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    A guide to teacher competences for languages in education
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    Learner frameworks

A guide to teacher competences for languages in education


Learner frameworks and key background documents 

Below, you find brief descriptions of important resources that outline (language) learners’ competences, and key background documents.

Learner frameworks

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 l
anguage 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.

Link: https://www.ecml.at/Portals/1/mtp4/language_descriptors/documents/language-descriptors-EN.pdf

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.

Link: www.oesz.at/download/cm/CurriculumMehrsprachigkeit2011.pdf

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.

Link: //www.ecml.at/ECML-Programme/Programme2012-2015/ProSign/PRO-Sign-referencelevels/tabid/1844/Default.aspx

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.

Link: http://taalunieversum.org/sites/tuv/files/downloads/Taalunie_en.pdf

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.

Link: www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/?

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.

Link: http://rm.coe.int/cefr-companion-volume-with-new-descriptors-2018/1680787989

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.

Link: www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/Source/Checklist_Nord-Rhein-Westphalia_en.pdf

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.

Link: https://www.coe.int/web/education/competences-for-democratic-culture

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.

Link: https://www.miriadi.net/en/refic

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.

Link: https://carap.ecml.at/Accueil/tabid/3577/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

Key background documents

The Language Dimension in All Subjects: A Handbook for Curriculum Development and Teacher Training 

This Handbook presents a large number of pathways for all learners to master the language dimension of school subjects, at different levels of the curriculum, as well as the corresponding requirements for teaching and assessment. This mastery is one condition for everybody’s success, and therefore the quality of education. The presented developments and examples address the need to make all teachers aware, through their education and the curriculum, of the importance of the language dimension, of concrete ways how to assume this responsibility, and of the interest of a cooperative approach to this issue. To this aim, the Handbook, which was published by the Language Policy Unity of the Council of Europe in 2015, highlights the specific role of each teacher as a ‘language teacher’, whether they are teaching the language of schooling or another subject, alongside teachers of other languages.

Link: https://book.coe.int/eur/en/language-policy/7120-the-language-dimension-in-all-subjects-a-handbook-for-curriculum-development-and-teacher-training.html

Literature Review - Teachers’ Core Competences: Requirements and Development 

This 28-page literature review, prepared by Francesca Caena and published in 2011, was produced under the auspices of the EU’s Education and Training (ET) 2020 Thematic Working Group ‘Teacher Professional Development’. It informed publications such as Supporting Teacher Competence Development (2013) (see separate description). It begins with an exploration of EU and OECD literature on competences, and studies specifically on teacher competences as represented in curricula for initial teacher education. There is also a valuable survey of some US literature on teacher competences. Section 2 focuses on teacher competences and professional standards, and the implications and pros and cons of a standards-based approach to teaching. Following a 6-page of references, the annex to the review provides a useful summary of the European Profile for Language Teacher Education (Kelly and Grenfell 2004) and the TUNING approach (Gonzalez and Wagenaar 2005), as well as of a ‘synthesis of recurrent, shared definitions of teacher competences/ capacities in recent educational studies’ (reviewed by Williamson & McDiarmid, 2008), all of which are referred to in the paper.

Link: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/policy/strategic-framework/doc/teacher-competences_en.pdf

Supporting Teacher Competence Development for Better Learning Outcomes 

This 59-page European Union booklet (2013) draws on the work of the EU’s Thematic Working Group ‘Teacher Professional Development’. Its scope relates to teachers of any subject in the EU, where about 6 million teachers work. The booklet provides a useful discussion of what teacher competences are and how they relate to teaching quality and teaching standards. It considers the value of frameworks of teacher competences as a focus for discussion about what should be expected of teachers and a means of highlighting and reflecting on competences. There is then a review of EU recommended policies for supporting and stimulating teachers’ professional learning in the EU. The discussion in the various sections is illustrated by short examples of implementation from some EU member states.

Link: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education

Guide for the development and implementation of curricula for plurilingual and intercultural education 

The Guide is a key Council of Europe document for integrating of plurilingualism and interculturality in the teaching of all languages. The publication presents suggestions for curriculum design and organization at different levels of curricula, with a focus on convergence and links between different languages. The topic of teacher competences and useful training experiences is treated in several parts of the publication, e.g. in a chapter about teacher education. The competences and experiences contain, amongst others, the teacher’s own plurilingual and intercultural competences, as well as training elements that are common to teachers of different languages and subjects. The Guide was published by the Council of Europe in its final version in 2015. It is available in English and French.

Link: https://book.coe.int/eur/en/language-policy/7107-guide-for-the-development-and-implementation-of-curricula-for-plurilingual-and-intercultural-education.html

Language Educator Awareness (LEA): Developing plurilingual and pluricultural awareness in language teacher education

The LEA publication is the outcome of an ECML project which set out to define teacher competences for plurilingual and pluricultural awareness. The publication first describes a programme for teacher education that addresses some relevant personal and professional competences, e.g. the teacher’s recognition of linguistic and cultural diversity as a positive aspect of society, or their ability to implement educational projects in these areas. A training kit contains “itineraries” for teacher education that are related to teachers’ identities, learning about languages and cultures, dealing with intercultural and plurilingual education, and exploring attitudes towards languages and cultures, with many concrete activities.

Link: //www.ecml.at/tabid/277/PublicationID/21/Default.aspx

Learning Standards, Teaching Standards and Standards for School Principals - A comparative study

The study compares and discusses standards related to students and their learning, teachers, and school principles, from a wide range of OECD and partner countries and regions. The focus is on the purpose and characteristics of these standards, how they were developed, and on implementation. For the comparative analysis, three categories of teacher competence were distinguished: disciplinary knowledge, pedagogic practice, and “values and professional teaching practice”. The study was published by the OECD in 2013 and is available in English.

Link: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/learning-standards-teaching-standards-and-standards-for-school-principals_5k3tsjqtp90v-en

Education, mobility, otherness: the mediation functions of schools

This text was commissioned parallel to the development of the CEFR Companion Volume as part of the initiative to situate the CEFR in the changed educational landscape. It focuses on the role of mediation in the educational and socialising process as children widen the range of communities and networks with which they interact. The text develops the concept of mediation, including institutional mediation, and incorporates (early versions of) descriptors from both the CEFR Companion Volume and the Council of Europe’s framework Competences for Democratic Culture.

Link: www.coe.int/t/dg4/Linguistic/Source/LE_texts_Source/LE%202015/Education-Mobility-Otherness_en.pdf

The place of the languages of schooling in the curricula

This document is a collection of five articles dealing in-depth with the role of language in subject-specific curricula in general and in the four subject areas History, Literature, Mathematics and the Sciences in particular. After a general introduction into the “Linguistic dimensions of knowledge building in school curricula” four case studies are presented, each one describing and analyzing in detail the linguistic basis and the language requirements of that subject as well as the linguistic-cognitive processes involved in teaching and learning it. The studies go all the way down to listing the concrete language choices available for dealing with specific sub-areas and approaches within that subject.

All four case studies are structured in the same way, so that individual subject teachers of the four subject areas can profit from the respective study for their curricular reflections and decisions as to the place of language as part of knowledge/content acquisition. The offered categories, principles, concepts and discourse functions will have to be adapted to individual conditions and classrooms. This document might be helpful for all subject teachers across Europe, independent of school type, teaching level, and language involved. It is available from the website of the Council of Europe in English and French under the following link:

Link: www.coe.int/t/dg4/Linguistic/Source/LE_texts_Source/LE%202015/Place-of-languages-of-schooling-in-curricula_EN.pdf