Language skills for successful subject learning. CEFR-linked descriptors for mathematics and history/civics
This study is an attempt to link the general scales of (foreign) language competences to the language of schooling (as defined by the work of the Council of Europe), related to the end of primary and lower secondary education.
The language descriptors are particularly geared towards migrant and minority learners’ success in compulsory education. The third part deals with practical ways of how teachers of mathematics and history/civics (and parents) can use these descriptors, e.g. in the classroom. The focus is primarily on (1) raising awareness of language in content classes, (2) using the language descriptors as guidelines for developing language proficiency in the content classroom and (3) using them as instructional and assessment tools.
A short guide to developing similar CEFR-linked language descriptors for other subjects is added, as well as many references for further information and study.
Curriculum Mehrsprachigkeit / Multilingualism Curriculum
The curriculum describes learner competences related to plurilingualism and plurilingual learning. It was written for pupils at different levels of obligatory school in Austria and contains a detailed syllabus with concrete learning activities. The curriculum is linked to a teacher framework, the Basiskompetenzen Sprachliche Bildung für alle Lehrenden. It was published in 2011, and is available in German and English.
Sign languages and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Common Reference Level Descriptors (ProSign)
The ProSign framework is a point of reference for the development of curricula for signed languages in higher education that are aligned to the CEFR levels. The competence descriptors are adapted to the different modalities of sign languages. It was published together with other results of the ProSign project in 2015 and is available in English, Czech, German and International Sign. The framework’s focus on sign language learners is complemented by instruments for sign language teachers and educators in the current project Promoting excellence in sign language instruction.
Framework of Reference for Early Second Language Acquisition
The framework describes minimal requirements for the early acquisition of a second language in pre-primary education (ISCED 0). The requirements are organized according to the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and illustrated with concrete examples of activities. The framework also contains a brief analysis of its implications for the educators. It was published in Dutch by the Nederlandse Taalunie in 2001, and is available in Dutch, French and English.
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR)
The CEFR was developed by the Council of Europe between 1994 and 2001 in order to (a) assist in the coordination of aims in language education, and (b) stimulate reflection on current practice. The CEFR proposes plurilingual, intercultural education as the goal of language education and provides a descriptive scheme for communicative language activities and strategies (reception, production, interaction, mediation), for general competences (declarative knowledge, skills and know-how, existential competence, ability to learn), and for communicative language competence (linguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic). Descriptors were provided for six expandable levels (A1-C2) for all aspects of the scheme other than general competences.
CEFR Companion Volume with New Descriptors (CEFR/CV)
The CEFR/CV was developed by the Council of Europe between 2013 and 2017. It contains: a text clarifying key aspects of the CEFR for teaching and learning, an update of the 2001 descriptor scales, and some 30 new descriptor scales for areas not covered in the original version of the CEFR. These include, in particular, scales for mediation (mediating text, mediating concepts, mediating communication), for online interaction, and for plurilingual/pluricultural competences. A summary of the development project is also included. The focus of CEFR/CV was on mediation, as an accompaniment to the text Education, mobility, otherness, and covered the personal, public and occupational domains in addition to the educational.
A Framework of Language Competences Across the Curriculum: Language(s) in and for Inclusive Education in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)
This document reports about relevant activities in one of the “Länder” in Germany relating to the support of language development as part of all subject teaching and learning. In particular, it offers a coherent and transparent framework of language competences for all learners in (German as) the dominant language of schooling across subjects. It helps subject specialists to specify cognitive and communicative competences and their respective contribution to a coherent subject-based as well as cross-curricular language support program. The inventory in the Appendix lists the necessary language elements, skills, strategies and competences to be acquired by the end of compulsory schooling at the age of 15/16 which are absolutely basic for the continuation of formal academic education and/or qualified vocational training.
The framework is based on an extensive empirical analysis of language requirements as identified in current curricular documents, in textbooks and other academic materials, in relevant policy documents as well as in pertinent pedagogical publications and memoranda by professional bodies. The development of this repertoire of linguistic competences in school education for ALL was commissioned by the Ministry of Education of North Rhine Westphalia; they can be considered as demands on the learner, but also as minimal rights or entitlements of each and every learner to successful content learning across the curriculum. It is structured into five areas: 1. General classroom interaction: negotiation of meaning and participation 2. Information retrieval and processing, 3. Basic communicative-cognitive strategies and discourse functions, 4. Documenting, presenting and exchanging about learning results, 5. Availability of linguistic means and language elements for the realization of the above-listed competence areas.
This breakdown into five complementary dimensions of learner language allows for flexible approaches to language support across the whole curriculum. Language experts (L1, L2, foreign languages) might make use of all five dimensions when organizing targeted language support; they will probably focus on the availability of the learners´ individual linguistic means and strategies in a more systematic way. Non-language experts will rather choose a functional and pragmatic way whenever the reaching of curricular objectives and the language background of the learners make scaffolding necessary. They will leave the more systematic linguistic approaches (dim. 5) to language experts. When it comes to scaffolding they will probably have to concentrate on presenting language exponents and “chunks” to learners at risk as part of the content (topical or thematic issues) and as options for subject-specific purposes. Curriculum working groups on the other hand (on the central, regional, local administration level as well as within the individual schools) can draw on elements from this structured inventory which might serve as a framework for cross-curricular co-ordination, for division of labor among subjects or for considerations of systematic language transfer from one subject to another. It might also turn out to be a valuable resource document for the definition of minimum language requirements at certain age/competence levels, for defining literacy or relevant exit criteria and for organizing language support programs accordingly.
What is yet underdeveloped in the framework are text-linguistic/genre competences. For the future, it seems advisable to break down this exit inventory of language competences into a scaled set of minimal standards for different age groups and subjects. The framework is available in German, English and French.
Competences for Democratic Culture: Living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies
Promoting and developing the culture of democracy is a major challenge for our societies. The framework, which was published by the Council of Europe in 2018, explores the contribution of educators to this challenge. It lists the skills to be acquired by all learners to enable them to become engaged and tolerant citizens. It also discusses the modalities that favour such an acquisition and proposes descriptors for the different skills. All members of educational teams are directly concerned. However, the competence model presented includes objectives that are particularly relevant to foreign or regional language teachers or the language of schooling, as well as to all teachers who are aware of the importance of the language dimension of their subject (s): cultural diversity; openness to cultural otherness; linguistic, communicative and plurilingual skills; knowledge and critical understanding of language and communication. This framework highlights the role of the cultural and linguistic dimension in an overall educational project that carries values.
The Framework for plurilingual communicative competences in intercomprehension (REFIC)
The Framework for plurilingual communicative competences in intercomprehension (REFIC) is intended as a guide for the development of courses and a basis for evaluating competences acquired in the context of plurilingual approaches for language learning informed by intercomprehension.
The REFIC framework contains competence descriptors at three levels, in the following domains:
1. The plurilingual individual and their learning
2. Languages and cultures
3. Written comprehension
4. Oral comprehension
5. Plurilingual interaction
The framework was conceived to promote the use of intercomprehension as a plurilingual communicative practice in curricula and beyond. It can be used in a simple and straightforward way by teachers and teacher educators to plan their teaching. Each descriptor is combined with concrete examples, practical suggestions, and sources of further information.
Framework of reference for pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures (FREPA)
The Framework of reference for pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures / Cadre de référence pour les approches plurielles des langues et des cultures (FREPA/CARAP) results from a project supported by the ECML since 2004. It is in keeping with the paradigmatic changes and the overall vision of languages in education and languages for education that the Council of Europe seeks to promote.
FREPA proposes a comprehensive list of descriptors in terms of learners’ general competences and resources linked with the notion of plurilingual and intercultural competence. It represents an essential complement to current European language policy instruments. The descriptors were developed as a result of a systematic analysis of the content of around a hundred publications, concretising the CEFR’s rationale on plurilingual and intercultural competence in terms of knowledge (savoirs), attitudes (savoir-être) and skills (savoir-faire). Learning competences are also dealt with.
FREPA’s target groups are stakeholders in the educational field: teachers, teacher trainers, decision-makers, curriculum designers and textbook writers. The project page is available in English, French and German. The descriptors exist in about ten languages.
Due to the great diversity of social and educational situations, the lists of descriptors presented by FREPA have to be as exhaustive as possible to offer teachers an explicit and precise formulation of elements of knowledge, attitudes and skills they feel their own students need. In order to facilitate access to the lists, an interactive online step by step presentation of the descriptors has been developed.
One additional key instrument is the online database which provides teaching materials in several languages for putting the development of FREPA elements of knowledge, attitudes and skills into practice. The activities proposed in the database relate to the four Pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures (Awakening to languages, Integrated language learning, Intercomprehension and Intercultural education) and concern the different levels of the curriculum from Pre-primary to Secondary and beyond.
A training kit for teacher education to support understanding and use of pluralistic approaches and FREPA tools is also available.