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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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8. Learner Achievement 311


8 Learner Achievement In this study, it was important to check that the item difficulty estimates arrived at through the analysis of the survey questionnaires produced, with adjustment for rater severity, sensible estimates for person ability. Firstly, having videos to look at, and having other information about learners (length of study, tests results) enabled a check to be made on the plausibility of the results of the analysis of the items. Secondly, since the range on the logit scale for conference data accounted for by the differences in severity of untrained raters was about equal to the range accounted for by the items (7 logits as compared to 8 logits) it was apparent that following common practice with scales of language proficiency, potential raters would benefit from being able to see calibrated samples on a video showing what level of proficiency was described by the words in the descriptors. In other words, the ability estimates for the video samples offered not only a point of refer- ence during the analysis process, but also the potential to produce a stan- dardisation video for teacher training in relation to the final scale. Finally, the aim of the Swiss Framework project, for which this study was the meth- odological pilot, was to estimate the range of achievement at cross-over points between educational sectors and provide suitable descriptors of lan- guage proficiency as objectives. It was sensible to check that the methodol- ogy, or an adaptation of it, was going to provide this. Decisions...

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