Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 22 12:58:04 UTC 2010

Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2009), 29:51-63 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009


Research Article


Neil Jones and Nick Saville

This article describes how language policy is formed at a European
level, focusing on the Common European Framework of Reference for
Language (CEFR). The CEFR's prominent role in assessment has led to
criticisms of its adequacy as a model for learning and fears that it
is being used as an instrument of centralization and harmonization.
First, we argue for studying the CEFR's effect on language policy as a
case of impact, as this concept is understood within language
assessment. We refer to experience with Asset Languages, developed as
part of the United Kingdom's national languages strategy. Second, we
agree with many commentators who insist on the framework's “flexible
and context-amenable” nature. If use of the CEFR is made prescriptive
and closed, it indeed becomes a straitjacket. What is needed is
engagement with the complexity of specific contexts. We introduce the
European Survey on Language Competences, a European Union (EU)
initiative scheduled for 2011, which will further raise the profile of
the CEFR as an assessment framework. This project should contribute to
achieving comparability of measures and standards across languages. At
the same time it underlines the need to develop contextualized,
practical ways of realizing the CEFR's potential as a framework for
teaching and learning.

Neil Jones is assistant director, Cambridge ESOL Research and
Validation. He joined Cambridge ESOL in the 1990s, with a PhD from the
University of Edinburgh on the application of item response theory,
which he put to good use developing analysis systems and areas of
innovation including item banking and computer-adaptive testing. His
current interests focus on the intersection of assessment and
learning, particularly in relation to the construction and use of
language proficiency frameworks. These include Asset Languages, a
multilingual assessment scheme developed as part of the United
Kingdom's national languages strategy, and the Common European
Framework of Reference for Languages. He is vice director of
SurveyLang, a consortium currently working to deliver the European
Survey on Language Competences.

Contact information: Neil.Jones at surveylang.org

Nick Saville is director of Research and Validation at Cambridge ESOL,
where he has worked since 1989 after posts at the University of
Cagliari in Italy and in Japan. He has been the representative of
Cambridge ESOL in Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE)
since it was established in 1990, and he has had close involvement
with the Council of Europe and European initiatives involving the
CEFR, Reference Level Descriptions for English (the English Profile
Programme) and the assessment of languages for migration and social
cohesion. His current research interests include corpus-based research
within the English Profile Programme and impact research related to
the examinations of Cambridge ESOL. In his thesis he has developed a
model for investigating the impact of language assessment within
educational contexts by providers of public examination. He is
associate editor of Language Assessment Quarterly.

Contact information: Saville.N at cambridgeesol.org

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