Pedagogical relevance of the project
This project aims at the implementation and use of a digital European Language Portfolio (ELP).
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CUP, 2001) underlines the need for the European citizen to have a personal document describing all his/her linguistic experiences and certifications. It's a sort of language passport, called European Language Portfolio - ELP (see http://culture2.coe.int/portfolio
At present many European Institutions have already accepted the suggestions given by the Framework, including the ELP. So far several ELPs have already been validated and published in hardcopy format.
Nevertheless these existing hardcopy editions present some limits
, that, we think, an electronic ELP would successfully overcome.
This would bring at the same time advantages in terms of Open and Distance Learning - ODL, such as tracing the students' language learning process over the years (see Schneider, G & Lenz, P., European Language Portfolio: Guide for Developers, par 8.4, p. 56
We believe that ELP is a crucial tool for European mobility
. A widespread use of ELP would give credibility to EU language policies and suggestions (see Resolution on the European Language Portfolio, 20th Session of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education of the Council of Europe
Even if an electronic ELP is considered highly desirable by Schneider & Lenz in their official European Language Portfolio: Guide for Developers
(par 8.4, p. 56
), when we proposed our project there were no digital ELPs available yet. Therefore, the innovative aspects of this proposal concern the digital project of the ELP as well as its pedagogical implications. In our opinion, an electronic version of the ELP would bring these specific innovations:
- A digital ELP is easy to update: during their language learning process, students can update and expand their ELP with no need to buy new hardcopies or to add extra photocopied pages. If a paper copy is needed, it is easy to print either the whole digital version of the ELP or part of it.
- All the information of the digital ELP can be stored in a date base, which can be used by the Institutions for longitudinal studies on the language learning process. On the other hand, the students themselves can have access to their ELP in progress to see the evolution of their language learning process in a graphical user-friendly form (e.g. historical function).
- Once implemented, the ELP is freely accessible on line by the students and easy undateble.
- A digital ELP is personalisable in accordance to the users' language level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) thanks to a selective access to the evaluation grids and thanks to digital links among its different parts.
- Considering that the ELP in its textual part is a plurilingual document (e.g. all the instructions must be in three languages at least), the digital structure would permit the coexistence of many languages avoiding graphical overload (e.g. with a change-language function).
- A digital version makes it possible to have a multimedia ELP: in the Dossier the student could collect not only paper documents, but also audio and video samples of his work.
- A further innovation is that a digital ELP is easy to send by e-mail and it is quicker to fill up than with a pen and paper procedure.
The pedagogical approaches of this project concern some key points of foreign language learning and teaching. First, a digital ELP is an easier format to get and update than a hardcopy ELP.
It implies that students will freely download the ELP and we suppose that they will update it more frequently and with no fear of making errors. We believe that easiness of access and transfer is crucial to make ELP a familiar tool for students, teachers and administrators. On the other hand, we are aware that the digital massive distribution could bring to a superficial use of it. Therefore in this project a great importance is given to the teachers' and students' training for a conscious use of the digital ELP.
Second, the data base underlying the digital ELP is an important instrument to get longitudinal information on the language learning process. This may bring considerable pedagogical innovations to evaluation. We stress that the innovation of our proposal in terms of methodology is that a digital ELP allows to experiment new forms of assessment based on a dynamic - not static - concept of language learning.
This concept of Alternative Evaluation (as cited by the scientific literature) would include evaluation of process (to integrate evaluation of product, e.g. tests) and students' self-evaluation.
The implication in terms of ODL and ICT is that the Institution could better monitor the students' learning process in order to improve it; teachers could easily have access to students' in-progress ELPs; students would be constantly stimulated to think about their learning (made visible by the digital ELP, that thus fosters their learning autonomy and active consciousness).
The educational context of this project is higher education institutions (universities) and the subjects involved are university students and teachers of second and foreign languages. The target group is wide, since we plan to adopt the digital ELP in the partners' institutions and, subsequently, to put it at the disposal of every European university willing to experiment it.
The impact envisaged is twofold:
- students and teachers could have access to a new useful pedagogical tool,
- students would have an officially recognized document of their language knowledge to support their mobility in EU.
The partners involved in this project have a strong tradition of ITC and ODL, as well as experience in cooperating in European projects.
During these two last years, the University of Milan and the Intercollege of Cyprus have undertaken some experimental studies in this field: the first producing and using a prototype of language portfolio, and the latter testing the use of portfolios in different educational fields.
To summer up and conclude, our specific objectives are:
- to create an economic, multimedia, fit-for-harness and easy-deliverable digital ELP;
- to produce an ELP specific for university language students in view of their entrance into the EU job world;
- to give a tool to monitor the students' language learning process;
- to promote a pedagogically correct use of the ELP.
We hope that the adoption of the digital ELP on a regular basis implies some new aspects in the organization of the university educational process. Every student would be required to complete his/her own digital ELP and to update it frequently in order to improve it. Furthermore, institutions would take advantage of the ELP data base to evaluate the effectiveness of their language courses. We trust this will stimulate an improvement in the quality of language teaching.
Our dissemination plan aims to contact with cultural centres, pedagogical department of governamental and no governamental institution, language and teaching associations and schools, universities and pedagogical reviews to promote the scientific dialogue on our project.
This area will include all documents of our dissemination plan, for example scientific articles by the partners (but also non-partners) or doctoral studies and thesis.
The expected output of our project is a digital ELP, hopefully validated by the Validation Committee of the Council of Europe in 2005 or 2006.
Our envisaged product will be developed according to the EU defined standard format by strictly following all the detailed parameters given by the Council of Europe in its Guide for developers. This will assure the quality and conformity of the digital ELP.
Here we publics our outputs, for example the executable version of the digital ELP, a pedagogical guide for students on how to use the ELP and a short technical guide for students and professors on the digital ELP.
Regarding evaluation, this project will undergo in-progress formative evaluation and final summative evaluation. Formative evaluation and monitoring of the project will be carried out on a regular basis and we recollects in this area all the necessary documentation, for example evaluation of the prototype usability (graphical user interface, functionality, free of errors, testing with actual users teachers and students, etc.); expert evaluation of the appropriateness of the pedagogical structure and content; evaluation questionnaires; and interviews about self-perception before and after the use of the ELP will be conducted with all the stakeholders including developers, partners, teachers, students, and other prospective users of ELP.