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The Development of a Common Framework Scale of Language Proficiency


Brian North

Scales describing language proficiency in a series of levels can provide orientation for educational programmes, criteria for assessment, and reporting to stakeholders. However, in most cases such instruments are produced just by expert opinion. A scale of language proficiency actually implies a descriptive scheme related to theory but usable by practitioners. It also implies a methodology for scaling content to different levels. This book describes the use of both qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop scales for the «Common Reference Levels» in the Common European Framework of Reference for modern languages. Short stand-alone descriptors were (i) developed and classified, (ii) refined and elaborated in workshops, and then (iii) scaled by analyzing the judgments of one hundred teachers on the English language proficiency of the learners in their classes.


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List of Figures Xl List of Tables Xlll Preface XV List of Abbreviations XVll Introduction 1 The Common European Framework 1 Scaling Proficiency Descriptors 3 The Context of the Study 4 1. Language Proficiency Scales 9 Definitions 11 Attractions 11 Origins 13 Purposes 17 Types 21 Metaphors for Scales 23 Descriptions of Behaviour and Behavioural Objectives 25 Difficulties with Common Framework Scales 28 2. Description 41 Definitions of Language Proficiency 41 Interpretations of Communicative Competence 43 Competence and Proficiency 47 The Native Speaker as Criterion 54 User Perspectives 60 Categories for Communicative Language Proficiency 62 Categories for Communicative Activity 98 A Unitary Competence: Holistic Approaches 115 Towards Balanced Scale Categories 123 v111 The Development of a Common Framework Scale ojL:mguage Prr!fidemy Summary on Description Issues 128 3. Measurement 131 Criterion-referenced Assessment 131 The Development of Behaviourally-based Assessment Scales 139 Uniformity of Scales and Grids 146 Dimensionality 149 Types of Measurement Scales 153 Essentials of a Valid Measurement Scale 156 Common Methods of Scale Construction 161 The Rasch Measurement Model 162 Developing a Framework Scale with the Rasch Model 166 The Many-faceted Rasch Model 175 Summary on Measurement Issues 179 4. Developing a Descriptor Pool 181 Provisional Categories 182 Provisional Levels 183 Editing 184 Pre-testing \Vorkshops with Teachers 185 5. Data Collection and Correction 193 Connecting Questionnaires 194 Rating Conference 198 Rating Scale 206 Subjects 207 Problems with the Analysis 208 6. Constructing the Scale 223 Analysis Specifications and Data Organisation 223 FACETS Output 225 Investigating Use of the...

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