How the Global Scale of English revolutionised our curriculum

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Rennert International is a high quality, US-based language school that offers small classes with a focus on conversation teaching methods. We also run a TESOL Center that offers teacher development and professional development programmes.

Our language courses for students include General English, Business English, Exam Preparation, Arts Plus English and Professional English.

Remapping our curriculum using the Global Scale of English (GSE) has revolutionalised it. It is now tightly mapped to the right levels, externally validated, independent of specific course books and enables us to focus on relevant supplementary materials.

The challenges we faced

In 2013, we launched a programme to better align the learning objectives of our General English programme with the CEFR. However, as the CEFR did not provide insight into the learning outcomes for the distinct levels of the programme, we – utilising a course book as a starting point – crafted our own “can do” statements to provide more detail about learning at different levels.

This was an arduous process that required multiple points of reference and much customisation. By drafting descriptors aligned to a specific course book, we became tied to that book and could not change materials without revising and changing descriptors, essentially repeating the complex process.

Additionally, the descriptors did not provide insight into gaps in the course content that could be addressed with our own custom materials. Ideally, we needed a set of tools to improve alignment, select externally validated descriptors to better align the programmes and provide a gap analysis for courses, and increase our flexibility to select course materials and make programme adjustments in the future.

How we adopted the Global Scale of English

Working with Pearson and using the GSE Teacher Toolkit, we mapped our existing descriptors to the relevant learning objective in the GSE database. Having identified the target range for our courses, we selected descriptors in the target range aligned to course needs, and then identified gaps in the course for in-house materials development. This enabled us to republish new GSE-based Rennert descriptors.

We then developed a training programme for teachers on the mapping process and related policies for using the descriptors. Teachers and curriculum directors selected new descriptors, as appropriate.

The benefits we have experienced

We believe our curriculum has been revolutionised. For example, we are now able to better understand why students may be struggling with certain levels, allowing us to improve our pedagogy. Using the GSE also allowed us to identify supplementary materials to better support language learning at each level. Lastly, it allowed us to set realistic expectations for language acquisition in the time allotted to each level.

An audit of our curriculum improved the alignment of course materials to published learning outcomes and freed us from a tie to any specific course book.

Our next step is to compare student data for the time periods before and after the adoption of the GSE descriptors to more specifically measure the positive impact on student outcomes. We are also starting to use the GSE for Business English and Academic English, since there are GSE descriptors specific to these areas, which the CEFR does not have.

This case study and others from around the world are featured in Pearson’s latest report on how the GSE is helping to raise standards and improve life chances. To view it, click here.

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