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ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners are designed to describe language performance that is the result of explicit instruction in an instructional setting. These new Performance Descriptors reflect how language learners perform whether learning in classrooms, online, through independent project-based learning, or in blended environments. 

The Standards for Foreign Language Learning (1996, 1999, 2006), describe what students need to know and be able to do as they learn another language, defining the “what” of language education. The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners (1998) first described “how well” language learners were expected to do the “what” from the content standards.  The current ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners are an update and revision to the 1998 Performance Guidelines.

The Performance Descriptors form a roadmap for teaching and learning:

  • The Performance Descriptors help language educators create performance tasks targeted to the appropriate performance range, while challenging learners to also use strategies from the next higher range.  These Performance Descriptors also help educators set realistic expectations at the summative assessment level. 
  • Language learners benefit by understanding the ranges of performance, which describe a pathway for learners to keep track of progress made, to identify domains needing additional practice, and to gain a clear understanding of how to move into the next higher range of performance. 

The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners:

  • Describe the language performance of language learners in Standards-based, performance-oriented learning environments
  • Provide descriptive performance outcomes adaptable to fit differences in languages and learners  
  • Are organized according to:
    • Three Ranges of Performance – Novice Range, Intermediate Range, Advanced Range
    • Three Modes of Communication – Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational
    • Domains of Performance
      • Parameters for the Language Learner’s Performance
        • Functions (global tasks the learner can perform in the language)
        • Contexts (situations within which the learner can function) and Content (topics which the learner can understand and discuss)
        •  Text Type (that which the learner is able to understand and produce in order to perform the functions of the level)
      • How and how well the language learner is able to be understood and to understand
        • Language Control (How accurate is the language learner’s language?)
        • Vocabulary (How extensive and applicable is the language learner’s vocabulary?)
        • Communication Strategies (How does the language learner maintain communication and make meaning?)
        • Cultural Awareness (How is the language learner’s cultural knowledge reflected in language use?)

Download the complete text of the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners document (PDF).

Download a PDF document of the Performance Descriptors for each mode:
Interpersonal   |   Interpretive   |   Presentational

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