Mapping developmental profiles in early language learning at school

Assessment tools as a link between education standards, curricula, teaching and learning
Teaching and learning languages, assessing and evaluating language skills
Project management:

Supervision: Thomas Studer, Wilfrid Kuster, Mirjam Egli (PHSG), Gé Stoks (SUPSI/DFA)

01.2012 to 12.2014

Anna Kull, Thomas Roderer (PHSG), Daniela Kappler (SUPSI/DFA)


In collaboration with the University of Teacher Education St. Gallen (PHSG) and the Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera Italiana (SUPSI)

Purpose – Expected results: 

The project “Mapping Developmental Profiles” aims to advance the development and implementation of computer-based, diagnostic assessment tools that can be used to support learning in foreign-language courses at primary schools. These tools would enable relevant developments (cf. learning progressions in other subjects) in skills that are developed in foreign language courses to be compiled using a computer and then presented to learners and teachers as feedback to promote learning.

The project first focused on skills that curricula and education standards deem important, but that are generally considered difficult to assess, especially by means of computer-based tasks: speaking and language learning strategies. In a separate part of the project, the willingness of the teachers to use such computer-based assessment tools was examined.

A core aspect of the project was to further develop server-based software to implement the tasks, in particular, recording and (manually) assessing the learners’ performance. To do so, RCM collaborated with the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF). The resulting improvements in the software CBA Item Builder are also available for other users.

The overall aim of developing and testing speaking tasks for primary schoolchildren had to be modified over the course of the project. The goals and the procedures required adjustments because children at this level are hardly able to communicate in French without intense preparations. On the one hand, communicative elements were identified that are of key importance in class and that can already be mastered. One of the measures to ascertain these elements was a teacher survey in which teachers were asked to name relevant, actually used utterances in (French) lessons; a catalogue of these utterances was then compiled. On the other hand, the construct “speaking” was expanded to the construct “orality”, which also encompasses receptive skills. Tasks on components of oral communicative skills were created, in particular, tasks dealing with oral-productive vocabulary and to listening comprehension in oral interactions.

In the area of competence in language learning strategies, specialist literature was referred to in order to more closely identify the construct. Only then could corresponding mapping tools be developed and tested in primary schools.

Finally, tasks were created for three, fairly closely related aspects of competence in language learning strategies:

  1. the volume of the individual use of language learning strategies;
  2. the students’ knowledge of language learning strategies and their suitability for specific learning tasks;
  3. the students’ individual metacognitive knowledge about their own linguistic capabilities (judgement of learning) or their metacognitive self-awareness of their linguistic capabilities (confidence judgement).

The results attained in the project “Mapping Developmental Profiles” are already being used in other projects.