12 July 2017
We have been very honoured to welcome Dr Karmen Pižorn (Vice-dean of Undergraduate Studies and International Cooperation & Associate Professor in EFL in Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) to our Department in June 2017 as part of the Erasmus+ staff exchange programme.

During her stay, Karmen presented her work on language classroom anxiety among young learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), offered several research consultancy sessions to post-graduate students in Lancaster's Department of Linguistics and English Language, and joined the Department's writing retreat to work on joint publications with Lancaster staff.

This was not Karmen's first visit, though. The first collaboration between Lancaster's Department of Linguistics and English Language and Ljubljana's Faculty of Education dates back to the late 1990s when Professor Charles J. Alderson (Lancaster) helped design a study on a language assistant scheme. The scheme, which involved highly proficient English speakers spending a year assisting in Slovenian classrooms, led to a set of recommendations followed-up by the Slovene Ministry of Education. The collaboration continued when the Slovene government decided to implement national assessments for English and German at Year 9, and five language testing experts from Lancaster (Charles Alderson, Jay Banerjee, Caroline Clapham, Rita Green and Dianne Wall) were brought in to train the Slovene test development team. Apart from the introduction of a more rigorous test cycle, the fruitful cooperation also resulted in the publication of a bilingual Slovene-English handbook, Constructing school-leaving examinations at a national level - Meeting European standards (Alderson & Pižorn, 2004), which to date is still the compulsory textbook for new test writers joining the Slovene national testing teams. The experiences on the national assessment reform have also been reported in the edited volume The politics of language education: individuals and institutions (Alderson, 2009; including a chapter co-authored by Pižorn). Importantly, Karmen and Charles cooperated with others in creating a European network for language testing and assessment (the ENLTA project), which has led to the establishment of the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA; www.ealta.eu.org).

More recently, the support of the Erasmus+ staff exchange programme has ensured the continuation and expansion of this productive collaboration between the two institutions. Since 2013, Professor Judit Kormos (Lancaster), together with Dr. Karmen Pižorn and Dr. Milena Košak Babuder (Ljubljana), have trained 100+ teachers in teaching EFL to students with specific learning differences in Slovenia and have conducted joint research on this topic. Furthermore, during visits to Ljubljana in 2014 and 2015, Dr Tineke Brunfaut (Lancaster) ran language testing workshops for novice test writers and in-service teachers, taught pre-service primary school English teachers on innovations in research methodology, and set up a joint study on the rater training needs of teachers involved in the Slovene national assessments. Karmen Pižorn, on the other hand, has been visiting Lancaster on an annual basis, where her research and operational expertise in young learner language teaching and testing - which she has shared through talks and consultancies with Lancaster staff and students - has been greatly valued and has informed Lancaster student and staff projects.