Since the 1990s, there has been considerable interest in the washback and impact of English language testing and assessment on learners, teachers and other stakeholder groups (such as teacher educators, curriculum designers, university admissions officers and educational policy-makers). This has led in turn to an interest in the concept of “language assessment literacy” (LAL), defined broadly as the knowledge, skills and abilities that different stakeholders involved in education and wider society need to carry out their assessment-related activities (Taylor, 2009). Interest in LAL has exploded in recent years, with a proliferation of research studies, conference presentations and journal articles on the topic, mostly in the context of English language teaching, learning and assessment, but also for some other languages.
Much of this work has focused on categorising the knowledge and skills needed and on conceptualising how these might be acquired by specific groups or constituencies who use tests or test scores in their local contexts of work/study. Attention has focused in particular on the sort of competence language teachers might require for assessing their students and this is reflected in a number of empirical studies investigating “teacher assessment literacy” in differing contexts around the world. My plenary talk will begin by tracing the background to the current burgeoning interest in language assessment literacy and consider the importance of learning about language assessment for those working in an educational context, i.e. as language teachers and teacher educators. We shall go on to explore how knowledge and skills development in this area has been conceptualised and operationalised in both theory and practice, and we shall consider what recent research studies reveal about assessment literacy competence in a variety of language teaching and learning contexts around the world. We will also explore the importance of acknowledging and understanding the diverse contextual factors (both micro- and macro-level) which shape assessment policy and practice, and which therefore frame teachers’ assessment literacy and impact its development over time. Finally, we shall consider how the field is steadily evolving to embrace fresh perspectives and improved understanding of the nature of teachers’ competence in language assessment, and how its development among language teachers can be better supported in the future.