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The CEF Levels & Descriptor Scales

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1 The CEF Levels & Descriptor Scales
Brian North Eurocentres Foundation

2 Developing the CEF Descriptor Scales
Full account: North, B. (2000). The development of a common framework scale of language proficiency. New York, Peter Lang. More Technical: North, B. and Schneider, G. (1998). Scaling descriptors for language proficiency scales. Language Testing 15, 2, 217–262. Less Technical: North, B. (2002a). Developing descriptor scales of language proficiency for the CEF common reference levels. In Alderson, J.C.A. (ed.) Case Studies in applying the Common European Framework, Strasbourg, Council of Europe,

3 Common Framework of Reference
Relevant areas of concern Descriptive scheme based on descriptive theory Stages of attainment in those areas Common reference levels based on measurement theory

4 Descriptive Scheme “….. actions performed by a social agent who, as an individual, has at his or her disposal and develops a range of general competences and in particular communicative language competence. He or she draws on these competences in different kinds of language activities in order to process text (receptively or productively) in relation to specific domains, activating those strategies which seem most appropriate for carrying out the tasks to be accomplished”.

5 Scales in Descriptive Scheme
Communicative language competence Linguistic, Pragmatic, Socio-linguistic Communicative language activities Reception, Interaction, Production, (Mediation) Use of Strategies Reception, Interaction, Production

6 CEF Scales: C.L. Competences
Linguistic Competence General Linguistic Range Vocabulary Range Grammatical Accuracy Vocabulary Control Phonological Control Orthographic Control Sociolinguistic Competence Sociolinguistic Appropriateness Pragmatic Competence Flexibility Turntaking Thematic Development Cohesion and Coherence Propositional Precision Spoken Fluency

7 CEF Scales: C.L. Activities.
RECEPTION Overall Listening Comprehension Understanding conversation between native-speakers Listening as a member of an audience Listening to announcements and instructions Listening to audio media and recordings Watching TV and film Overall Reading Comprehension Reading correspondence Reading for orientation Reading for information and argument Reading instructions

8 CEF Scales: C.L.Activities
INTERACTION Overall Spoken Interaction Understanding a native-speaker interlocutor Conversation Informal discussion Formal discussion and meetings Goal-oriented co-operation Transactions to obtain goods and services Information exchange Interviewing and being interviewed Overall Written Interaction Correspondence Notes, messages and forms

9 CEF Scales: C.L. Activities
PRODUCTION Overall Spoken Production Sustained monologue: Describing experience Sustained monologue: Putting a case (e.g. in debate) Public announcements Addressing Audiences Overall Written Production Creative Writing Reports and Essays

10 CEF Scales: C.L. Activities
HANDLING TEXT Note-taking Processing Text

11 CEF Scales: C.L. Strategies
Reception Strategies Identifying cues/ inferring Interaction Strategies Turntaking Cooperating Asking for clarification Production Strategies Planning Compensating Monitoring and Repair

12 Common Reference Levels
A1 Breakthrough A2 Waystage B1 Threshold B2 Vantage C1 Effective Operational Proficiency C2 Mastery

13 Common Reference Levels
Table 1 Global Scale Table 2 Self-assessment Grid (Listening, Reading, Spoken Interaction,. Spoken Production, Writing) Table 3 Assessor Grid (Range, Accuracy, Fluency, Interaction, Coherence) 50 Individual Scales for PROFILING

14 Common Reference Levels

15 Common Reference Levels
Where do the CEF Levels come from? How were the descriptors developed and scaled? How were the “cut-points” between levels set? How coherent is the scaling of content? How stable are the scale values?

16 Common Reference Levels
1913 Cambridge Proficiency C2 Cambridge Advanced; DALF C1 1938 Cambridge First Certificate B2 1975 The Threshold Level B1 1978? Waystage A2 A1

17 Common Reference Levels
Wilkins 1978 Ambilingual Proficiency Comprehensive Operational Proficiency Adequate Operational Proficiency Limited Operational Proficiency Basic Operational Proficiency (Threshold Level) Survival Proficiency Formulaic Proficiency UCLES 1992 Proficiency CAE FCE Vantage PET Threshold KET Waystage CoE Mastery Effective Operational Proficiency Vantage Threshold Waystage Breakthrough

18 Developing the CEF Levels
Swiss Research Project to develop: scaled descriptor bank for the CEF levels overview of language learning achievement in Swiss educational sectors prototype European Language Portfolio.

19 Proficiency Scales before CEF
Wording tended to be relative. The descriptors were seldom stand-alone criteria one could rate “Yes” or “No” Situation of descriptors at a particular level was arbitrary - following convention/cliché Wording often created semantic appearance of a scale, without actually describing anything Lower levels tended to be worded negatively

20 CEF scaled criterion statements
Can take an active part in informal discussion in familiar contexts, commenting, putting points of view clearly, evaluating alternative proposals and making and responding to hypotheses. Can with some effort catch much or what is said around him/her in discussion, but may find it difficult to participate effectively in discussion with several native speakers who do not modify their language in any way.” Can account for and sustain his/her opinions in discussion by providing relevant explanations, arguments and comments. B2 Informal Discussion

21 Swiss Research Project 1993-7
A learner model: "… a simplified description of selected aspects of the infinite varieties of skills and knowledge that characterise real students" (Mislevy 1995:343) "A learner’s state of competence at a given point in time is a complex constellation of facts and concepts, and the net- works that interconnect them; of automatized procedures and conscious heuristics, ….; of perspectives and strategies, and the management capabilities by which the learner focuses his efforts. There is no hope of providing a description of such a state. Neither is there any need to." (Mislevy 1993: 28)

22 Swiss Research Project 1993-7
A measurement model: “…the scale values of the statements should not be affected by the opinions of the people who helped to construct it. This may turn out to be a severe test in practice, but the scaling method must stand such a test before it can be accepted as being more than a description of the people who construct the scale. At any rate, to the extent that the present method of scale construction is affected by the opinions of the readers who help sort out the original statements into a scale, to that extent the validity of the scale may be challenged. ” (Thurstone 1928: 547–8)

23 Swiss Research Project 1993-7
Intuitive Phase: Creating a pool of classified, edited descriptors Qualitative Phase: Analysis of teachers discussing proficiency 32 teacher workshops sorting descriptors Quantitative Phase: Teacher assessment of learners on questionnaires Assessment (by all) of videos of some learners Interpretation Phase: Setting “cut-points” for common reference levels

24 Swiss Research Project 1993-7
1994: English 1995: French, German, English 1996: Portfolio 2,800 learners, 500 classes, 300 teachers Lower & upper secondary, vocational, adult

25 Swiss Research Project 1993-7

26 Swiss Research Project 1993-7
Setting the cut-points between levels 1. Marking out equal intervals on the scale 2. Identifying „jumps“ in content described, gaps between clusters of descriptors 3. Comparing to original scale author intention 4. Comparing to Waystage, Threshold 5. Fine-tuning for equal intervals 6. Checking for consistency, coherence

27 Common Reference Levels

28 Content coherence Level A1 is the point at which the learner can:
interact in a simple way, ask and answer simple questions about themselves, where they live, people they know, and things they have, initiate and respond to simple statements in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics, rather than relying purely on a rehearsed repertoire of phrases.

29 Content coherence Level A2 reflects Waystage
majority of descriptors stating social functions: greet people, ask how they are and react to news; handle very short social exchanges; ask and answer questions about what they do at work and in free time; make and respond to invitations; discuss what to do, where to go and make arrangements to meet; make and accept offers. descriptors on getting out and about: make simple transactions in shops, post offices or banks; get simple information about travel; ask for and provide everyday goods and services.

30 Content coherence Level B1 reflects Threshold Level
maintain interaction and get across what you want to: give or seek personal views and opinions in an informal discussion with friends; express the main point he/she wants to make comprehensibly; keep going comprehensibly, even though pausing for grammatical and lexical planning and repair is very evident, especially in longer stretches of free production. cope flexibly with problems in everyday life: deal with most situations likely to arise when making travel arrangements through an agent or when actually travelling; enter unprepared into conversations on familiar topics; make a complaint.

31 Content coherence Level B2 reflects three new emphases:
effective argument: account for and sustain opinions in discussion by providing relevant explanations, arguments and comments; explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options. holding your own in social discourse: interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without imposing strain on either party; adjust to the changes of direction, style and emphasis normally found in conversation. a new degree of language awareness: correct mistakes if they have led to misunderstandings; make a note of "favourite mistakes" and consciously monitor speech for them.

32 Content coherence Level C1 is characterised by access to a broad range of language: fluent, spontaneous communication: express him/herself fluently and spontaneously, almost effortlessly; Has a good command of a broad lexical repertoire allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions. There is little obvious searching for expressions or avoidance strategies; only a conceptually difficult subject can hinder a natural, smooth flow of language. produce clear, smoothly‑flowing, well-structured speech, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices

33 Content coherence Level C2 represents the degree of precision and ease with the language of highly successful learners: convey finer shades of meaning precisely by using, with reasonable accuracy, a wide range of modification devices; has a good command of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms with awareness of connotative level of meaning;

34 Stability of scale values
Validation Studies: Swiss Replication Year 2: DIALANG (List; Read; Write): 0.90 Basle: University entrance: ALTE / UCLES: (anchors):

35 Developing the CEF Descriptor Scales
Full account: North, B. (2000). The development of a common framework scale of language proficiency. New York, Peter Lang. More Technical: North, B. and Schneider, G. (1998). Scaling descriptors for language proficiency scales. Language Testing 15, 2, 217–262. Less Technical: North, B. (2002a). Developing descriptor scales of language proficiency for the CEF common reference levels. In Alderson, J.C.A. (ed.) Case Studies in applying the Common European Framework, Strasbourg, Council of Europe,

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