The 2024 Call for Proposals is now open! Submissions will be welcomed until
31 March 2024, 23:59 UK time.
Please find the areas of interest and key dates for 2024 below. If you would like to contact the team, please email ARAG@britishcouncil.org.

The purpose of the Assessment Research Grants is to contribute to innovation in assessment theory and practice through the validation of Aptis and other British Council language assessments. We invite proposals for original research investigating key areas of interest for 2024 as detailed below. 

British Council language assessment research is based on the Socio-Cognitive Model of Language Testing Development and Validation, most recently described in Chalhoub-Deville and O’Sullivan, 2020). Proposals utilising this theoretical model will be prioritised. The use of alternative validation models and frameworks that contribute evidence of the validity of British Council assessments will also be considered. 

Projects which are more exploratory in nature and utilise instruments other than Aptis will be considered provided the proposal demonstrates strong potential for impact in the field of language assessment.

Projects will generally be 12-18 months in duration but, in exceptional circumstances, projects lasting up to 24 months will also be considered.

Who can apply?

  • The Principal Investigator (PI) must be associated with an educational institution or recognised research organisation, similar in standing to the institutions recognised by UKRI.
  • Collaborative proposals involving interdisciplinary teams are encouraged, and PIs representing diverse contexts and backgrounds are welcome.
  • 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.
  • Contracts will be with the Administering Institution, which will be the institution at which the PI is based.

Financial support

Financial support for individual projects will be limited to a maximum of £25,000. Please note that projects will be evaluated based on value-for-money in the given context.

  • Applications for extensive travel or large items of equipment will not be supported.
  • 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.

Key deliverables

  • Interim report (timeline to be agreed) to be sent out for external review
  • Technical report to be published online by British Council (alternative publication of the research in peer-reviewed journals will also be considered).
  • Sharing a record of presentations, publications and other dissemination of the project with the British Council for inclusion in our impact and reporting.
  • Availability to present on the research topic at conferences and online (such opportunities will be agreed in advance on a case-by-case basis).

Please find the key areas of interest for 2024 below

 

The following two areas are of particular interest to the British Council in 2024. Technology is not identified as a separate area of interest as we believe that technology permeates these areas of interest and can be a key component or focus of either of these areas if relevant.

1. Assessing young learners

Young Learners covers a diverse range of age groups. In the context of British Council assessments, we have Aptis for Teens aimed at students in lower secondary as well as the British Council Primary Test aimed at students at the upper end of primary school. Projects focusing on these assessments are encouraged. However, this area of interest can also include assessment and feedback approaches for students in primary school age groups more broadly. As YL assessment is still a dynamic and emerging field, proposals contributing to a better understanding of the issues, theoretical basis, and opportunities for integrating assessment into teaching and learning more broadly for Young Learners are also welcome.

YL characteristics and considerations

  • Student instructions: what’s the best way to communicate task instructions to YLs? E.g. brief or detailed written / aural / visual instructions?
  • Young learners and onset age of learning & testing
  • Appropriate test duration for tests of young leaners of different ages
  • Use of visuals and animation to replicate authenticity in young learner assessment
  • Use of machine learning for automated scoring: how does scoring compare to pen and paper tests at the same level?

YLs and Context of Use

  • Multilingualism (i.e. impact of learning another language at the same time as learning basic skills in L1) 
  • Considerations around multilingual assessment for young learners
  • Assessment and alignment with the school curriculum

2. Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) in language assessment

Proposals in this category should focus on the intersection of English language assessment and EDI principles in educational contexts. Ideally, assessment tools and processes should be designed and administered in a way that is fair and unbiased, considering the diverse backgrounds and characteristics of test-takers. Addressing EDI in English language assessment contributes to the reliability and validity of the assessments, ensuring that they measure language proficiency accurately and fairly for a broad range of test-takers.

Topics of interest under this theme include but are not limited to:

Validation of assessment tools that promote an inclusive learning environment

  • Exploration of construct validity in modified assessments
  • The use of assistive technology
  • Innovation in universal design approaches to assessment
  • Accessibility measures for classroom and alternative assessment

Accommodations

  • Investigations into the use of extra time across a range of candidate needs
  • Effectiveness of specific accommodations on candidate performance
  • Remote proctoring for candidates with specific needs
  • Online delivery of special accommodations
  • Test-taker perspectives on tests with accommodations

Assessment and fairness

  • Differential item functioning for images/item content representing different social groups
  • Innovative methods for detection of bias in assessments
  • Mitigating bias in the way that scoring engines are developed
  • Mitigating bias in AI generated test content
  • Investigating socio-e economic factors that may impact test performance such as age, exposure to technology, socio-economic background etc.

Key dates for the Assessment Research Grants 2024

February-March 2024

Call for proposals

31 March 2024

Applications close

April 2024

Preliminary review of applications

May 2024

Evaluation and selection

30 June 2024

Notification of decisions to applicants

July-August 2024

Drawing up and signing of contracts

1 September 2024

Project start*

*We are assuming and working towards a project start date of 1 September, however this will be subject to the completion of administrative processes, including the signing of a Research Services contract.

Previous recipients of an Assessment Research Grant

2023

  • Gladys Plens de Quevedo Pereira de Camargo and Juliana Reichert Assunção Tonelli (Foundation for Development Support at UEL) - Language assessment Accessibility Resource Centre - LaARC
  • David Allen (Ochanomizu University) - Investigating the washback potential of the BCT-S
  • Nicola Latimer and Sathena Chan (University of Bedfordshire) - Aptis writing in real-life conditions: the impact of allowing access to spelling and grammar checking
  • Janine Knight and Joana Puig (International University of Catalonia) - Creating a school-child-family evaluation rubric for evaluating children’s plurilingual and intercultural competence in a Catalan Primary school

2022

  • Tineke Brunfaut and Judit Kormos (University of Lancaster) - Multimodal integrated skills assessment: Investigating the construct of viewing-to-write tasks
  • Okim Kang (Northern Arizona University) - Equality, diversity, and inclusion: different varieties of accents in Aptis English listening tests  

2021

  • Andrew Bax, Manoranjan Sathyamurthy, Sathena Chan, Chihiro Inoue, John Oyekan (Weblingua LTD, University of Bedfordshire, University of Sheffield) - Towards building an automated scoring model for assessing appropriate use of metadiscourse markers in Aptis Writing across CEFR levels: A multidisciplinary study
  • Salomé Villa Larenas and Daniel Muñoz (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Universidad de Chile) - Exploring the impact of Aptis on Chilean EFL teacher education: views from programme decision makers
  • Sathena Chan and Nahal Khabbazbashi (University of Bedfordshire) - Towards new task types in the digital age: perspectives from different educational contexts
  • Prithvi N. Shrestha, Maria Leedham and Tanzeela Anbreen (The Open Univeristy) - Examining transitivity, mood, theme, lexical diversity, metadiscourse markers and keywords in Aptis test-takers’ spoken performance across CEFR levels

2019

  • Shangchao Min and Hongwen Cai (Zhejiang University and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies), Exploring the cognitive demands of Aptis listening tasks using cognitive diagnostic assessment.
  • Vahid Aryadoust, Guoxing Yu, Nathaniel Owen, Mikako Nishikawa (National Institute of Education Singapore, University of Bristol,  Open University, Kyoto University), An Eye-Tracking Investigation of the Relationships between Test Takers’ Attention, Item Difficulty, and Item Type in the Aptis Grammar and Vocabulary Test.
  • Janina Iwaniec, Ana Halbach, Lyndsay Renee Buckingham Reynolds, Miguel Fernández Álvarez (University of Bath),  The effect of bilingual schooling in Madrid on SES: The student perspective.
  • Soo Jung Youn (Northern Arizona University), The role of pragmatic variables in predicting the Aptis speaking test difficulty.

2018

2017

  • Trisevgeni Liontou (University of Athens) for her study which will apply automated analyses techniques to investigate discourse features in the Aptis for Teens Writing test: Evidence from lower secondary EFL students.
  • Nathaniel Owen (Open University) for Exploring rater behaviour with test-taker responses in Aptis Writing.

Okim Kang (Northern Arizona University) for her study on linguistic features and automatic scoring of Aptis speaking performances.

Carol Spöttl, Eva Konrad, Franz Holzknecht & Matthias Zehentner (Language Testing Research Group, University of Innsbruck) for their project on assessing writing at lower levels: research findings, task development locally and internationally, and the opportunities presented by the extended CEFR descriptors.

Azlin Zaiti Zainal , Ng Lee Luan & Tony Green (Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya)for their study which looks into the impact of the ProELT 1 training programme and Aptis on Malaysian English teachers’ classroom practice.