Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The European Language Portfolio

In a previous post, I introduced the bilingual project that the IES Llanes in Seville, Spain is doing. I mentioned that the different subject area teachers that work in the bilingual program get involved in multidisciplinary projects. Students can self-assess their progress and building their personal language portfolios  in the target language. These portfolios follow the structure of the European Language Portfolio (ELP). For those not familiar with it, here is further information extracted from the websites of the European Council.

The ELP was an initiative of the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe. It was piloted from 1998 to 2000 and launched in 2001. Basically, the ELP is a personal document for the language learner that has three parts:
  1. A language passport where the learner can summarize his/her linguistic and cultural identity, language qualifications, experience of using different languages and contacts with different cultures. It is important to point out that the passport includes all the learner's contact with languages, at school but also outside school.
  2. A language biography that helps the learner to set learning targets, to record and reflect language learning   and on intercultural experiences and regularly assess progress.
  3. A dossier where the learner can keep samples of his/her work in the language(s) that he/she is learning. 
The goals for launching the ELP are:
  1. to support the development of learner autonomy, pluralingualism and intercultural awareness and competence;
  2. to allow users to record their language learning achievement and their experience of learning and using languages.
The ELP works in close relation with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The CEFR was designated to provide transparent, coherent and comprehensive basis for elaborating syllabuses, learning materials and the assessment of language proficiency. The CEFR describes language proficiency at six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. This scheme makes it possible to compare resources, tests and examinations across languages and national boundaries. It also provides a basis for recognizing language qualifications.

The Language Passport in the ELP will use the six levels of proficiency summarized for the five skills of listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing in a self assessment grid. 

The descriptors in the different cells of the self-assessment grid are expanded into checklists of tasks that can be used to plan, monitor and evaluate learning. For example, the descriptor for B1 WRITING might be expanded into the following tasks:
  • I can write notes giving simple information to friends, service people, teachers and others who feature in my everyday life.
  • I can write personal letters giving news and expressing my thoughts about music, films etc. in some detail and getting across what I feel is important
  • I can write notes or message to check information and ask about or explain problems with reasonable precision.
  • I can take down messages communicating enquiries and relaying problems.
When learners can perform these tasks in another language they can record in their Language Passport that their level for writing in that language is B1.

Moreover, teachers can expand and adapt these checklists to adjust to the different tasks and projects they are working with their student. This way students can monitor their progress regularly and very accurately.
All the information in this post has been taking from two websites from the Council of Europe. Both provide clear and thorough information about language policies in Europe and explain in detail the origin and goals of the ELP and the CEFR. The websites also include examples of experiences implementing the ELP and the CEFR and best practices. Both websites are a great tool for teachers who want to start using portfolios in their classes.

To learn more about the CEFR in the Canadian context visit: Link.

To see a copy of the CEFR self assessment grid, click below:

The ELP and CEFR are two tools worth exploring. They can be very useful in our Spanish Bilingual Programs.