Guide to CEF and Learner Autonomy

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Guide to CEF

Transcript of Guide to CEF and Learner Autonomy


    Guide to the Common EuropeanFramework and Learner Autonomy


    Philip Kerr

    Lindsay Clandfield

    Ceri Jones

    Roy Norris

    Jim Scrivener

    Teaching made simple







    The Straightforward Guide to theCommon European Framework andLearner Autonomy

    ContentsWhat is the Common European Framework? 2

    Evaluation and can-do statements 2

    Learner autonomy and lifelong learning 3

    Learner Autonomy and Learner Portfolios 4

    Developing learning skills 4

    Activities to encourage learner autonomy 6 - 12

    Activities to develop learning skills 13 - 19

    The Global Scale of the Common European Framework 20

    Welcome to the Straightforward Guides. We hope that they will be particularly helpfulfor less experienced teachers, as well as providing a number of fresh ideas for everyone.

    Each guide follows a simple, easy-to-use format.

    The first section presents an aspect of language teaching practice in a clear, accessibleway, with the busy teacher in mind.

    The second section provides a selection of classroom activities that require onlyminimal preparation, along with tips on how to incorporate this kind of work into yourday-to-day teaching.

    This guide is all about the Common European Framework (CEF) and learner autonomyin (and outside) the language classroom. We look at what the CEF is, how it may affectyou as an English language teacher, and how you can reflect the spirit of the CEF inyour classroom.

    We hope you and your students enjoy it!

    Lindsay Clandfield and Philip KerrAuthors of the Straightforward series

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    What is the Common European Framework?

    Evaluation and can-do statements

    Its probably one of the most influential documents of recent years in the world oflanguage teaching. Its often referred to as the CEF (or equivalent acronym in otherlanguages) or simply the Framework. Looking at the impact it is having across Europeand beyond, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Common European Frameworkis an enormous department of officials in Brussels, or at the very least a huge series ofvolumes on language teaching. In reality, its a single, 260-page book.

    The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching,Assessment (its full title) - or the CEF / CEFR for short - was produced in the 1990s bythe Council of Europe. It provides a series of descriptions of language competencesthat can be used to describe the level of a student of any language. It is published inmany languages and you can download the English version for free from the Council ofEuropes website at

    Since 2001, many national ministries of education and other organisations havedecided to adopt the framework of levels from the CEF. Coursebooks and exams, bothnational and international, are now often described using these levels.

    CEF levels Usual coursebook levels Cambridge and IELTS(including Straightforward) examinations

    Proficient C2 CPEuser IELTS 7.5 +

    C1 Advanced CAEIELTS 6.5 / 7.0

    Independent B2 Upper Intermediate FCEuser IELTS 5.0 / 5.5 / 6.0

    B1 Intermediate PETIELTS 3.5 / 4.0 / 4.5


    Basic user A2 IELTS 3.0Elementary

    A1 Beginner

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    The CEF describes each of these levels using can-do statements. A B1 student, forexample, is described as follows:

    Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar mattersregularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with mostsituations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language isspoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or ofpersonal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes andambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

    Reproduced with kind permission of Council of Europe

    See the last page of this booklet for the global can-do statements for all six levels.In addition to global descriptions of levels like this, the CEF also provides moredetailed descriptions for the different language skills (speaking, reading, etc.). Evenmore detailed descriptions are provided for particular kinds of speaking, reading, etc.(e.g. informal discussion, formal meetings, transaction to obtain goods) and forparticular ways of evaluating these skills (range, accuracy, fluency, interaction,coherence). In total, there are over 50 sets of descriptions that describe competencesusing the C2 to A1 framework! But dont worry, a basic familiarity with this level systemis usually enough.

    Learner autonomy and lifelong learning

    You are most likely to need to know about these levels and the can-do statements, butthere is more to the CEF than this. The authors of the CEF recognise that the business oflearning a language does not end in the classroom. It is, they say, a life-long task, butit is one that we can promote and encourage through what we do in the classroom. Animportant part of our work, therefore, is to encourage our students to be autonomousor independent. This can involve:

    the setting of reasonable and achievable learning objectives the ability to choose and use appropriate learning materials and tasks the ability to self-evaluate

    The majority of the practical suggestions in this Guide are designed to promote learnerautonomy of this kind.


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    Learner Autonomy and Learner Portfolios

    One of the first practical spin-offs of the CEF was the European Language Portfolio,which was also developed by the Council of Europe. It is a document in which studentscan record and reflect on their language learning experiences and it typically includes:

    a language passport with a history of the students language learning experiencesand qualifications

    a self-evaluation of the students competences examples of the students work reflections on the students language learning experiences

    In addition to providing a record, the Portfolio is also intended to motivate students.

    More information about portfolios and examples of language passports can bedownloaded at the European Language Portfolio page of the Council of Europeswebsite at Portfolios to accompany each level ofStraightforward are also available. On the opposite page you can see part of theLanguage passport from the Straightforward Intermediate Portfolio. You can get moreinformation and samples to download at The activities inthe first part of this guide are designed to encourage learner autonomy. Many arebased on ideas included in these portfolios.

    Developing learning skills

    If we want our students to become more autonomous, they will need certain skills.Some students will develop these without our help, but most will benefit fromguidance. It will be helpful, for example, to know what reference sources (such asdictionaries and grammar books) are available and how to get the most out of them.Different students study and learn in different ways, but they dont necessarily knowwhich way is the best for them unless they have discovered and experimented withalternatives.The last group of activities in this guide is designed to provide learner training of thiskind.

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    Activities to encourage learner autonomy

    Using can-do statements

    The CD-ROMs that accompany the Straightforward Teachers Books contain self-assessment checklists (can-do statements) that are designed for use after each levelof the book. These are in Word format so that you can edit them to suit your needs ( adding or deleting entries). The Straightforward Portfolios also contain shortchecklists that correspond to each unit of the book.

    Here are some ideas of things that you can do with this material:

    After completing a unit from the book, ask the students to complete thecorresponding checklist. Collect in these lists in order to get feedback on what thestudents are finding easy or difficult. Make changes to what you have planned forsubsequent lessons in the light of this feedback.

    Put the students in groups and ask them to compare their checklists. Ask them togive a short report to the rest of the class on the things that most people have incommon and the things where there are great differences in the students self-evaluations. If there is a consensus that there are particularly problematic areas, putthe students in groups again and ask them to come up with ideas for (1) what theycan do outside the classroom to improve the situation, and (2) what you can dotogether in the classroom to improve the situation. Again, ask them to report back tothe whole class. You can then agree collectively on a plan of action.

    Ask students to complete the checklists before they do the corresponding unit fromthe book. Ask them to complete the checklists again after covering the unit