The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) is the standard method of measuring a student’s capability in a second language. First developed in the 1990s, the structure has been used for almost 30 years to assess learners’ language skills. It has six levels, ranging from beginner to proficient language user, and has proven a useful tool for institutions, teachers, and students when learning a new language.
However, it is not without its limitations. Language acquisition is not a linear process and each level of the CEFR covers a wide selection of language skills. When an institution uses the CEFR to create a program to meet the needs of the largest number of students possible, or the average student, it can be very easy to spend a lot of time focusing on the same skills over and over again. In this scenario, students below or above average often suffer, either not progressing in their language skill, or being denied new progress because of a focus on repetition.
Introducing the Global Scale of English
The Global Scale of English (GSE) builds on and extends this system of the CEFR. Developed by Pearson, and based on research from over 6,000 education professionals across more than 50 countries, it offers teachers an effective way to select the right lesson, course materials or assessments at the right time.
The scale runs from 10 to 90 for a more detailed assessment of student needs within a CEFR level. Using the GSE in course development helps teachers target student learning. For example, a student who is strong on reading but weak on listening skills might place as B1 using the CEFR, but using the GSE, a teacher can see that actually this student has a reading level of B2 but a listening level of A2. The teacher can then focus on listening exercises specifically tailored to improve the student’s listening skills.
What is the GSE Teacher Toolkit?
The GSE Teacher Toolkit is a free, online database that brings together learning objectives, grammar and vocabulary in one place, all mapped to the GSE and CEFR.
It allows you to quickly find level-appropriate content to support your classes. You can search the database by category, choosing general and professional English, adults or young learners. You can then refine your search further by selecting the level you are teaching and the skill you want to focus on.
The granular design of the GSE makes it easier for you to identify gaps and measure learner progress. This helps you to provide meaningful feedback and identify areas that need more work.
The toolkit contains over:
- 2,000 learning objectives which you can search by skill, learner type or level (CEFR/GSE)
- 450 GSE grammar objectives searchable by grammatical category, structure or level (CEFR/GSE)
- 39,000 vocabulary word meanings which you can search by topic, grammatical category or level (CEFR/GSE)
- 200 jobs which are linked to GSE Learning Objectives, and can be searched by job group or occupation
What’s more, the framework of learning objectives can be used to create or review your school’s curriculum by providing an international standard to validate it against.
How the GSE helps you target the learning zone
The most successful lessons happen when teachers focus on an area of ability that is just beyond what learners can do independently. Assessing students’ needs using the GSE can help teachers to clearly identify the areas where they need development. If your students know how to form the present perfect and the present continuous, then they’re ready to form the present perfect continuous. You can plan your lesson and choose your material accordingly to really push your students. With the right material, students will move from working with support to being able to complete the linguistic task independently, helping push up their level.
How the GSE helps you scaffold your activities
When you scaffold your activities, you break learning up into segments and create a concrete structure for each stage of learning. For example, if you’re doing a listening exercise, you can pre-teach new vocabulary, and listen together in stages, discussing as you go. In a scaffolded learning environment, students are free to ask questions, give feedback and support their peers in learning new material.
Scaffolding a lesson might take longer, but you’ll find that the students have a higher quality of learning, and their level will improve faster overall. By breaking down the aims for the class using the Learning Objectives from the GSE Teacher Toolkit, you’re able to scaffold activities easier than ever. You’ll soon find that scaffolding with the GSE makes a massive difference in a relatively short space of time.
How the GSE helps you differentiate instruction
Differentiated instruction – altering tasks slightly based on ability – is a really important teaching tool. It makes sure that even in groups of mixed levels, each learner is being stretched and challenged as much as possible. For example, if you are teaching a reading exercise, you can offer a text that is slightly altered or shortened for students of a lower level. The GSE facilitates this from beginning, as teachers can really dig into level and ability with the Teacher Toolkit. This helps them design lessons which cover what individual students already know while providing a challenge which will push them that little bit further.
The sky’s the limit
Each of our courses cover a range of linguistic ability within the GSE. GoGetter (a course for young secondary students) ends at 45 on the GSE (around B1 level using the CEFR) but that doesn’t mean it’s the top level that can be achieved. For example, students will have learned to describe events in the past using simple linking words like then, and next. However, using the Teacher Toolkit to explore linked learning objectives means you can give the most able students further instruction. Such as, teaching them to use after/before with the gerund – which pushes them to 47 on the GSE scale. In a class where the teacher is using the GSE Teacher Toolkit and applying these supportive teaching practices, the best students will see emerging skills in the 45+ range.
The GSE isn’t just useful for teachers. As mentioned, it also provides a guideline so schools and administrators making curricular choices can understand the expected average achievement. This should not be seen as a limit to what is possible, however. With the GSE Teacher Toolkit, educators have access to an excellent resource which can be used to push and stretch students in ways never before possible. Used in conjunction with the supportive practices outlined above, the GSE allows students to achieve their language-learning potential.