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CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR and the ELP:

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Presentation on theme: "CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR and the ELP:"— Presentation transcript:

1 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR and the ELP: some history, a view of language learner autonomy, and some proposals for future action David Little Trinity College Dublin Ireland

2 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Overview Focus on the learner: a brief history of the Council of Europe’s work in foreign language education Language learner autonomy: from Holec to the CEFR and beyond The future of the CEFR and the ELP: a role for CercleS in implementation, research and further development

3 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Focus on the learner: a brief history of the Council of Europe’s work in foreign language education

4 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The Council of Europe, the individual and languages Council of Europe core values: –Human rights  European Convention on Human Rights (1950), European Court of Human Rights –Democracy  Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe –Rule of law  developing legal standards, ensuring justice Human rights and the rule of law focus on the individual –European Convention: everyone, no one, every natural or legal person Democracy depends on the active participation of individual citizens Transnational organizations depend on mutual understanding and exchange –European Cultural Convention (1954) –Importance of language learning  individual access to other societies and cultures

5 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The Council of Europe and adult education Project No. 7A: Organization, content and methods of adult education (Janne 1977)  permanent education (  lifelong learning) –“The importance of individual needs as the basis for any adult education policy” (ibid.: 3) –“The integration of vocational, cultural, community and personal aspects” (ibid.) A change in the principles and priorities of adult education in the 1960s: –“Instead of a means of adjustment of man to society [adult education] becomes an instrument for arousing an increasing sense of awareness and liberation in man and, in some cases, an instrument for changing the environment itself. From the idea of man ‘product of his society’, one moves to the idea of man ‘producer of his society’” (ibid.: 15) Objectives: equality of opportunity, responsible autonomy, personal fulfilment, democratization of education (ibid.: 17)

6 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The Council of Europe and adult education Democratization of education: –“Self-management in education may be seen not only as an educational method but also as a series of enquiries into the educational process” (Janne 1977: 28) –“Self-management in education […] leads to a change in the very idea of knowledge and of the means of producing knowledge” (ibid.: 29) Two prescient thoughts: –“Self-learning, which must not be confused with self-teaching (to avoid the failings of the latter), should be based on group work and implies the possibility of a dialogue (in other words, self-learning must be the result of an interpersonal dialectical dialogue)” (ibid.: 53) –“The actual work of learning, the acquisition of subject-matter and content, implies a personal contribution (past experience, previous knowledge) which is pooled in the group, as well as the help and assistance of a teacher” (ibid.)

7 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The Council of Europe and L2 education The Council of Europe’s earliest modern languages project was carried out under the aegis of the Committee for Out-of-School Education and Cultural Development aimed to establish “a suitable structural framework for the development, through international co-operation, of a coherent European policy in the field of adult learning” (Trim 1984a: 9) developed a “unit/credit scheme” for the design of learning programmes capable of meeting the short-term communicative needs of adult learners (Trim 1978) and a functional-notional approach to the description of communicative repertoires and the specification of communicative learning outcomes (van Ek 1975) reflected the ethos of the Committee for Out-of-School Education by promoting self-assessment (Oskarsson 1978) and learner autonomy (Holec 1979/1981) was effectively blocked from publishing a specimen test of Threshold Level English (but see Trim 1984b)

8 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner A change of focus in the 1980s At the end of the 1970s responsibility for work in modern languages was transferred to the Committee for School Education Functional-notional specifications and other instruments were adapted to the needs of foreign language learning at school The Modern Languages Department coordinated a series of international teacher training workshops in order to disseminate principles and practice of communicative language teaching Further work was undertaken on the specification of communicative learning objectives (van Ek 1986, 1987) The concept of learner autonomy remained a theoretical concern of adult education; at the same time communicative language teaching based on an analysis of learners’ needs coincided with widespread interest in learner-centred schooling

9 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The Rüschlikon Symposium (1991) Recommendation to develop the CEFR and the ELP The CEFR seen as –supporting “developments in the field of evaluation, testing and certification” (Council of Europe 1992: 6) –providing “a coherent and transparent system which will enable learners to find their place and assess their progress in relation to certain well- defined reference points” (ibid.) The ELP –presented as “an individual record of language learning achievement” (ibid.: 26) “related to a common European scale” (ibid.: 40)  self- assessment –envisaged as possibly having three parts  language passport, language biography, dossier

10 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Language learner autonomy: from Holec to the CEFR and beyond

11 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Holec’s view of learner autonomy “Self-management in education” (Janne 1977: 28)  learner autonomy as “the ability to take charge of one’s own learning” (Holec 1979/1981: 3): To take charge of one’s learning is to have, and to hold, the responsibility for all the decisions concerning all aspects of this learning, i.e.: −determining the objectives; −defining the contents and progressions; −selecting methods and techniques to be used; −monitoring the procedure of acquisition properly speaking (rhythm, time, place, etc.); −evaluating what has been acquired “This ability is not inborn but must be acquired either by ‘natural’ means or (as most often happens) by formal learning, i.e. in a systematic, deliberate way” (ibid.)

12 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Holec’s view of learner autonomy Holec (1979/1981: 21) quotes Janne (1977: 24): Self-management of education … modifies the relationship between the learner and ‘existing knowledge’, and on the other hand it modifies the way in which knowledge itself is built up and is developed Holec (1979/1981: 23) identifies two teaching objectives: to help the learner acquire −“the linguistic and communicative abilities he has defined for himself” −“autonomy for himself, i.e. to learn to learn” According to this view −the crucial distinction is between teacher-directed and learner-directed learning −the teacher’s role is gradually to pass control to the learner There is no necessary link between the development of L2 proficiency and the development of skills of self-management

13 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR and L2 teaching It is not the function of the CEFR to “promote one particular language teaching method­ology, but instead to present options” (Council of Europe 2001: 142) However, the CEFR is not without strong methodological implications: –It defines L2 learning as a variety of L2 use (Council of Europe 2001: 9) –Its use of “can do” descriptors to define L2 proficiency implies a task- based approach to teaching and learning –The skills attached to the more advanced proficiency levels can only be developed on the basis of extensive use of the target language, e.g. C1 Spoken interaction/Conversation: Can use language flexibly and effectively for social purposes, including emotional, allusive and joking usage (ibid.: 76) In other words, the CEFR’s action-oriented approach agrees with mainstream theories of L2 acquisition: L2 learning depends on L2 use

14 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR and learner autonomy Learners are, of course, the persons ultimately concerned with language acquisition and learning processes. It is they who have to develop the competences and strategies (in so far as they have not already done so) and carry out the tasks, activities and processes needed to participate effectively in communicative events. However, relatively few learn proactively, taking initiatives to plan, structure and execute their own learning processes. Most learn reactively, following the instructions and carrying out the activities prescribed for them by teachers and by textbooks. However, once teaching stops, further learning has to be autonomous. Autonomous learning can be promoted if ‘learning to learn’ is regarded as an integral part of language learning, so that learners become increasingly aware of the way they learn, the options open to them and the options that best suit them. Even within the given institutional system they can then be brought increasingly to make choices in respect of objectives, materials and working methods in the light of their own needs, motivations, characteristics and resources (Council of Europe 2001: 142) Hence the ELP, but still no link between self-management in learning and the development of L2 proficiency  cf. the practice of giving learners self-assessment checklists in their L1

15 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Reinterpreting the action-oriented approach Consider the following definition of the CEFR’s action-oriented approach (Council of Europe 2001: 9): Language use, embracing language learning, comprises the actions performed by persons who as individuals and as social agents develop a range of competences, both general and in particular communicative language competences. They draw on the competences at their disposal in various contexts under various conditions and under various constraints to engage in language activities involving language processes to produce and/or receive texts in relation to themes in specific domains, activating those strategies which seem most appropriate for carrying out the tasks to be accomplished. The monitoring of these actions by the participants leads to the reinforcement or modification of their competences That is, L2 proficiency develops from sustained interaction between the learner’s competences and the communicative tasks whose performance requires him or her to use the target language But note the last sentence

16 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Reinterpreting the action-oriented approach Consider the following definition of the CEFR’s action-oriented approach (Council of Europe 2001: 9): Language use, embracing language learning, comprises the actions performed by persons who as individuals and as social agents develop a range of competences, both general and in particular communicative language competences. They draw on the competences at their disposal in various contexts under various conditions and under various constraints to engage in language activities involving language processes to produce and/or receive texts in relation to themes in specific domains, activating those strategies which seem most appropriate for carrying out the tasks to be accomplished. The monitoring of these actions by the participants leads to the reinforcement or modification of their competences That is, L2 proficiency develops from sustained interaction between the learner’s competences and the communicative tasks whose performance requires him or her to use the target language But note the last sentence

17 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Reinterpreting the action-oriented approach Consider the following definition of the CEFR’s action-oriented approach (Council of Europe 2001: 9): Language use, embracing language learning, comprises the actions performed by persons who as individuals and as social agents develop a range of competences, both general and in particular communicative language competences. They draw on the competences at their disposal in various contexts under various conditions and under various constraints to engage in language activities involving language processes to produce and/or receive texts in relation to themes in specific domains, activating those strategies which seem most appropriate for carrying out the tasks to be accomplished. The monitoring of these actions by the participants leads to the reinforcement or modification of their competences That is, L2 proficiency develops from sustained interaction between the learner’s competences and the communicative tasks whose performance requires him or her to use the target language But note the last sentence, which seems to assign a central role in L2 use to the metacognitive function of monitoring

18 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Learner autonomy beyond Holec and the CEFR Learner autonomy is always a matter of “self-management” (Janne 1977) and “taking charge of one’s own learning” (Holec 1979/1981) This always entails identifying learning targets, monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes When the purpose of learning is the development of L2 proficiency, these metacognitive functions should be a fully integrated part of the L2 use on which effective L2 learning depends We develop language learner autonomy in order to develop learners’ agency in the TL: their capacity to make and implement choices, to reflect on learning processes, to evaluate learning outcomes (cf. Little 2007) These are vital considerations for L2 learning in higher education Implication for ELP design: checklists and other reflective elements should be presented to learners in the language(s) they are learning

19 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The future of the CEFR and the ELP: a role for CercleS in implementation, research and further development

20 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR’s most innovative feature Each “can do” descriptor can be used to –specify a learning target –select and/or develop learning activities and materials –shape the design of assessment tasks which brings curriculum, teaching/learning and assessment into closer interdependence than has traditionally been the case Learners are drawn into this cyclical dynamic by the checklists of “I can” descriptors that are used for goal setting and self-assessment in the ELP, always provided that –communicative curriculum goals are expressed in “can do” terms –“I can” checklists explicitly reflect those goals –rating criteria for assessment tasks are harmonious with the rating criteria that learners use in self-assessment

21 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner The CEFR’s key challenge Recall that according to Janne (1977) –one of the objectives of adult education should be democratization (p.17) –“The actual work of learning, the acquisition of subject-matter and content, implies a personal contribution (past experience, previous knowledge) which is pooled in the group, as well as the help and assistance of a teacher” (p.53) The CEFR challenges us to attempt the democratization of L2 education by –developing curricula/curriculum guidelines/syllabuses that reflect learner needs and explicitly accommodate learner initiative and control –implementing those curricula in ways that foster learner autonomy –working towards an assessment culture in which formal tests and exams exist on a continuum with teacher assessment, peer assessment and learner self-assessment

22 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner L2 teaching/learning in higher education “Philological” courses: linguistic and literary studies –Goal: to make students at least temporary members of the community of philologists working in and through the L2 in question “Area studies” courses, e.g. European Studies –Goal: to require students to undertake at least part of their studies in one or more L2s Languages for Specific Purposes –Goal: to enable students to pursue professional activities arising from their academic studies through an appropriate L2 Institution-Wide Language Programmes –Goal: to give students the added value of developing proficiency in one or more L2s (that proficiency may or may not have a specific purposes focus)

23 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner What I said in Padua in 2009 In relation to these different kinds of course, we should use the CEFR to reflect on what the development of communicative repertoires at different levels of proficiency actually entails and what this implies for L2 curriculum goals specify the communicative learning outcomes of our curricula in “can do” terms (in the case of courses that last for more than one academic year/semester, it may be necessary to specify interim targets) consider the different kinds of language activity our students must engage in if they are to achieve the specified learning outcomes find ways of ensuring that all learning is language learning

24 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner What I said in Padua in 2009 We should use CEFR-based curricula to interpret generic ELP checklists in terms of the demands of different areas of specialized language use, e.g. literary studies, law, economics, business make checklists and their interpretation available to students in the L2s they are learning develop goal-setting and self-assessment procedures that are framed by checklist descriptors (because from B1 upwards they refer to increasingly general and complex communicative activity and thus cannot be adopted as short-term learning targets) ensure that other parts of the language biography also support reflective engagement with the curriculum structure the dossier to accommodate the different modules that make up the individual student’s programme of study

25 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner What I said in Padua in 2009 We should also use CEFR-based curricula to design tests and exams that –reflect the action-oriented approach of the CEFR –use the same communicative criteria as learners use in their ELP-based self-assessment develop rating grids and scoring schemes that can be used –for formal assessment –for informal assessment, including peer assessment, that takes place in courses take ELP-based self-assessment seriously –encourage reliability by requiring students to produce evidence in support of their judgements –find a way of incorporating self-assessment in the overall assessment scheme

26 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner What I said in Padua in 2009 CercleS should consider developing 1.A language curriculum framework for the European university sector that provides –Descriptors for listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing at each of the CEFR’s proficiency levels –Discussion of the relation between communicative and other goals in university language learning 2.A generic version of the CercleS ELP with –Checklists derived from the descriptors in the curriculum framework –Templates for language biography pages that reflect the various goals of university language learning 3.A communicative language test development kit with –Detailed specifications of test tasks –For speaking and writing, rating scales and scoring schemes for each of the CEFR’s proficiency levels J. Fischer, C. Chouissa, S. Dugovičová and A. Virkkunen-Fullenwider, Guidelines for task-based university language testing, Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2011 (see also

27 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner CEFR/ELP-related research and development Some possible tasks for CercleS and CercleS members: Apply the CEFR to the design of L2 curricula In doing so, bring descriptors up to date  e.g. new scales of written interaction to take account of developments in electronic communication Find new ways of operationalizing the ELP –explore the virtues and shortcomings of electronic vs. paper versions –in relation to specific curricula, develop short-term learning goals/self- assessment criteria and relate them to “I can” checklists –adapt the CercleS ELP to meet the requirement of particular institutions/courses  “soft” language biography pages, structured dossier Document and publish accounts of these and similar developments Undertake empirical or action research on implementation For further suggestions, see: D. Little, The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: A research agenda, Language Teaching 44.3 (2011), 381−393 (Available for free download at

28 CercleS Seminar, University of Groningen, 24−26 November 2011 Ten years of the CEFR and the ELP: the central role of the learner Because … CEFR/ELP-related research and development are essential if these two instruments are to thrive and evolve CercleS has committed itself more strongly to the CEFR and the ELP than any other organization concerned with L2 learning in higher education CercleS is responsible for a new journal, Language Learning in Higher Education, that is ideally placed to provide (among other things) a forum for discussion of CEFR/ELP projects of all kinds A coherent programme of research and development (institutions  CercleS members/national affiliates  CercleS) is the best way of adding value to CercleS membership, ensuring the coherence of future CEFR/ELP seminars, and confirming the organization’s international profile Over to you!


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