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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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9. Conclusions 335

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9 Conclusions This study has developed and tested a methodology to address a practical, felt need. There is a widespread development of common framework scales (e.g. in the UK: English-speaking Union Framework Project, English Nat- ional Curriculum, UK National Language Standards; in Europe: Council of Europe Framework Project, Association of Language Testers in Europe; LANGCRED). A methodology for the development of such instruments has until now been lacking. This study demonstrates one way in which such an undertaking can be done in a principled fashion. Project Results It can be claimed that the scale development has taken account of the main problems with common framework development discussed at the end of Chapter 1. Firstly, by working within and contributing to the set of descrip- tive categories being developed by the Council of Europe Common Framework authoring group of John Trim, Daniel Coste and the author, it has been possible to relate the categories to theoretical models of language use as described in Chapter 2. Secondly, by working interactively with over 50 teachers in the series of workshops described in Chapter 4 and then cali- brating the descriptors in relation to the judgements of 100 teachers in rela- tion to their students, it has been possible to keep both the categories em- ployed and the descriptors defining them user-friendly. Thirdly, by inves- tigating the issue of variable interpretation in different educational sectors and language regions (Differential Item Functioning) and in relation to dif- ferent assessment occasions it has been possible to...

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