Sunday, 31 May 2009

Proposed New Level Descriptors in Languages: Your Chance to Have a Say

Some changes are afoot concerning the level descriptors in Languages. Do check out the suggested changes here and take part in the feedback questionnaire here

You will need to register and provide an email address to be sent a link to take part in the consultation. This is a very quick process and the questionnaire is very short.

What are the main changes?

Attainment Target 1: Listening and Speaking
Attainment Target 2 : Reading and Writing
Attainment Target 3: Intercultural Understanding Across Attainment Target 1 and 2

The number of Attainment Targets is reduced to 3. However, the mix of active and passive skills in AT1 and AT2 could make accurate assessment very tricky indeed. Levels 1-3 seem harder to attain, which will hit lower ability students and may slow down perceived progression.

It is also generally acknowledged that students achieve higher levels in receptive skills, so if the level for AT1 and AT2 is an average, this could lead to little incentive to develop productive skills further. Time will also be a factor to be considered as a lot of MFL Faculties have seen their curriculum time decrease since MFL were made optional in 2004. With the pressure on to increase uptake at KS4, more assessment and less curriculum time does not seem like the way forward…

Another major change is the introduction of Intercultural Understanding as an attainment target although this is already in place in the KS2 Framework for Languages as one of the 5 strands also including Oracy, Literacy, Knowledge About Language (KAL) and Language Learning Strategies.

Although I do believe that Intercultural Understanding is a very important part of learning a language, the level descriptors appear to be politically-motivated and will not be easy to assess in a meaningful way in a classroom environment.

Student should “research and analyse materials relating to target language countries or communities and present their findings in an appropriate format, including personal responses in their analysis” for an Exceptional Performance level but if it is done in English-which is more than likely-how can this be done “across AT1 and AT2”?

3/5 better than 4?

Guidelines from the new Curriculum For Excellence in Scotland support the assessment of 3 skills: Listening & Talking, Reading, Writing. There is also a clear reference to Intercultural Understanding in the Reading Strand, “Reading to appreciate other cultures”

In Wales, Oracy, Reading and Writing also feature as skills to be assessed but Intercultural Understanding “should underpin the purpose of learning a modern foreign language and be integrated into as many activities as possible”.

I notice the fact that Listening and Speaking have been integrated into one Attainment Target in both Scotland and Wales while Reading and Writing are still assessed separately, with Intercultural Understanding underpinning the context for language-learning. A better idea perhaps?

While the discussion goes on as a new thread in TES MFL Forum, keep an eye on the outcome of the consultation via the ALL-London page (thanks to Helen Myers for this)

I would also be curious to find out about assessment practices for languages in other countries. So please, do leave a comment if you are not from the UK…

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