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Happily Productive in Relative Obscurity—The Plight of the FLP SIG

Have you heard of the JALT FLP SIG? Don’t worry, we daresay a lot of people haven’t. Or perhaps you have, but wouldn’t readily be able to say what FLP stands for? Or maybe you do have an idea of what the SIG’s focus of interest is. What if I told you it’s a small but highly active JALT SIG with an impressive output portfolio in terms of research and other activities, especially given the limited number of people involved?

FLP stands for “Framework and Language Portfolio.” In particular, we are interested in applications of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), “Can Do” descriptors, and the ELP (European Language Portfolio) into teaching at classroom, curricular, or institutional level.

Research Interests

The FLP SIG takes a special interest in research into implementations and practical applications of the CEFR and language portfolios, especially the European Language Portfolio (ELP), into language teaching and curricula.

Some people might be offset by the usage of the word “European.” Despite the CEFR’s implementation in Europe in 2001, the underlying assumptions are similar to the recommendations of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) published proficiency guidelines. Since its inception, the CEFR has established itself as a standard for foreign language teaching worldwide.

People all over the globe value the CEFR as a resource to be adapted for their own contexts and needs. In Japan, the CEFR-J, with its domestically researched applicability of the CEFR, is reported to become a compulsory teaching resource at the high school level in the future.

Group Objectives

One of the FLP SIG’s primary objectives is to support learner autonomy through the aid of the CEFR’s “Can Do” descriptors. We favour bottom-up approaches to using the CEFR and portfolios, in reaction to the top-down impetus favoured by educational institutions, publishers, and test designers.

Publications

Collective research efforts by SIG members on how the CEFR has been received in Japan have yielded two edited collections of articles and a textbook. Two of these publications have been supported by three successive JSPS (Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science) Grant-in-Aid research projects (KAKEN) since 2012. The latest has just started and is running until 2019. The FLP SIG has been included by name in each proposal for the three Kaken research projects because we believe that professional teacher networks are key in getting people involved. The SIG’s collaborations have produced the following publications: 

  • Can do statements in language education in Japan and beyond-Applications of the CEFR (Asahi Press, 2010)
  • Connections to Thinking in English: The CEFR-informed EAP textbook series B1 (A2+) to B1+ (Asahi Press, 2015)
  • Critical, Constructive Assessment of CEFR-informed Language Teaching in Japan and Beyond (Cambridge University Press-English Profile Studies series volume 6, November 2016).

One special quality of the CEFR is its open structure. This leaves the adaptation to the specific context, in most cases with the teachers. This is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Some teachers prefer a one-stop-shop style “handbook,” others prefer using pragmatic and action-oriented methodology. The new project addresses both groups and aims at designing an advanced online toolkit for teachers to receive practical and easy to use help with the implementation of the CEFR in their classes.

We are continuously seeking teachers/researchers willing to get involved and curious to collaborate. The FLP SIG aims to reach out and meet the needs of teachers and researchers out there, and to give hands on support on CEFR-related foreign language teaching in Japan and beyond.

Events

The FLP SIG is an active participant at all JALT International and PanSIG Conferences. Since 2015, we have organised the CriConCeF conferences in Nagoya, Tokyo, and Osaka. The latter in March 2016 featured a number of invited international guest speakers from places such as Germany and Vietnam. We have also collaborated with other chapters, SIGs, and JACET to run workshops and are looking to do a lot more of that in the future. 

Getting in Touch

  • email: flpsig-at-gmail.com
  • Facebook: JALT Framework & Language Portfolio Special Interest Group (FLP SIG)
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