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Performance Guidelines FAQ

Since their introduction in November, 1998, the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners have helped language teachers, school administrators, parents, and students to understand the developmental path that second language learning takes when it occurs within a school setting. Here are several of the frequently asked questions about these new guidelines.

1. Teachers across the country are increasing their understanding of the National Standards. Why is this document necessary and how does it relate to Standards?

The National Standards are content standards that define "what all students should know and be able to do." The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners are performance standards that describe how well students demonstrate competencies.

2. How are these guidelines organized?

They are organized according to the three modes of communication (Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational) as described in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning, for three learner performance ranges: Novice, Intermediate, and Pre-Advanced. How well a student communicates in the language is then described in terms of Comprehensibility, Comprehension, Language Control, Vocabulary Use, Communication Strategies, and Cultural Awareness.

3. What is meant by the headings Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational?

They are the Communication Modes that are a direct tie to Standards. They provide a redefining organizing principle, and an enriched view of language that reflects real communication. The Interpersonal Mode is characterized by the active negotiation of meaning among individuals. Participants observe and monitor one another to see how their meanings and intentions are being communicated. Adjustments and clarifications can be made accordingly. The Interpretive Mode focuses on the appropriate cultural interpretation of meanings that occur in written and spoken form where there is no recourse to the active negotiation of meaning with the writer or the speaker. The Presentational Mode refers to the creation of oral and written messages in a manner that facilitates interpretation by members of the other culture where no direct opportunity for the active negotiation of meaning between members of the two cultures exists.

4. What happened to the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing?

The four skills are imbedded in the Performance Guidelines. They have been repackaged into language modes, which place the primary emphasis on the purpose of communication and the context in which it happens, rather than on any one skill in isolation.

5. The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are well known within the profession. Why do we need these Guidelines?

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines describe language performance for adult language users regardless of where, when or how the language is acquired. K-12 Performance Guidelines were designed to help educators better understand the developmental path that language learning takes for students in a classroom setting who are in a continuous process of cognitive development.

6. Do I still need to refer to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for my school program?

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners dove-tail. If you teach within the K-12 system, K-12 Performance Guidelines will suit your needs better because they describe language performance of students who learn language within a school setting. As students go beyond the Pre-Advanced range and reach a sustained level of Advanced proficiency, you will want to use the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines to describe their language abilities.

7. We are familiar with the terms Novice and Intermediate. What is meant by the term "Pre-Advanced"?

Pre-Advanced was selected as the term to describe those who function most of the time at the Advanced level of proficiency (i.e., for Interpersonal Listening/Speaking: able to narrate and describe in paragraph length discourse in all major time frames) but who cannot yet sustain the level of performance that is needed for an Advanced rating.

8. What was the review process for these Guidelines?

This is a document which was created by a task force of experienced foreign language educators and reflects the wisdom, expertise, and collective thinking of the profession. The entire ACTFL membership was invited to provide feedback and the comments of hundreds of language educators who responded have been incorporated.