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Marshall Center’s Partner Language Center Europe concluded hosting the last of two scheduled NATO Benchmark Advisory Test (BAT) Norming Forums Aug.10 . (DOD photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn)

By Partner Language Center Europe
George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Aug. 10, 2018) – The team at Marshall Center’s Partner Language Center Europe concluded hosting the second of two scheduled NATO Benchmark Advisory Test (BAT) Norming Forums August 10.

This forum was attended by defense-sponsored language testing professionals from 10 NATO and partner countries: Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Canada; Czech Republic; Denmark; Georgia; Latvia; Macedonia; Sweden; and, Norway.

The purpose of the norming forums is to help ensure that the upcoming participation of 21 nations in the calibration of their national language tests according to NATO Standardized Agreement 6001 is achieved with the same results across the nations. 

National language test results will be compared to the results on a benchmark test developed in cooperation with the Bureau for International Language Coordination (BILC) professional community, the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and PLTCE.

It has been 10 years since the last such effort and a norming forum facilitator, Mary Jo Biase, associate director of the Center for Language Study at Yale University, pointed out that the level of testing sophistication in the nations has evolved to a highly-professional level. 

Another facilitator, Dr. Ray Clifford, associate dean of the College of Humanities and director of the Center of Language Studies at Brigham Young University, also observed that even though the comparison of national test scores against a benchmark is the desired outcome, it is the process of the norming forums themselves with professional interaction and discussion that is probably the more important endeavour.

Prior to the session, participants were asked to complete a range of online tasks.  These were organized by ACTFL, the American Council on Teaching Foreign languages.  Together with PLTCE, ACTFL will coordinate and deliver the BAT2 testing in 2018 and 2019. 

During the norming session this week, testers conducted and rated a series of speaking proficiency interviews.  They also rated writing sample tests. All of the ratings were justified and discussed in detail to help ensure that the reliability of ratings in the BAT2 is supported by consistent scores from all raters in all participating nations.

The participants in the norming forum also wrote and moderated prompts that will undergo a second round of moderation before being trialled at the Defence Language Institute English Language Center in San Antonio, Texas.  Once these validation studies are complete, the writing tests will be transferred to ACTFL to be included in the new NATO Benchmark Advisory Test.