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The CEFR, can do statements, and language portfolios in action

Writer(s): 
Morten Hunke, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

 

Have you ever wondered how you could get that one particular student to improve her/his speaking skills or listening skills or any other language-related skill for that matter? Have you ever hoped you had more time to assist that very student in her/his learning? Have you ever asked yourself how you could help students help themselves or how to get them to take command of their own learning? As a language teacher, the chances that you have are pretty high.

One final question: Have you ever heard of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages and the European Language Portfolio (ELP)? Both are useful tools that could give your students the means to take control of their own learning. Moreover, it could give you the means to gear students more towards working on their own language learning as well as on improving particular skills. CEFR provides a huge range of so-called can do statements and descriptors of levels of skill. The ELP offers students and you the chance to utilise these in a concise and coordinated fashion, tracking learning processes and analysing language learning as it progresses. It does this making use of pedagogical and reflective practices including that of utilising can do statements and other CEFR tools. Often when CEFR or the ELP are mentioned, mainly testing companies and the big wigs at your institution may jump on the bandwagon. Too often institutions are merely concerned with testability, accountability - of teachers’ performance - and top-down control of learning. Sadly this approach doesn’t actually care about the individual student, and her/his progress and motivation. But as a teacher you do. And we in the Framework and Language Portfolio SIG beg to differ that CEFR and the ELP are only about testing.

We know it’s not, because we and others have been using it in very student-focused contexts. We have adapted can do statements for the teaching of particular skills. And we are working actively to promote the use of CEFR and the ELP by the learners themselves and you, the teaching professionals closest to the learners. We are a group of professionals combining a wealth of experience with regards to using CEFR/the ELP. Since its foundation in 2008 the FLP SIG has run numerous workshops, seminars, and forums, and has invited speakers on the topic of CEFR and the ELP in Japan and elsewhere at PanSIG, the JALT national conference, Nakasendo, CUE SIG events, etc. This year we are present at a number of CEFR/ELP-related events all over Japan and we are organising a panel debate at PanSIG 2012 (Hiroshima University, June 16-17, 2012) together with TEVAL SIG. We know so much more could be done. But we are only a few. Would you like to learn more about what we do and how we try to implement CEFR and the ELP in working with our students? Would you like to liaise and work with others around Japan and worldwide who work and research-related topics and issues? Would you like to get involved yourself? Please do find us at: <sites.google.com/site/flpsig>. Discover more about the FLP SIG’s own Asahi Press published book: Can do statements in language education in Japan and beyond, or simply drop us an email: <flpsig@gmail.com>. For use in Japan the Language Portfolio at Japanese Universities with its appendix/can do statements is now available to download for free at: <tinyurl.com/LP4JU>.

Not only do we have a range of expertise in working with, presenting and demonstrating the uses of CEFR/the ELP, we also possess access to a wide network of professionals who work on related aspects around the globe. But above all we’d very much like to hear from you, about your ideas, your queries, and your practical experiences. Please get in touch with us via email, find us at JALT and other conferences - announced on our website. Or perhaps, would you like to hear more about practical student-centred CEFR/ ELP usage in a workshop for you and your colleagues? No problem, just get in touch. Thank you and we’re looking forward to your mail!

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