Investigating the applicability of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for self-assessment in tertiary writing instruction in China: accessibility, effectiveness, feasibility and usefulness

This project explored the applicability of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for tertiary English writing in China, in the context of the current English testing reform in China.

The project involved learners and teachers in various stages to co-create self-assessment grids based on the European Language Portfolio (ELP) descriptors.  The findings of the project set out a promising vision for using the CEFR to bridge teaching, learning and assessment in the Chinese education context. At the same time, it revealed the potential challenges of using the CEFR, for which possible solutions were provided, including engaging learners’ and tutors’ voice to create tailored assessment grids, integrating the learning outcomes of teaching sessions into the assessment descriptors, and designing follow-up activities to support learners in achieving learning objectives.


We believe the dissemination of the results will raise teachers’ awareness of the reciprocal relationships between summative and formative assessment and encourage language educators to embark on an innovative but appropriate use of summative descriptors to facilitate learning through student-driven assessment. The findings of the project have begun to create impact on teacher cognition and practice through a research-informed workshop held in September where language educators at the University of Leeds were invited to discuss and share their experience of using the CEFR in language teaching. The dissemination of the research report will, we hope, encourage more language educators to consider the formative roles of high-stake summative standards in their teaching and consequently use testing for learning rather than merely of learning.

Publications and outputs

  • Part of the results was presented in BALEAP PIM at Birmingham in February 2019.
  • The project report will be published by the British Council within months.
  • A journal paper discussing the co-creation of assessment descriptors with reference to sustainable assessment and the community of practice is under review at the moment.

Project website