This conference, held at the Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium, from 27-29 May 2013, brought together 188 language professionals – practitioners, policy makers and researchers – from 26 countries (Europe and beyond) in order to discuss the following issues related to the use of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in language testing:
- Competence and performance: What is the link between ‘can do’ performance statements and areas of linguistic knowledge? To what extent can or should the levels be made more explicit in terms of required vocabulary and grammar?
- Degree of difficulty of the levels: How can we make sure that our examinations are measuring at the CEFR levels we claim they are? What evidence do we have to support our claims?
- Test purpose: Why are we testing? What kind of decisions will be made on the basis of information collected via the test? What will be the consequences of these decisions?
- Practicality: How do we link our tests to the CEFR? How practical, applicable and operational is the CEFR for concrete language testing situations?
- Ann Aerts (conference manager), Jozef Colpaert (chair), Margret Oberhofer, Mathea Simons.
- Waldemar Martyniuk, Executive Director European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe,
- Lyle Bachman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles.
- Etienne Devaux, Screening methodologist, SELOR (Belgian public personnel selection and certification agency)
- Jan Hulstijn, Professor of Second Language Acquisition, Universiteit Amsterdam
Waldemar Martyniuk gave a keynote on the use of the Common European Framework of Reference for languages of the Council of Europe and presented the 4th medium-term programme of the ECML activities “Learning through languages. Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education” (2012-2015). The presentation enabled to clarify the status and the function of the CEFR and to inform the audience on conclusions and recommendations provided by the recent meeting of the CEFR authors organised by the Council of Europe Language Policy Unit.
The participants of the conference surveyed before the event provided an overall positive evaluation of the CEFR as a very useful tool. In the conclusions adopted in the final session they prioritised the following actions in support of an appropriate use of the CEFR:
- Raising critical awareness of all users/stakeholders and managing expectations;
- Providing a platform for exchange of good practice/evidence;
- Providing more examples for course designers and teachers as well as providing more objective, clear and consistent reference level descriptors;
- While supporting suggestions for some fine-tuning and extension of the CEFR they were rather advocating the need to promote good practice and support in appropriate use of the CEFR.