The purpose of the Assessment Research Grants is to contribute, in parallel with internal British Council research activities, to innovation in assessment practice, as well as to the validation of Aptis and other British Council language assessment projects.
The research agenda upon which the grants are premised is based on the modified socio-cognitive validation framework (Weir, 2005; O’Sullivan & Weir, 2011; O’Sullivan, 2014). The use of alternative validation frameworks that also contribute evidence of the validity of British Council assessments will also be considered. The goal of this research agenda is to build a significant body of substantive evidence of the validity of British Council assessments and contribute to innovation in language assessment development in general.
Projects which are more exploratory in nature and utilise instruments other than Aptis will be considered provided the proposer can demonstrate strong potential for impact in the field of language assessment.
Projects will usually be for a period of one year but projects lasting up to 18 months will also be considered.
Who can apply?
Educational institutions and suitably qualified individuals are invited to apply. In order to foster our relationship with partners, we will also encourage applications from test users interested in understanding how British Council tests impact on their institution. Please note that regardless of the geographical location of applicants and regardless of where the actual research will take place, all contracts for research projects issued by the British Council are subject to the laws of England and Wales; this is non-negotiable.
The research grants support researchers around the world in conducting and disseminating the highest quality research.
Financial support for individual projects will, in principle, be limited to a maximum of £17,500, although it is expected that projects requesting financial support in the region of £10,000 to £15,000 will be most positively considered.
Applications for extensive travel or large items of equipment will not be supported. N.B. Applications should NOT at this stage include requests for funding for conference presentations; if completion of the research project results in acceptance of a paper at an international conference, the British Council will consider supporting the attendance of one of the authors through a separate application.
Areas of interest for 2021
We would like to invite proposals that explore innovation in task types and task construction as well as approaches to scoring/marking.
The following are the five main areas that are of particular interest to the British Council in 2021:
NEW TASK TYPES
- New and innovative ways of testing all four skills, particularly those exploiting computer delivery or the use of new technologies to introduce new task types.
- New and innovative ways of testing grammar and vocabulary.
- Exploring new ways of designing and implementing integrated tasks.
- Integration of scenario-based assessment in computer delivered test systems.
- Identifying a range of features which can be manipulated in ways that will have stable and predictable effects on item difficulty.
- Automated item generation – issues related to ensuring consistent difficulty across items at the item generation stage.
METHODS OF MARKING
- Develop innovative ways of scoring and reporting, including the use of IRT ability values as the basis for direct score transformation.
- Investigate the use of technology to enhance the rating of productive skills, including the use of automated scoring and artificial intelligence; of particular interest are proposals integrating human and automated scoring. This could include corpus-driven approaches to spoken grammar and / or incorporating the use of spoken grammar within a rating framework.
- Explore innovative ways of capturing more contextual information around the test score and incorporating that into diagnostic feedback (e.g. the use of eye-tracking, pupil dilation etc. in estimating the amount of effort/concentration of students while completing test items).
- Investigate the nature of comprehensibility within task specifications and rating scales for speaking (e.g. phonological control in the CEFR Companion Volume – see below)
TEST DELIVERY IN RESPONSE TO COVID
- Implications of remote invigilation for online assessments (e.g. on test taker anxiety, security, accessibility, etc.)
USE OF THE CEFR COMPANION VOLUME
We welcome proposals which address the potential implications for assessment of updated materials in the Companion Volume of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2020), particularly with respect to their application in new task types and rating scales:
- New descriptor scales
- Existing scales updated with additional/revised descriptors
- Mediation skills
- Plurilingual/Pluricultural competence
CORPUS-BASED APPROACHES TO TEST VALIDATION
We invite proposals that seek to make use of the British Council Lancaster Aptis Corpus. (This is the Aptis spoken corpus of test-taker responses elicited through the Aptis speaking test)
- Test impact on a variety of stakeholders
- Test washback
Consideration will also be given to other issues of current interest in the fields of applied linguistics and second language acquisition in relation to language assessment.