Language Learning in Higher Education vol:3 issue:1 pages:89-107
As Van den Branden (2007) has pointed out, since communicative approaches have been setting the agenda in language teaching in Belgium, the assessment of oral language competence has shifted its focus from form (i.e. accuracy of vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics) to communicative language proficiency (successful use of language in meaningful situation-based activities rather
than the mere mastery of linguistic structures). The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) lists a set of assessment criteria (Council of Europe 2001, 2009, 2011), on which national agencies for curriculum development
such as SLO in The Netherlands1 have based rating grids (as exemplified in CITO/SLO 2010). However, our analysis of a series of grids published online or in book form, together with a corpus of over 100 rating grids used in Belgian
language education, shows that it is extremely difficult to focus on both form and communicative output in a single flexible grid; and it is equally difficult to combine
in the same grid key concepts of current assessment practice – formative as well summative, analytic as well as synthetic. We begin by summarizing the demands
of current language teaching and assessment and go on to present the conclusions of our analysis of rating grids. We then propose a user-friendly grid for the assessment of oral language competence that is adaptable to the objectives
and demands of any language course and does not lose sight of transparency, validity and reliability, three traditional assessment criteria.