The following tables reproduce the ACTFL descriptors for Advanced and Superior writing proficiency. Use them to understand what an Advanced writer can do and what this writer needs to master to become a Superior writer. We recommend you explore the complete publication of the ACTFL Guidelines 2012, available on the ACTFL site as well as the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.
Writers at the Advanced level are characterized by the ability to write routine informal and some formal correspondence, as well as narratives, descriptions, and summaries of a factual nature. They can narrate and describe in the major time frames of past, present, and future, using paraphrasing and elaboration to provide clarity. Advanced-level writers produce connected discourse of paragraph length and structure. At this level, writers show good control of the most frequently used structures and generic vocabulary, allowing them to be understood by those unaccustomed to the writing of non-natives.
Writers at the Superior level are able to produce most kinds of formal and informal correspondence, in-depth summaries, reports, and research papers on a variety of social, academic, and professional topics. Their treatment of these issues moves beyond the concrete to the abstract. Writers at the Superior level demonstrate the ability to explain complex matters, and to present and support opinions by developing cogent arguments and hypotheses. Their treatment of the topic is enhanced by the effective use of structure, lexicon, and writing protocols. They organize and prioritize ideas to convey to the reader what is significant. The relationship among ideas is consistently clear, due to organizational and developmental principles (e.g., cause and effect, comparison, chronology). These writers are capable of extended treatment of a topic which typically requires at least a series of paragraphs, but can extend to a number of pages. Writers at the Superior level demonstrate a high degree of control of grammar and syntax, of both general and specialized/professional vocabulary, of spelling or symbol production, of cohesive devices, and of punctuation. Their vocabulary is precise and varied. Writers at this level direct their writing to their audiences; their writing fluency eases the reader’s task. Writers at the Superior level do not typically control target-language cultural, organizational, or stylistic patterns. At the Superior level, writers demonstrate no pattern of error; however, occasional errors may occur, particularly in low-frequency structures. When present, these errors do not interfere with comprehension, and they rarely distract the native reader.
Find here a simplified rendition of the descriptors organized by the four assessment criteria: Functions, Context/Content, Accuracy/Comprehensibility, and Text Type. This table and the profiles that follow are designed to assist in identifying strengths and weaknesses of writers in support of specific pedagogical approaches and interventions. Always keep in mind that proficiency is global, and all criteria develop interdependently—a writer moves to a higher proficiency level only by mastering all criteria (i.e., demonstrating the evidence to sustain all criteria across the topics and tasks of the level all the time).
|Functions||-Narrates and describes on topics of a factual nature in all major time frames.||-Explains complex matters|
-Presents and supports opinions by developing cogent arguments and hypotheses.
-Able to treat issues abstractly
|Context/Content||-Informal and some formal topics and contexts.||-Informal and some formal topics and contexts.|
-Most kinds of formal and informal correspondence.
|Accuracy||-Control of major time frames of past, present, and future.|
-Control of the most frequently used structures and generic vocabulary.
-Understood by those unaccustomed to the writing of non-natives.
|-Effective use of structure, lexicon, and writing protocols.|
-High degree of control of grammar and syntax.
-High degree of control of spelling or symbol production, of cohesive devices, and of punctuation.
-Precise and varied vocabulary.
-No pattern of error.
|Text Type||-Connected discourse of paragraph length and structure.||-Extended discourse.|
While considering the profiles that follow, keep in mind that:
- Proficiency is global, and all criteria develop interdependently—a writer moves to a higher proficiency level only by mastering all criteria (i.e., demonstrating the evidence to sustain all criteria across the topics and tasks of the level all the time).
- While the elements of proficiency cannot be taught or learned discretely, an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of learners in discrete domains allows instructors to use strengths to scaffold and develop targeted activities to address specific weaknesses.
- Moving from one sublevel to the next may be a lengthy process; one semester might not be enough to observe such advancement, and as such, instructors and learners must set realistic expectations for both short term and long term growth.
- Levels (with the exception of Superior) are divided in sublevels: Low (minimal performance at level), Mid (quantity and quality at level), and High (showing ability at the next major level, but unable to sustain it). The strengths and needs of learners at the different sublevels are diverse; and it follows that writers at the High sub-level attempting the functions of the next major level will show less breakdown than their Low and Mid counterparts. These writers might require less time to move to the next major level than their Low and Mid peers. Differentiated instruction—using, for example, an increasing complexity of writing prompts—is essential for a curriculum that is aligned with realistic and equitable goals for growth.