The Faculty of Education has initiated WesternCAN (Western Canadian Language Portfolio), a framework and toolkit to be used in second-language teacher education across the province.
WesternCAN is the university’s response to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP). The CEFR is a tool for developing second-language curricula, teaching and assessment.
To date, projects have usually focused on just one of these areas, whereas WesternCAN will bring them together.
The CEFR promotes communicative approaches to second-language, also known as L2, teaching, while the ELP supports the development of learner reflection and self-assessment.
The WesternCAN framework and toolkit will adapt the European tools for use in Canadian L2 teacher education, classroom practice and research.
“This project reflects a philosophy in which teaching, learning and assessment come together as a cohesive whole,” says Education professor Shelley Taylor. “The L2 framework and toolkit that we are developing will help us introduce teachers to the portfolio overall.”
Visiting professor David Little, who chairs the ELP Validation Committee, has been assisting the faculty with its own initiative since last summer, with the help of Taylor and fellow professors Farahnaz Faez, Julie Byrd Clark and Maureen Smith.
One important component of the portfolio is the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). It is a framework for measuring language proficiency that is recognized across Europe and, increasingly, in Canada and elsewhere around the world. The CEFR outlines six levels of language proficiency (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2).
Before Canadians can adopt the CEFR, teachers need to understand it, which is why Taylor says the Faculty of Education included it in all of their pre-service (BEd) and in-service (MEd) courses last year, and will continue to highlight it.
“An added benefit of introducing the CEFR is that it entails an action-oriented approach to teaching, which will meet the Canadian public’s desire for French teaching that is more communicatively oriented,” adds Taylor.
WesternCAN will only apply to French. Taylor says the program will extend it to ESL in the public school system, First Nations languages, heritage languages, and ESL courses for adult immigrants.
“We are now weaving a common starting point into our courses that will serve as an overarching philosophy of teaching, centred around Western’s Canadian Language Portfolio,” says Taylor. “It creates a cohesive ethos that will be unique in Canadian faculties of education, and will position Western as a centre of excellence for CEFR.”