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The underlying action-oriented and task-based approach of the CEFR and its implementation in language testing and assessment at university

Johann Fischer

Abstract

The underlying methodological approach of the CEFR is defined as being “action-oriented” and task-based (Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge University Press: 9), although it explicitly leaves room for a variety of approaches, since the CEFR is a framework document. The action-oriented approach is, however, not coherently developed throughout the publication as it does not explain its application in assessment (Chapter 9). Chapter 9 presents a general introduction to the principles of language assessment but does not explain how the assessment can be contextualised so that the test-taker acts as a “social agent”. Although related documents on testing and assessment such as the Manual for Relating Language Examinations to the CEFR (Council of Europe 2009) and the Manual for Language Test Development and Examining (Council of Europe 2011) provide tools on assessment practices, they do not explain how to conceptualise an action-oriented task-based assessment. The CEFR Companion Volume (Council of Europe 2020) also stresses the underlying action-oriented approach of the CEFR in teaching and learning, but as it focuses explicitly on teaching and learning, it too does not cover the area of testing and assessment. For university language teaching, learning and assessment, it is necessary to develop a coherent, holistic methodology that applies the action-oriented and task-based approach to language teaching, learning and assessment, and applies a constructive alignment, which has a particular focus on the learner as a social agent. Initially, this requires the development of course content and the related assessment tasks to be based on a thorough needs analysis for a specific language teaching programme. In this way, university language centres can rethink their approach to teaching and assessment and implement changes both in their teaching and in their assessment and testing in order to offer a more coherent programme to their learners, which makes better use of the CEFR Framework. This paper summarises the principles of task-based language testing and explains in which contexts this approach might be particularly fruitful. It also presents the author’s experience gained in implementing the approach at institutional and national levels, and the challenges involved in managing this change.


Corresponding author: Johann Fischer, ZESS, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, E-mail:

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Published Online: 2021-02-03
Published in Print: 2020-12-16

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