16th International Conference


“Migration and Language Education”

Thessaloniki, Greece, 6-8 October 2017


The role of assessment in the language education
of immigrants and refugees

Saturday, 7 October 2017
10:00 - 17:00

The theme of this year’s GALA conference is “Migration and Language Education”, a response to the recent massive influx of migrant populations into Southern Europe in general and Greece in particular. The presence in the same classroom of students from a wide variety of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds poses a formidable challenge to teachers, especially when large numbers of students lack proficiency in the language of schooling.

The assessment of immigrants’ developing proficiency in the language of schooling will play a central role in whatever measures are taken nationally and locally to provide them with an education that promotes equity and social inclusion. GALA is concerned that the modes of assessment used by national and school authorities and individual teachers in their classrooms should play a positive role, fostering inclusion by supporting teachers in the provision of needs-based education. GALA has therefore decided to seek funding support from EALTA to include in its conference a one-day symposium aimed at language and subject teachers working in primary and secondary education. The purpose of the symposium (maximum enrolment 45) is to raise awareness, stimulate networking, and encourage participants to think of designing and launching small-scale collaborative projects.

GALA has invited Professor David Little (Trinity College Dublin) to give a plenary presentation on the linguistic inclusion of immigrant students. For ten years (1998–2008) Professor Little was non-stipendiary director of Integrate Ireland Language and Training, a not-for-profit campus company funded by the Irish government to provide intensive English language courses for adult refugees and to support the teaching and learning of English as an Additional Language in primary and post-primary schools. This latter work included the development of a set of proficiency scales based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), a version of the European Language Portfolio that was distributed in 5000 copies each year, and a suite of assessment instruments. Since 2006 Professor Little has also contributed to the Council of Europe’s work on the linguistic integration of adult migrants.

Professor Little has agreed to coordinate the symposium, to which Professor Gudrun Erickson and Dr Déirdre Kirwan will also contribute.

Gudrun Erickson is Professor of Education in Language and Assessment at the Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She began her career as a teacher of languages and has extensive experience of teaching, teacher education and curriculum development. For almost twenty years she has been project leader for the Swedish National Testing and Assessment Programme for Languages, developing assessment materials for different age groups and for formative as well as summative use. She has been and is currently involved in a number of European projects on learning, teaching and assessment. From 2013 to 2016 she was president of EALTA. Her main research interest is in collaborative approaches to the development of language assessment and testing practices and materials, with a particular focus on issues of agency and contributions by test-takers.

For almost thirty years, until her retirement in 2015, Déirdre Kirwan was principal of Scoil Bhríde (Cailíní), Blanchardstown. The school’s pupil population became increasingly diverse from the mid-1990s on, until by 2015 almost 80% of the 320 pupils had a home language other than English or Irish. Most of them started school with little or no proficiency in English, and altogether there were some 50 home languages in the school. Scoil Bhríde has implemented a policy of inclusion that encourages pupils to use their home language for whatever purposes seem appropriate to them, inside as well as outside the classroom. As a result of this policy, pupils develop age-appropriate literacy in English, Irish (the obligatory second language of the curriculum), French (which pupils learn in the last two primary classes), and their home languages. Dr Kirwan is currently working with Professor Little on a book-length case study of Scoil Bhríde’s policy and practice, and Professor Little will draw on this work in his plenary presentation.