From Italy to Mauritius, CRELLA hosts first world-wide virtual Research Seminar

Wed 22 July, 2020
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Recognised as the UK’s leading research centre for language learning and assessment, the University of Bedfordshire’s CRELLA research institute has celebrated a ten-year milestone of running their annual Research Seminars by hosting its first online event.

Covering the latest research from experts in the language and learning field, CRELLA (the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment) has been running their free, day-long seminar series since 2010. Starting off biannually, the events’ popularity with UK-wide academics, researchers and students encouraged the team to develop these seminars further, hosting three each year from 2013.

Due to the arrival of Covid19 and implementation of public health restrictions, the spring seminar set for April at the University’s Putteridge Bury campus was cancelled. However the organisers saw lockdown as an opportunity to reach a wider audience.

Dr Nicola Latimer, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with CRELLA, said: “In the past, our in-person events have attracted around 40 attendees. We have previously received requests to make our seminar series remotely accessible for those too far away to come for a single day event. So with the pandemic putting public events on hold, we decided to give a virtual offering a try which ended up racking up a guest list of over six times the usual attendee numbers.”

The virtual summer event, held on 1st July, proved a success after attracting 250 registered guests with a waiting list of over 70 people. The attendees logged on to the seminar from all over the world, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Napal, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as delegates from numerous universities across the UK and Ireland.

Guest speakers who presented their research included Professor Andrea Révész from UCL’s Institute of Education, Dr Jing Xu and Annabelle Pinnington from Cambridge Assessment and Dr John Field from CRELLA.

Professor Andrea Révész kicked off the virtual seminar by discussing the role and meaning of proficiency in second language writing processes and outcomes. Her study used keystroke logging and eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between writing speed and fluency and patterns of reading.

After a refreshment break, Dr Jing Xu and Annabelle Pinnington presented their research on developing computer-based speaking tasks to assess the skills and language used when speakers need to mediate understanding by interpreting information for other people.

Dr John Field, Reader in Cognition in Language Learning at University of Bedfordshire, rounded off the seminar by deliberating ‘idle chatter’ as the basis of what really goes on when two people engage in conversation. The presentation considered the complex of nature of what happens during conversational exchanges and how close examination of these may help guide the design of more authentic speaking and listening assessments.

Professor Tony Green, Director of CRELLA, said: “I’m delighted that we were able to welcome so many people from around the world to this event. The presentations were inspiring and have stimulated lots of discussion. We’re all really looking forward to carrying on the conversation at our next seminar later in the year – watch this space!”

Recordings of the presentations plus accompanying slides have been made available on the CRELLA website for those who were unable to join on the day:

          Professor Andrea Révész:               The relationship of proficiency to speed, fluency, pausing and eye-gaze behaviour:

Dr Jing Xu and Annabelle Pinnington: Developing computer-based speaking tasks to assess the ‘mediation’ construct:

                       Dr John Field:                    Idle Chatter? Afresh look at what really goes on in tests of interactive speaking:

It is hoped that the positive feedback received following this virtual seminar will help to shape the delivery of future in-person CRELLA events, to ensure the platform continues to be accessible for overseas attendees and those in the UK unable to travel.

Further information about CRELLA events, projects and study opportunities can be found by visiting:


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