Defining Criterial Features at C1: an approach Susan Sheehan Acknowledgement This project was funded by the British Council through the Assessment Research Grant scheme. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter and do not represent those of the British Council.
Contents Project background
Methodology Results Conclusions Project Background First came the Blue Book Project Background
Then came Project background The project aimed to identify criterial features of written and spoken English at C1. The project hoped to bring clarity to our understanding of an under-specified and under-described level (Weir, 2005, Green, 2012).
Problematic nature of C1 C1 is a challenging CEFR level to investigate as there is a lack of consensus around what makes a person a C1 level language user (Weir, 2005b). When writing the Core Inventory the C levels were the most problematic. Indeed, the lack of consensus around what should be taught at C levels led to C2 being
excluded from the project. Limited consensus was found around C1 Problematic nature of C1 North (2014:50) states that: Level C1 is characterised by access to a broad range of language that results in fluent, spontaneous communication They (C1 speakers) are also very accurate, with a solid grasp of
the main grammatical structures of the language Problematic nature of C1 C1 is a level which is requested by various authorities. For example, for a teacher certification agency C1 is the required level for someone wishing to English as a foreign language
Use of Core Inventory The Core Inventorys authors argued that: The Core Inventory is a documentation of good practice. In future it will be interesting to compare the Inventory with data-based research conducted with learnersand note points of similarity and contrast. Fruitful avenues of research could be opened up to investigate possible explanations or reasons for the differences. (2010:18)
Definition of a criterial feature ...criterial features that might help users to distinguish one level from another. (Green, 2012:94) Methodology MA TESOL students with IELTS scores of 6.5 or above
were invited to take a test of written and spoken English. The test had been created to satisfy the requirements of an external validation agency. The scripts were analysed with ATLAS ti software to identify which of the features described as core in the Core Inventory are found in the scripts and with what level of frequency. The software was used on both the written and audio data
The participants The participants were all aspiring teachers of English. Participants came from China, Libya, Kurdistan, Vietnam and Pakistan. The first two countries in the list provided the most participants. The participants were all aged between 25 and 35. The majority of the participants were female. This reflects the gender balance of the course. All participants aspired to careers as English
teachers upon completion of their studies. Materials Participants were asked to complete a written test and an oral interview. Written test included multiple-choice grammar test, lexis test and an extended writing task Oral interview questions based on past language
learning experiences and reasons for being a teacher Data analysis The tests of grammar and lexis were marked using a key of correct answers. The extended writing task and interview data were analysed using ATLAS.ti software. The codes used were based on the Core Inventory. The codes were then
applied to data. So, for example, Critiquing and reviewing, 33 was used to code all examples of participants using such language. Data Analysis Following the practice established by the Core Inventory writers language points were considered to be criterial if they reached the appropriate level of frequency.
Results grammar test Generally participants responded correctly. Two test items were answered incorrectly by most of the participants. These were: 30 expressing certainty, probability doubt I rather doubt that hell come. 181 collocations The suspense is palpable.
Results lexis C1 words were correctly identified 55 times. This compares to 37 correctly identified words at B2 level and 16 words at C2. The highest average scores were found at C1 level with the exception of A1.
Results writing and interview Nearly one quarter of the language points included at C1 occurred with sufficient frequency to suggest that they could be considered criterial for the level. The language points which could be considered criterial tended to be those relating to argumentation and expressing feelings and attitudes precisely. There is some evidence to suggest that giving advice could be
considered to be criterial. Conclusions Perhaps the significance of the project lies in the creation of an approach to identifying criterial features by using the Core Inventory. This project may indicate that C1 level users share more in common than has previously been thought to be the
case. References Capel, A, 2012, Completing the English Vocabulary Profile: C1 and C2 Vocabulary, English Profile Journal vol 3 pp 1-14 Council of Europe, 2001, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Gad, L, Geranpayeh, A, Khalifa, H, and Buckendahl, C, Standard Setting to an International Reference Framework: Implications for Theory and Practice, International Journal of Testing, vol 13, pp 32-49 References Green, A, 2012, Language Functions Revisited Theoretical and empirical bases for language construct definition across
the ability range, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Jones, G, 2015, A Validation Study of the British Council EAQUALS Core Inventory for General English, British Council, London References North, B, Ortega, A and Sheehan, S, 2010, British Council EAQUALS Core Inventory for General English, British
Council, London North, B, 2014, The CEFR in Practice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Weir, C, 2005b, Limitations of the Common European Framework for developing comparable examinations and tests Language Testing, vol 22, pp 282-300
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