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Research context

Teacher-driven instruction context

The Chinese education has been well known of its entrenched teacher-driven and examination-oriented learning culture (Zhao, 2018). The writing instruction in the researched context is no exception. Prior to the introduction of self- assessment into the context, writing assessment was solely made by the writing tutors with little information being provided to justify marks and explain the strengths and weaknesses of student writing.

The China's Standards of English Language Ability

To strengthen the relationship between teaching, learning and testing, and improve consistency between the test scores and test takers’ language proficiency and the variety of local, regional and national English tests, the State Council of People’s Republic of China launched the development of a new standard of English language ability in 2014, which heavily drew upon the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to develop descriptors for learning, teaching and assessment. In 2018, the China’s Standards of English Language Ability was published (Ministry of Education and National Language Commission, 2018). No guidance has been provided on how to use the standards in teaching, learning and assessment. There is the need for research to explore the application of the new standards for language teaching.


The CEFR was created and published by the Council of Europe in 2001 to provide “a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe” (Council of Europe, 2001, p.1). Its self-assessment grid was created by using “I can do” statements to provide language learners with a checklist to reflect on their language learning stages and plan their learning objectives.

Despite the wide influence of the CEFR in Europe and beyond, its limits in terms of condense information and difficult wordings have been critiqued (e.g. Zheng et al., 2016). Hence, European Language Portfolio (ELP) descriptors were used as the basis to create self-assessment grids in the current project considering its specification and alignment with the aims of the current study as encouraging students to “reflect on their language learning, set targets, record progress and document their skills”(Council of Europe, 2001, p.1).



Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ministry of Education and National Language Commission. 2018. China's Standards of English Language Ability. Beijing: The General Office of Ministry of Education.

Zhao, H. 2018. Exploring tertiary English as a Foreign Language writing tutors’ perceptions of the appropriateness of peer assessment for writing. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education: 1-13.

Zheng, Y., Zhang, Y. and Yan, Y. 2016. Investigating the practice of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) outside Europe: a case study on the assessment of writing in English in China. ELT Research Papers, 16.01.