Z is for ZPD

12 09 2010

Vygotsky

There’s no entry for Z in the A-Z of ELT (which means perhaps it should be called the A to Y of ELT!) but if there were, the strongest candidate would have to be ZPD as in the zone of proximal development. This is the concept most closely identified with the work of the Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, but also, arguably, the concept of his that has been subject to the greatest number of interpretations.

Vygotsky himself defined it as:

“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving and adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (1978, p. 86).

That is to say, it’s that point where learning is still other-regulated, but where the potential for self-regulation is imminent – the moment that the child, teetering on her bike, still needs the steadying touch of her mother’s hand. Teaching is optimally effective, the theory goes, when it “awakens and rouses into life those functions which are in the stage of maturing, which lie in the zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1934, quoted in Wertsch 1985, p. 71).

It’s important to note that the ZPD is not the learner’s ‘level’ in the traditional sense in which we grade students, nor even the level just above, but that, as Gordon Wells puts it, it is “created in the interaction between the student and the co-participants in an activity… and depends on the nature and quality of the interaction as much as on upper limit of the learner’s capability” (Wells, 1999, p. 318). Because the ZPD cannot be gauged in advance, and is a property neither of the learner nor of the interaction alone, “from the teacher’s perspective, … one is always aiming at a moving target” (op.cit., p. 319).

These elusive, emergent, unpredictable, and idiosyncratic properties of the ZPD raise the question as to whether it has any pedagogical applications at all. If it’s not the student’s level (or level + 1), what is it? And how can it be manipulated for optimal learning?

Scholars in the sociocultural tradition have suggested that the way classroom talk is scaffolded (see S is for scaffolding), with the teacher providing only the minimal assistance necessary to enable the learner’s performance, can help orient the activity towards the learner’s ZPD and thereby influence its potential for learning. Optimal experience theorists (see F is for Flow) would also argue that the ZDP is situated at the point where challenge and skill are counter-balanced. Advocates of task-based learning likewise suggest that the judicious calibration of task conditions, such as preparation time and rehearsal, can provide the optimal balance between safety and risk-taking that is associated with the concept of the ZPD, and thereby lead to learning.

Jim Lantolf's workshop: JALT 2009

Others have tried to map the ZPD onto Krashen’s concept of input + 1 and Swain’s analogous concept of output + 1 (see P is for Push). When, during an engaging question-and-answer session at last year’s JALT conference, I asked Jim Lantolf (who, more than anyone, has championed Vygotsky’s relevance to SLA: see Lantolf, 2000, for example) if there were any grounds for making this connection, he was dismissive. “For a start, input + 1 and output + 1 describe qualities of language, not of cognition. Nor do they situate this language within the context of collaborative, interactive activity”. (In fact, Krashen’s Input Hypothesis rejects the need for interaction altogether). Kinginger (2002) is even more scathing, and argues that Vygotsky’s original concept – fuzzy as it was – has been shamelessly co-opted for ideological purposes, as a way of prettifying activities “that have always been done in classrooms where speaking activity takes place as a pretext for grammar practice, only now we are calling it the ‘ZPD’” (p. 255).

Despite all this fuzziness, the notion of the ZPD permeates current rhetoric on teaching. Is it just a fairly meaningless buzz word, or does it still have some currency?

References:

Kinginger, C. 2002. ‘Defining the zone of proximal development in US foreign language education’. Applied Linguistics, 23/2. 240-261.
Lantolf, J. (ed.) 2000. Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vygotsky, L. 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wells, G. 1999. Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wertsch, J. 1985. Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind. Cambridge, MA.; Harvard University Press

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20 responses

12 09 2010
Luiz Otavio

I think the notion of ZPD deserves far more prominence in ELT than what it currently enjoys, regardless of whether we choose to give the term more linguistic or cognitive contours.
Lately, for example, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the issue of oral correction in class and wondering why some teachers are so reluctant to provide corrective feedback, especially when the meaning/form boundaries get fuzzy (whether it’s in a discussion, a role play, a beginning of lesson chat , an appeal to borrow someone’s pen or a student-initiated request for clarification).
The conclusion that I’m leaning towards – obvious as it may seem – is that this sort of correction (i.e., keeping the focus on form alive while the students are struggling with meaning conveyance) is tricky because it’s essentially a form of intervention through careful observation. No amount of reading, coaching or teacher training will give you that.
It takes a teacher who can assess – over and over in any given lesson – the student’s READINESS to take in a piece of feedback and use it for interlanguage restructuring.
In other words, the concept of ZPD can (and perhaps should) shed new light, for example, on the issue of corrective feedback and help teachers move beyond the “correct during accuracy work, take it easy on the correction during meaning-oriented work” dogma once and for all.

12 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Luiz, for highlighting the concept of ‘readiness’. This is fundamental to my understanding of the ZPD. Of course, the idea that learners progress through a ‘natural order’ of interlanguage development, and hence are not always ‘ready’ for whatever it is that our beloved coursebook has mandated we teach on this particular day at this particular time, has been around for a long while now. However, I think it would be a too narrow and mechanistic an interpretation of the ZPD to try to map it on to acquisition-order studies. Or on to vocabulary knowledge scores. The ZPD is less about pre-assigned developmental paths than what the learner is capable of achieving in interaction with others. As Vygotsky said: “Human learning presupposes a specific social nature and process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them” (1978, p. 88). So perhaps this ‘readiness’ is as much a social construct as a cognitive one?

12 09 2010
Luiz Otavio

Absolutely, Scott! If we were to try to somehow predict students’ ZPD based on any sort of sequence (coursebook-mandated or interlanguage research-driven) then that would be defeat the whole purpose of any ZPD considerations we might want to weave into our lessons. The readiness I was referring can only be “felt” (and hopefully tapped into) by the teacher as each lesson unfolds and, yes, you’re right, will probably arise out of the S-S / T-S interaction irrespective of any pre-determined sequence.
So, for example, although it’s generally accepted that learners acquire the third person S late and are relatively impervious to corrective feedback in the earlier stages of interlanguage development, I can think of a number of classroom events that might contradict this and somehow perhaps bring students’ “readiness” to the surface. For example, if I were teaching an A1/A2 group and helping students talk about their friends’ hobbies (he likes, she plays, he goes), it’s quite possible that a “please, help me use this piece of language better” moment might emerge. You know, that magic moment when you feel that the student is READY to be told that it’s “likes” rather than “like”.

12 09 2010
Klaus Beutelspacher

Scott, before digging into this interesting post: Could you define “input + 1″? Do you find it in Krashen’s work, or does it somehow stand for the comprehension hypothesis, which used to be the input hypothesis?

12 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Hi Klaus… easiest would be to cut-and-paste from the entry for INPUT in An A-Z of ELT:

Input is the spoken or written language that learners are exposed to. You cannot learn a language without input. Less clear is whether input alone is enough, and what sort of input is best. In his input hypothesis, the linguist Stephen Krashen argues that input is all that is necessary for language acquisition to take place. But, he adds, the input must be comprehensible, and it must contain grammatical forms that are one step more advanced than the current state of the learner’s interlanguage. This level is represented by the formula ‘i + 1’ (= input + 1). According to Krashen, this ‘roughly-tuned’ input is enough to kick-start the learner’s internal acquisition processes, so that no overt teaching—of grammar, for example—is required.

13 09 2010
Klaus Beutelspacher

Hi Scott, thanks for clarifying. Krashen is someone I’ve read, but I seem to have retained something different. Input is what it is, but if you’re saying that “i+1=input+1”, you imply “i=input”. Now that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

Why not copy and paste some Krashen. I got the definition of the input hypothesis from the website sdkrashen.com, “Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition”, 1982, p. 21 (sorry, I don’t know how to indent here)

“The input hypothesis makes the following claim: a necessary (but not sufficient) condition to move from stage i to stage i + 1 is that the acquirer understand input that contains i + 1, where “understand” means that the acquirer is focussed on the meaning and not the form of the message.

We acquire, in other words, only when we understand language that contains structure that is “a little beyond” where we are now.” (end of quote)

Hence “i” is a “stage”, a property of both the input and the acquirer with respect to his ability to comprehend this input. It can’t be identical to the input itself. And the “i+1” is a little beyond that stage, pretty much the ZPD.

Also, “i+1” does not necessarily refer to “grammatical forms”, as you put it, unless you use “grammar” in a very general sense. In other words, it stands for a stage with a little more of whatever a language is made of.

And, what’s more: By no means does Krashen claim that “input is all that is necessary for acquisition to take place”. That indeed would be foolish! What’s actually crucial: The acquirer must understand, i.e. comprehension (not input) triggers acquisition. Input without comprehension is white noise, even when it is potentially comprehensible. Comprehension is very much a cognitive process, which gets us back to the original post. Lantolf didn’t seem to see that.

Finally I really can’t see how the input hypothesis “rejects the need for interaction altogether”. What a strange claim! Krashen may be rejecting a thing or two, but certainly not the need for interaction.

So, i+1 and ZPD clearly point in the same direction. Both are somewhat fuzzy. It could be interesting to look at this more closely, to help focusing the image.

13 09 2010
Luiz Otávio

My two cents:
Klaus,
1. I think Scott might be using “grammatical forms” as a general umbrella term for both grammar and lexical phrases. So I think he’s talking about “focus on form” (form being an all encompassing term) rather than “focus on forms”, just to use Long’s 1988 terminology. Plus, hasn’t most research into L2 acquisition (e.g.: morpeheme studies) focused on grammar anyway?
2. I’m no expert on Krashen, but I’ve yet to come across a single article in which Krashen stated that any sort of interaction (meaning-focused, form-focused or form-defocused to use Keith Johnson’s term) can speed up acquisition. He may not dismiss interactive output out of hand, of course, but as a result of input-driven acquisition rather than one of its causes.

13 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Hi Klaus,

Yes, you’re right (I think!) – that the i in i + 1 does not mean input (oops! I’ll have to go back and correct the entry for the next edition of An A-Z): it simply stands for the learner’s ‘current competence’. But it does seem to be understood in ‘structural’ terms, at least according to Mitchell and Myles (2004) : “Comprehensible input is defined as second language input just beyond the learner’s current second language competence, in terms of its syntactic complexity” (p. 47, emphasis added). That is to say, it is essentially a linguistic construct. Confusingly, though, Krashen seems to refer to i + 1 both as a linguistic construct and as a developmental stage. For example, he talks about “including i + 1 in the input” (1987, p. 68) as if it were a feature of language, while on the same page he says “if… each lesson, or group of lessons focuses on one structure, this assumes that everyone in the class has the same i + 1, that everyone is at the same developmental stage in second language” (p. 68, emphasis added).

Interestingly, critics of Krashen’s Input Hypothesis are quick to home in on the fact that “no definition is given of the key concept, comprehensible input” (McLaughlin, 1987). McLaughlin continues: “The argument that effective input contains structures just beyond the syntactic complexity of those found in the current grammar of the acquirer leads nowhere, because it assumes a non-existent theory of acquisition sequences” (p. 56). And Mitchell and Myles (op. cit.) point out that “the theory becomes impossible to verify, as no independently testable definitions are given of what comprehensible input actually consists of, and therefore of how it might relate to acquisition” (p.48).

It is also true that Krashen doesn’t claim input alone is sufficient — rather that (as I said) comprehensible input is sufficient. In the book you quote, Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition (1987) he goes so far as to say that “it is… theoretically possible to acquire a language without ever talking ” (p. 60) but concedes that output does have a role although an indirect one: “Simply, the more you talk, the more people will talk to you” — thereby providing nutritious comprehensible input.

But we’ve strayed rather a long way from the topic: the ZPD. I think it should be clear, though, that these two theories are poles apart.

14 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

As a footnote to the above, it seems that if the i in i + 1 stands for anything it is interlanguage. Ellis (1997) writes: “According to Steven Krashen’s input hypothesis, L2 acquisition takes place when the learner understands input that contains grammatical forms that are at ‘i + 1′ (i.e. are a little more advanced than the current state of the learner’s interlanguage)” (p. 47 emphasis added).

15 09 2010
Klaus Beutelspacher

Thank you Scott for your very considerate answer, I really appreciate it. Still, please bear with me for another longish post, to get the point across.

You see, I’m not an academic. I guess I made an observation at an early age that scared me off for good. It seems that in many academic circles, there is a tendency to first grossly misunderstand a theory you don’t like, and then prove how bizarrely wrong that theory is by using your own interpretation of it.

One of the merits of Krashen is that he’s so accessible, even for someone like me. You can just read him and do your own thinking. You don’t need to depend on other people’s views, many of which stem from those rituals of academic quarrel.

I don’t want to indulge in further Krashen-exegesis, even though it could be fun. Just three points:

1. He doesn’t say (anywhere, I would suppose) that comprehensible input is sufficient, maybe that’s what interpreters say he says. He says (see above) that COMPREHENSION (of comprehensible input) is NECESSARY. Those are very different claims. Somehow this doesn’t seem to sink in though. Maybe that’s why the input hypothesis has become the comprehension hypothesis.

2.Sure, theoretically, you could learn a language without speaking. He illustrates this with a study about a “boy with congenital dysarthria, a disorder of the peripheral speech organs, who was never able to speak” (Principles and Practice, p60). This of course doesn’t imply that the boy never INTERACTs. What’s more, it’s a gedankenexperiment, Krashen doesn’t suggest in any way that this should or could be put into teaching practice. Elsewhere even in this book, he’s all in favour of communication and interaction, as long as the methodology doesn’t contradict the tenets of his theory. How could this constitute the “rejection of the need for interaction”? If I say: “Theoretically I can go there by bike”, does that mean that I reject cars?

3.If you insist on seeing it from the POV or interlanguage, you can say it with Ellis’ words I guess. You’d have to use a very general definition of interlanguage. But then it doesn’t add any insight, it could even lead to confusion, so why bother? “i” is a somewhat abstract concept that becomes concrete if (and only if) you apply it to both text and recipient. If I read a book that’s completely known to me, it’s within level “i”. If I turn the page and encounter something new, word of structure or chunk, that I can associate in some way with the surrounding context, thus comprehending, it’s on “i+1”. If you buy yourself a copy of The Economist today and read their write-up on Basel 3, you’ll likely get “i+1” That’s even though the Economist is generally not regarded as interlanguage, and you probably don’t consider yourself a learner of English.

More to the point. For me, the problem of language training is essentially solved. I practice by supplying comprehensible input AND creating circumstances that make it very likely for people to understand. In other words, I accompany my participants into and around their ZPD (even though Vygotsky is just a memory from the distant past, thanks for reminding me, I need to read up here too). What I do works reliably, it’s very fast, very efficacious, and fun.

What I’m interested in is expanding this essential solution beyond the fairly restrictive conditions of the PDL classroom, and both Vygotsky and Krashen could help in that quest. So could many others. I’m interested in practical insights rather than academic distinctions. From that perspective, I don’t see (yet) how those two are poles apart.

On the other hand, I don’t really feel the urge to supply scholars like the critics you quote with definitions and studies that prove to them what I already know. That’s one of the privileges of not being an academic.

12 09 2010
Glennie

The idea of a ‘ZPD’ sounds very sensible: a ‘heaven sent’ moment which is entirely unpredictable given the non-linear nature of language learning; an experience unique to one particular learner in a propitious set of circumstanances.

It sounds like one of those moments when, participating in some interaction, you launch out on a ‘turn’ knowing where you want to go (=what you want to say) but not feeling altogether sure about whether you will have the linguist wherewithal to get there (= say it). To your great surprise, you discover yourself using exactly the right language to get your message across.

Subsequently, on ‘similar’ occasions, you find yourself using the same language. But now things are different; now the words are waiting there in the wings, and you are aware of their presence.

12 09 2010
Glennie

Perhaps what I am describing is not really a ZPD moment, though. I haven’t made any reference to adult guidance or peer collaboration. In other words, in what I describe there is no-one consciously helping the learner to bring forth the sought for language. It just pops out.
So I may not have taken the discussion forward.

12 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

The ‘breakthrough’ moment you describe may well be accountable in socioculural (i.e. Vygotskian) theory, even without the active intervention of an interlocutor. For example, it might be traceable to an earlier instance of interaction, where a ‘better other’ either recast or overtly corrected the targeted item, leaving a kind of cognitive ‘echo’ that was accessible during subsequent performance – a case of ‘other regulation’ becoming internalised, and thereafter ‘self-regulation’.

12 09 2010
Willy C Cardoso

However influential Vygotsky’s ZPD is, I see very little of it outside the language presentation/practice spectrum. Take evaluation as an example, if one does preach ZPD, evidently, it should result in a ZPD-like evaluation, which is never the case, simply for the fact that it’s extremelly difficult once we’ve been examining learning and development retrospectively for centuries, and with ZPD, Vygotsky suggests a prospective approach to this kind of examination.

It’s very difficult as I said, but not unattainable: let’s fantasize a bit and say we could allow learners in a test to use a dictionary (or google), to consult their peers, to check some of their notes and also to ask the teacher for scaffold, maybe even take the test home and ask parents for help, say all that shouldn’t extrapolate 50% of the test time, or of the test content. Would that be a ZPD-like evaluation? Would it result in better development?

Another potential refinement to our educational system would be to expand the role of play, again, beyond language practice.

Could one suppose that a child’s behavior is always guided by meaning, that a preschooler’s behavior is so arid that he never behaves spontaneously simply because he thinks he should behave otherwise? This strict subordination to rules is quite impossible in life, but in play it does become possible: thus, play creates a zone of proximal development of the child. In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself. As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains all developmental tendencies in a condensed form and is itself a major source of development. Vygotsky, L. 1978. Mind in Society

12 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Willy, for the comment.

Your point about testing is very pertinent, not least because Vygotsky himself formulated the concept of the ZPD out of a concern for the fact that tests that assessed development retrospectively (what has the child learned?) are not reliable tests of potential development (what will the child be able to do next?).

To quote from Wertsch (1985):

In assessing a child’s mental age, the importance of conducting a separate analysis of the potential level of development derives from the fact that it may vary independently of the actual level. Vygotsky illustrated this point as follows:

“Imagine that we have examined two children and have determined that the mental age of both is seven years. This means that both children solve tasks accessible to 7-year-olds. However, when we attempt to push these children further in carrying out the tests, there turns out to be an essential difference between them. With the help of leading questions, examples, and demonstrations, one of them easily solves test items taken from two years above the child’s level of actual development. The other solves test items that are only a half year above, his or her level of actual development”.

Given the set of circumstances Vygotsky proceeded to ask, “Is the mental development of these two children the same?” He argued that in an important sense they are not:

“From the point of view of their independent activity they are equivalent, but from the point of view of their immediate potential development they are sharply different. That which the child turns out to be able to do with the help of an adult points as toward the zone of the child’s proximal development. This means that with the help of this method, we can take stock not only of today’s completed process of development, not only the cycles that are already concluded and done, not only the processes of maturation that are completed; we can take stock of processes that are now in the state of coming into being, that are only ripening, or only developing”.

All this seems to carry important implications in terms of how we assess second language learners.

12 09 2010
steph

Ha, the ZPD. I peppered many of my answers on my DELTA exam with reference to the ZPD – seemed to work!

Seriously, the way I can best relate to the effectiveness of the ZPD is not in my teaching situation, but rather in my own experience as a language learner. There have been certain people, who have very naturally, both given space and scaffolded my German to the degree that in the past I could sit with them for over an hour and at an A2 level of German feel like I’ve contributed to and understood a conversation.

These people have through their reformulations, gentle recasts and occasional suggestion of words, contributed more to my learning German than any formal class taken.

The ZPD is real and is effective (at least in my own experience) It does, however, present a multitude of problems to providers of oral exams. If language is co-created then this renders pair testing pretty invalid and unreliable as a measure of individual language ability don’t you think?

12 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Steph, I’m not sure if this remotely relevant, but I chanced upon it while I was looking for something else. Nevertheless – since it deals with the kind of ‘scaffolding’ that is optimal (which your comment touched on) – I’ll cut-and-paste:

Psychologist Christof van Nimwegen is interested in effective user interfaces for computer systems, and distinguishes between systems that require users to internalise the knowledge needed to carry out a task and those that externalise it in the form of wizards, prompts, menus and the other elements we associate with modern computers.

A typical form of externalisation is when you select and drag an item on an interface and it shows where you can drop it by highlighting areas as you move over them. You don’t need to know what is going on, you just need to follow the cues.

Van Nimwegen’s investigation focused on the ways in which externalizing interface information influences a user’s performance in solving problems requiring planning, tasks that are more complicated than just creating or editing a document.

They asked users to solve a reasonably complex puzzle involving moving different coloured balls between two boxes using a small dish, and built two versions of the game program, one of which offered more guidance to the user – involved more externalisation – than the other.

They found those with less support could play better after an initial learning period. They also coped better with interruptions and remembered more about playing the game after an eight-month gap, indicating that they had internalised the game rules more than those who got support from the game program.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7656843.stm

What attracts me to this research is that it confirms what I said in my orighinal post: that only the most minimal scaffolding is necessary, if working in the learner’s ZPD. Does that make sense?

14 09 2010
Luke Meddings

I think sometimes terms can be useful because of what they suggest, as much as because of what they specify (this is why I am not an academic!). I think that one of the most useful things about the ZPD is that it situates learning below the level of the syllabus (as a taxonomy of knowledge to be attained or at least covered off) and also below the level of the teacher (as a source of or conduit to this knowledge).

It focuses instead on the relationship between teacher and learner, and on the notional space in which learning can take place. If we are talking about a zone, which implies space, we need as teachers to occupy it. Then we become better able as Luiz puts it to ‘feel’ the readinesss. Instead of teaching learners what they (notionally) haven’t ‘got’, we should work with what they have (even imperfectly or as is very often the case inconsistently) ‘got’. This in turn reduces the distance between the language model (or, conventionally, teacher input) and the language reality (or learner output). Instead of grand gestures towards the syllabus, the teacher makes innumerable low-level interventions directed towards the learner.

In a sense – as can often be the case with theory and practice in the classroom, and elsewhere – the closer one gets to the literal or full meaning of the ZPD, the more difficult its application becomes. Thus the idea of negotiating precisely many different ZPDs in a single class leads to the sort of headache generated by the notion of catering at once for many different ‘intelligences’ or learning styles. One must be pragmatic with the term, as with learner language.

14 09 2010
Scott Thornbury

Instead of grand gestures towards the syllabus, the teacher makes innumerable low-level interventions directed towards the learner.

Brilliantly put! Can I quote you? (Again!)

20 09 2010
dfogarty

When Dogme introduced me to Vygotsky and the concept of the ZPD, I used to advise colleagues that any theory that could be supported with the inclusion of a Russian name was one that could not be dismissed easily. And any theory that had a “Z” in it was as valuable as getting “z-a-m-b-e-z-i” when it was your turn to play the first word down in Scrabble.

Over the years, my understanding of what the ZPD might be has grown. This latest post has contributed to that growth. And it seems that this is what knowledge does in the ZPD – it grows. If we are going to look for a metaphor, we might look towards the ground in a gardener’s allotment. A seed can be put into the ground and its growth can be encouraged or hampered. Stony ground, ground lacking nutrients, ground that is neglected and allowed to become overrun by weeds are all hostile environments for the seed to develop fully. Ground where the gardener has removed potential obstacles; where the gardener has supplied additional nutrients (that the seed/plant absorbs and processes); ground where the gardener “interacts” with the environment of the seed/plant – all these are zones of proximal development.

And how does a gardener assess the growth of her/his plants? By careful observation and evaluation of the “finished” product. It strikes me that the language teaching community has available an assessment means that is compatible with the ZPD in the form of the Common European Framework of Reference. The CEFR details a number of competencies that all relate to a social setting (or range of social settings). By seeking to describe what the learner can do – and by perhaps grading this by referring to what they can do “with help” or “independently”- the CEFR offers a useful tool to the EFL gardener.

Of course, none of this can be done quite as well in a two hour test in a hot hall somewhere in the month of July. It lends itself most readily to a sort of language portfolio type of assessment. And the Council of Europe recognises this by advocating the use of “Language passports”. In short (and rather bluntly) these are portfolios/scrapbooks/journals where students record their progress, their achievements, their efforts and their reflections.

Scott, allow me to offer the view that “C” is for CEFR would be a useful addition to your already invaluable guide.

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