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The Development of a Common Framework Scale of Language Proficiency

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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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4. Developing a Descriptor Pool 181

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4 Developing a Descriptor Pool As has been commented, it is customary when undertaking the develop- ment of a new scale of language proficiency to use existing scales to which access is available as sources. Interpreted negatively one could say that in this way conventions and cliches get copied from scale to scale without an empirical basis (Brindley 1991: 6-8; North 1992a). Interpreted positively one could say that this is a reflection of the consensus over achievement in foreign language learning at different levels of competence. Since the aim of this study was to create a meta-system, a transparent and coherence common framework, it made sense to start from a comprehensive survey of existing scales. Such a survey of scales describing Spoken Interaction and/ or Global Proficiency was produced in the context of the Council of Europe project (North 1993a), and provided the starting point for the development of a pool of descriptors for this study. The scales used as sources, reviewed in detail in the survey, were the following. The abbreviations are those used in the classified descriptors in Appendix 3. Scales of Overall Competence in Spoken Interaction Hofmann: Levels of Competence in Oral Communication 1974 Wilkins: Proposals for Level Defmitions for a Unit/Credit Scheme: Speaking 1978 University of London School Examination Board: Certificate of "\ttainment 1987 Ontario ESL Oral Interaction Assessment Bands 1990 Finnish Nine Level Scale of Language Proficiency 1993 European Certificate of .Attainment in Modem Languages 1993 Sets of Sub-scales for Competence in Different Contexts Trim:...

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