The Framework and Language Portfolio SIG (forming)

Fergus O'Dwyer, Momoyama Gakuin/St. Andrew's University


In recent years, there has been lively discussion in Japan about language learning curriculums and frameworks, especially the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP).In forming the Framework and Language Portfolio SIG at JALT 2008, those present sought to gather interested individuals in order to garner ideas, discuss developments, and coordinate efforts.

The CEFR and ELP can be used in curriculum planning, assessment, and other related language-teaching endeavours, ranging from elementary school to university level. There are also other similar frameworks such as the Canadian Language Benchmarks. The SIG wants to discuss these frameworks and their relevance for curriculums in Japan, while carrying out projects and communicating the results. There will be an emphasis on developing materials to support educators who would like to use these pedagogic tools.

The Sunday morning forum at JALT2008 in Tokyo that led to the forming of the SIG started with some of the participants explaining how they have been using the tools in Japan:

1. Bernd Jacob described the promotion and use of the CEFR to integrate language classes and tests by the Goethe Institute.

2. Noriko Nagai explained how Ibaraki University has been using the CEFR for their Integrated English Program curriculum since 2004.

3. Naoyuki Naganuma (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) talked about the development of can do scales to complement the ELP self-assessment checklists in Japanese university EFL classes.

4. Kazumi Sakai gave an account of the use of the CEFR and ELP to create cohesion and transparency in language education from the elementary to tertiary level at Keio.

5. Fergus O’Dwyer (Momoyama Gakuin) presented on the use of a language portfolio in general university EFL classes.

After these presentations the forum continued with the moderators explaining what the SIG plans to do (most importantly: establish project teams and maintain discussion groups). A brief exchange of opinions followed, where it was pointed out that the group’s focus should be wide and include other frameworks (e.g. Canadian Language Benchmarks). All present then split into project teams to begin action plans with the immediate goal of developing materials to present at a seminar to be held on 14-15 March.

This seminar will involve workshops, case studies, and project teams working on action plans. These include "Language portfolio template," "Framework materials resources/syllabus guides," "Teacher training," and "Establishing the use of frameworks in Japan." (It is very difficult to verify how many organisations are currently using these tools in Japan, and in what way.)In time, it is hoped that the SIG collection of materials to aid implementation of the pedagogic tools will grow through project team activities. The pool of experience within the SIG can contribute and offer insights into the reform of language education in Japan. The use of the CEFR noted above and in other institutions, most notably as the basis for all 28 language curriculums in the Osaka University of Foreign studies, show curriculum choices that many institutions may choose to pursue. Current research at Keio sets out a vision of future reforms that can integrate all levels of formal language education.

Japan certainly offers unique challenges, but the aim of the CEFR and the ELP (to be used for all languages in all situations) should not be forgotten. The aspiration of the CEFR in the USA working group (to create a single framework for all aspects of language teaching and learning, incorporating the CEFR and other frameworks) is an exciting possibility. This is a far-from-simple exercise but is one theme, among several others, that could be extrapolated in discussions initiated by the SIG. It is not realistic to expect widespread reform of language curriculums in the near future but, as the use of the CEFR increases in Japan, the adoption of tools like the ELP will become easier. The SIG hopes to provide information and resources for learners, educators, and decision makers who are interested in adopting these tools. The way forward offers exciting challenges.

Beyond this seminar in March 2009 there are tentative plans to participate in conferences thereafter. For more information about the Framework and Language Portfolio SIG, details on becoming a member, and links to information about the CEFR, ELP, etc., visit the JALT SIG forums at <,456.0.html>.

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