations were fully met .
  • “What I value above all is the possibility of practical applications of things learnt and shared at this event. Most teachers take assessment seriously but we do not always have a clear picture of what it entails, apart from standard formal tests. After this conference, I am glad to say that my understanding of it has greatly improved.”
  • “An excellent venue and the pleasant atmosphere delighted the participants from a lot of schools from Serbia.
  • “The presenters, from their own point of view, have provided an insight into the matter that is not at all simple. In that way, each participant had the approachable direction towards his /her interests, everybody wad educated and could take the advantage of each presentation. There was also a great deal of useful information for managing language schools and they could recognize their place both in domestic and international institutions, which is the road ahead to the internationally recognized certificates and diplomas. All in all, the Conference was very successful and the participants were satisfied with the presentations and organization. It should be also pointed out that this is a unique opportunity for  language schools to get acquainted with one another, share and exchange their experience and consider future cooperation.”

Personally speaking, I have to express gratitude for successful organization and hospitality to YALS. I am looking forward to the next YALS conference or any other activity or event organized by this Association and I would highly recommend it to all my colleagues.