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A Study into the Specificity of Writing Descriptors and Text Criteria for Writing in the Common European Framework of Reference

By Miranda Companjen

Abstract

The aim for unity within educational systems in Europe implies the same aim for unity within the field of second language education. In order to achieve this aim, the development of a framework that describes and scales language proficiency, which can be used as a standard for mutual recognition of language qualifications, was initiated. With such a framework, language behaviour could be evaluated in an internationally comparable manner. The Common European Framework of Reference scales language proficiency into six common reference levels. These levels describe which skills a learner needs to have command of at each level, on the basis of can-do statements also known as descriptors. The levels are becoming widely accepted as the standard for grading an individual's language proficiency. However, criticism is growing about the descriptors. They are claimed to be vague, unclear and too abstract (see section 1.1). Several studies have been conducted with regard to the specificity of descriptors in terms of the CEFR for reading and oral performances (see section 1.5.1). The study into the specificity of the descriptors for reading has even led to the conclusion that the level descriptions for this proficiency were not specific enough to lead to a shared interpretation among raters.\ud The purpose of the first study is to look into the specificity of the descriptors of the language proficiency writing. Cito and Slo developed a number of writing assignments of which each assignment is based on a specific can-do statement from Taalportfolio 15 +. For the first study of this thesis, a group of raters will be asked to classify writing assignments on the basis of a provided list of writing descriptors. These descriptors are also taken from the Taalportfolio 15+. Study I, then, focuses on the question: are the level descriptions for writing in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment specific enough to lead to a shared interpretation among selected raters? In this study the reference level, which Cito attached to the assignment was considered to be the standard. If the rater classifications differ from the Cito classification, then there is no shared agreement. Such a finding would indicate that the writing descriptors are not specific enough.\ud Because the descriptors are claimed to be vague, there is lack of clarity about what a learner should be able to have command of and be able to perform in practice at a certain reference level. That is why there is increasing demand of concrete language behaviour, such as “examples of a language performance at B1 level”. The writing tasks from the first study were developed to elicit language behaviour corresponding to the level of the assignment. On the basis of the results from Study I, the five assignments that will come nearest to shared interpretation will be selected and will be used for the second experiment. In the second study, these assignments will be given to learners of English and they will be asked to complete the writing tasks. Their writing performances will be presented to a group of raters. On the basis of the text criteria for writing taken from the Raamwerk NT2 (which are based on the writing assessment criteria grid from the CEFR), these raters will have to rate whether the performances are at, above, or below the given level of the assignment. \ud The purpose of the second study is to collect concrete language behaviour of the writing assignments tested in the first study by taking a deeper look into the specificity of the text criteria for writing. Study II thus focuses on the question: are the text criteria for writing in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment specific enough to lead to a shared interpretation among selected raters? If the raters do not agree on the classifications it could be concluded that the text criteria for writing are not specific enough. In this case, it can be determined that the aims of the CEFR of being a comprehensive, transparant and coherent framework are not achieved. Subsequently, this will contribute to a discussion on what needs to be changed in order to achieve the goals set by the CEFR

Topics: Letteren, Common European Framework of Reference, writing descriptors, text criteria writing
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/23259
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