The CEF Levels & Descriptor Scales Brian North Eurocentres Foundation 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, 87-105. 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 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”. Scales in Descriptive Scheme • Communicative language competence – Linguistic, Pragmatic, Socio-linguistic • Communicative language activities – Reception, Interaction, Production, (Mediation) • Use of Strategies – Reception, Interaction, Production CEF Scales: C.L. Competences Linguistic Competence Pragmatic Competence • • • • • • • • • • • • General Linguistic Range Vocabulary Range Grammatical Accuracy Vocabulary Control Phonological Control Orthographic Control Sociolinguistic Competence • Sociolinguistic Appropriateness Flexibility Turntaking Thematic Development Cohesion and Coherence Propositional Precision Spoken Fluency 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 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 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 CEF Scales: C.L. Activities HANDLING TEXT • • Note-taking Processing Text CEF Scales: C.L. Strategies Reception Strategies Production Strategies • • • • Identifying cues/ inferring Interaction Strategies • • • Turntaking Cooperating Asking for clarification Planning Compensating Monitoring and Repair Common Reference Levels • A1 • A2 Breakthrough Waystage • B1 • B2 Threshold Vantage • C1 • C2 Effective Operational Proficiency Mastery 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 Common Reference Levels C2 P ro fic ie n t User C1 B2 In d e p e n d ent User B1 A2 B a s ic User A1 C an understand with ease v irtually ev erything heard or read. C an sum m arise inform ation from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing argum ents and accounts in a coherent presentation. C an ex press him /herself spontaneously, v ery fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of m eaning ev en in m ore com plex situations. C an understand a wide range of dem anding, longer tex ts, and recognise im plicit m eaning. C an ex press him /herself fluently and spontaneously without m uch obv ious searching for ex pressions. C an use language flex ibly and effectiv ely for social, academ ic and professional purposes. C an produce clear, well-structured, detailed tex t on com plex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesiv e dev ices. C an understand the m ain ideas of com plex tex t on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. C an interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that m akes regular interaction with nativ e speakers quite possible without strain for either party. C an produce clear, detailed tex t on a wide range of subjects and ex plain a v iewpoint on a topical issue giv ing the adv antages and disadv antages of v arious options. C an understand the m ain points of clear standard input on fam iliar m atters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. C an deal with m ost situations likely to arise whilst trav elling in an area where the language is spoken. C an produce sim ple connected tex t on topics which are fam iliar or of personal interest. C an describe ex periences and ev ents, dream s, hopes & am bitions and briefly giv e reasons and ex planations for opinions and plans. C an understand sentences and frequently used ex pressions related to areas of m ost im m ediate relev ance (e.g. v ery basic personal and fam ily inform ation, shopping, local geography, em ploym ent). C an com m unicate in sim ple and routine tasks requiring a sim ple and direct ex change of inform ation on fam iliar and routine m atters. C an describe in sim ple term s aspects of his/her background, im m ediate env ironm ent and m atters in areas of im m ediate need. C an understand and use fam iliar ev eryday ex pressions and v ery basic phrases aim ed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. C an introduce him /herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she liv es, people he/she knows and things he/she has. C an interact in a sim ple way prov ided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help. 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? Common Reference Levels • 1913 Cambridge Proficiency C2 • 1990-91 Cambridge Advanced; DALF C1 • 1938 Cambridge First Certificate B2 • 1975 The Threshold Level B1 • 1978? Waystage A2 • A1 Common Reference Levels Wilkins 1978 UCLES 1992 CoE 1992-6 • • • Proficiency • Mastery • CAE • • FCE Vantage • Effective Operational Proficiency Vantage • PET Threshold • Threshold • KET Waystage • • Waystage Breakthrough • • • • • Ambilingual Proficiency Comprehensive Operational Proficiency Adequate Operational Proficiency Limited Operational Proficiency Basic Operational Proficiency (Threshold Level) Survival Proficiency Formulaic Proficiency Developing the CEF Levels Swiss Research Project 1993-7 to develop: • scaled descriptor bank for the CEF levels • overview of language learning achievement in Swiss educational sectors • prototype European Language Portfolio. 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 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 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 networks 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) 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) 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 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 Swiss Research Project 1993-7 D a ta C o lle c tio n : Q uest. C Q uest. B Q uest. A 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 Common Reference Levels F in er L evels (S w iss) C ou n cil of E u rop e C u t-off on log it scale R an g e on log it scale M astery M M astery 3 .9 0 E ffectiven ess E E ffectiven ess 2 .8 0 1 .1 0 V an tage + V+ 1 .7 4 1 .0 6 V an tage V 0 .7 2 1 .0 2 T h resh o ld + T+ -0 .2 6 0 .9 8 T h resh o ld T -1 .2 3 0 .9 7 W aystage + s W+ -2 .2 1 0 .9 8 W aystage W W ay stag e -3 .2 3 1 .0 2 B reakth ro u gh B B reakth rou g h -4 .2 9 1 .0 6 T o u rist Tour --- -5 .3 9 1 .1 0 V an tag e T h resh old 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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; Stability of scale values Validation Studies: – Swiss Replication Year 2: 0.99 – DIALANG (List; Read; Write): 0.90 – Basle: University entrance: 0.90 – ALTE / UCLES: (anchors): 0.97 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, 87-105.