Planning for success with the GSE

Pearson Languages
University students sat in a classroom at desks with a teacher speaking to them

The Global Scale of English (GSE) is the first truly global English language standard.

It consists of a detailed scale of language ability and learning objectives, forming the foundations of our courses and assessments at Pearson English.

The GSE was developed based on research involving over 6000 language teachers worldwide. The objective was to extend the current CEFR descriptor sets to enable the measurement of progression within a CEFR level – and also to address the learning needs of a wider group of students.

It can be used in conjunction with a current school curriculum and allows teachers to accurately measure their learners’ progress in all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

GSE was introduced at the American Language Institute – an English language school run by the University of Toledo in Ohio, USA – with impressive results.

The American Language Institute

The Institute provides English courses for students who want to improve their English and prepares students to take the International Student English exam. They offer an intensive language program consisting of 20 hours of classes every week and 40 hours of self-study. This 60-hour week is designed to fast-track students from a lower level of English to a standard which allows them to participate successfully in college courses. There are five course levels offered, from A2+ to B2+ and class sizes average at around 10 students.

Most students at the Institute are full-time international students planning to attend the University of Toledo once their English language proficiency reaches the required standard. On average, they are between 18 and 20 years old, and enter the language program with a B1 level of English.

A mission statement

At the Institute, the main aim of the language courses is to help students develop their English skills to a level that will allow them to integrate successfully into the university community, not just academically but socially. In their own words; “Our ultimate goal isn’t to teach them how to take and pass language tests, but to teach them how to use English and engage themselves with the local communities.”

So how did the GSE, in conjunction with the Versant test and other Pearson products, help to achieve this goal?

Transitioning to a objectives-based curriculum

First, the course coordinator Dr Ting Li adopted the GSE for a more detailed approach to the CEFR. She found that the GSE “made the CEFR more manageable because it broke out the levels and outlined CEFR goals into different categories.”

Next, she replaced the current course materials with NorthStar Speaking & Listening, NorthStar Reading & Writing, and Focus on Grammar. These courses covered the areas taught in the previous curriculum, as well as the three key areas of study; literacy, speaking and listening, and grammar.

The instructors also began using Pearson English Connect, a digital platform for teachers and students.This gave them the flexibility to revise questions and reduce administrative burden due to the automatic grading feature.

Finally, the Institute started using the Versant English placement test to decide which level students should enter when they first begin studying at the Institute.

Key findings from the case study

The new curriculum was a great success. Students, teachers and administrators all found that the courses and assessments, all underpinned by the GSE, made the language learning experience smoother and easier. Once students had completed the highest level of the course and achieved a 3.0 GPA, they were able to transition smoothly into their courses at the University of Toledo.

The alignment between the NorthStar courses, the grammar study books and the Versant test was informed by the GSE. This meant students didn’t have to sit as many assessments as before, reducing time teachers had to spend setting and marking exams, and allowing them to focus more on supporting learners and the quality of their lessons.

Dr Li highlighted the following key benefits:

  • The Global Scale of English supports the development of a standardized curriculum and a consistent framework for teaching English
  • The average student GPA was highly related to the University of Toledo’s undergraduate GPA, which indicates that if students do well at the Institute, they will have a successful academic career. 
  • There was no group difference between graduates of the Institute and the average University of Toledo student GPA, which indicates that the Institute’s students perform as well as other international students who have been directly admitted to the university. 
  • There was no difference between credits earned 2 years into the university program compared with the general student population.

What’s more, the Institute was recently recognized by the Commission on English Language Accreditation (CEA), meaning that the course run by Dr Li is now nationally recognized. Using the GSE to inform the organization of the course curriculum made the accreditation process smoother and easier.

Working as a team

One of the main pieces of feedback from Dr Li and the Institute was how helpful they found the Pearson representatives, who offered excellent customer support, building a sense of a team between their representatives and the school. This very teamwork helped the Institute to fulfill the ambition in their mission statement. It makes for an inspiring story of how one school used the GSE to transform their curriculum, and achieved their goal of helping students to improve their English and achieve their academic ambitions.  

More blogs from Pearson

  • A woman walking around outdoors with a camera

    The benefits of taking part in foreign exchange programs

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    If you are a student or one considering a gap year, the option of foreign exchange programs may have crossed your mind or been mentioned to you. More and more young people are taking advantage of exchange programs and reaping the transformative benefits that come with it.

    Let's have a look at some of the reasons why taking part in an exchange program can be a life-changing experience and how it can help you more than you think.

    What is a foreign exchange program?

    A foreign exchange program is an educational initiative where students have the opportunity to study abroad and immerse themselves in a different culture for a specified period, typically ranging from a few weeks to an entire academic year. These programs facilitate cultural exchange by allowing students to attend foreign schools or universities, live with host families or in dormitories, and engage in activities that foster intercultural understanding and personal growth.

    The primary aim of a foreign exchange program is to provide students with a global perspective, enhance their language skills, and expose them to different educational systems and cultural practices. By stepping out of their comfort zones, students can develop independence, adaptability and a deeper appreciation for diversity.

    What are the benefits of a foreign exchange program?

    1. Cultural immersion and global perspective

    Embracing diversity

    One of the most immediate benefits of an exchange program is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture. Experiencing new customs, traditions and ways of life firsthand fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of global diversity. This cultural immersion helps break down stereotypes and broadens your worldview, making you more open-minded and adaptable.

    Develop cultural understanding

    Living in a foreign country teaches you how to navigate and respect different cultural norms and practices. This cultural competence is increasingly valued in our interconnected world, enhancing your ability to work effectively in diverse environments and making you a more attractive candidate in the global job market.

    2. Language proficiency

    Enhanced language skills

    For language learners, an exchange program is an opportunity to achieve fluency. Experiencing a language firsthand is one of the best ways to learn a new language. Being surrounded by fluent speakers provides constant practice and exposure, accelerating your language acquisition in ways that classroom learning alone cannot match. You'll develop better pronunciation, expand your vocabulary and gain confidence in your speaking abilities.

    Real-world communication

    Using a new language in everyday situations—whether it's ordering food, asking for directions, or making new friends—helps solidify your language skills in a practical context. This real-world communication practice is invaluable, ensuring that your language proficiency extends beyond textbooks and exams to actual, meaningful interactions.

    3. Academic and professional growth

    Academic enrichment

    Exchange programs often provide access to unique academic resources and teaching methods that differ from those in your home country. Exposure to new perspectives and approaches can deepen your understanding of your field of study and inspire new areas of interest. Additionally, studying abroad can enhance your academic credentials, making your CV stand out to future employers or academic institutions.

    Career opportunities

    Experience abroad signals to employers that you possess qualities like independence, adaptability and cross-cultural communication skills. These attributes are highly sought after in today’s job market. Moreover, the networking opportunities during your exchange can open doors to international internships, job placements and collaborations that might not have been available otherwise.

    4. Personal development

    Building independence and resilience

    Living away from home in a completely new environment challenges you to become more self-reliant and adaptable. You'll develop problem-solving skills, resilience and the ability to thrive outside of your comfort zone. These experiences build character and prepare you for future challenges, both personally and professionally.

    Forming lifelong connections

    The friendships and connections you make during your exchange program can last a lifetime. You'll meet people from various backgrounds, creating a global network of peers and mentors. These relationships can provide support, inspiration and opportunities long after your exchange program ends.

    Boosting confidence

    Successfully navigating life in a foreign country, mastering a new language, and achieving academic success abroad can significantly boost your confidence. This newfound self-assurance can positively impact all areas of your life, giving you the courage to pursue further opportunities and take on new challenges.

    5. Engaging with the local community

    Volunteer and community projects

    Many exchange programs encourage participants to engage with their host communities through volunteer work or community projects. This engagement allows you to give back to your host country, gain a deeper understanding of local issues, and develop a sense of global citizenship. It's a rewarding experience that fosters empathy and reinforces the importance of contributing to the wider world.

    Gaining valuable work experience

    Participating in volunteer and community projects during your exchange program can provide significant work experience that is highly attractive to future employers. These projects often involve teamwork, problem-solving and project management, all of which are essential skills in any professional setting.

    By contributing to local initiatives, you can demonstrate your ability to adapt to new environments, work with diverse teams, and handle responsibility. Furthermore, these experiences can fill gaps in your CV, showcasing your proactive approach to skill-building and community involvement. Engaging in meaningful projects not only supports your personal growth but also highlights your commitment to making a positive impact, a quality greatly valued in any career field.

    Where can I sign up for exchange programs?

    There are many organizations and programs that offer exchange opportunities for students and language learners. Some popular options include:

    • Study abroad programs through universities or colleges, which often have partnerships with foreign institutions. Check with your institution.
    • Government-sponsored programs such as Fulbright or Erasmus, (depending on your location).
    • Check non-profit organizations in your country, they may also offer exchange programs.

    Conclusion

    Taking part in an exchange program is a life-changing adventure that offers myriad benefits for students and language learners alike. From enhancing language proficiency and cultural awareness to boosting academic and career prospects, the experiences gained through an exchange program are invaluable. By stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new world, you open yourself up to endless possibilities, personal growth and a broader, more inclusive perspective on life.

    If you're a student or language learner considering an exchange program, seize the opportunity. The world awaits, and the benefits are boundless.

  • Friends studying together around one big table

    8 things you should try to avoid when learning English

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    Learning a new language is an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. As English learners, it's important to recognize and overcome the common pitfalls that could hinder your progress. Here, we provide advice and guidance on what not to do to make your English learning experience as smooth and successful as possible.

  • Business people sat at a table together, two of them shaking hands.

    Improving your business English vocabulary for the workplace

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    So, you’re thinking about brushing up on your business English and learning new business vocabulary. In today’s corporate world, having a good handle on basic business terms and business lingo can really set you apart. It’s not just about sounding smart in meetings or crafting the perfect email, though that’s part of it. It’s about feeling more confident and fitting in seamlessly with your colleagues and clients from around the globe. Plus, knowing the right words and phrases can help you navigate tricky situations, negotiate better deals, and make a great impression on customers.

    Whether you’re attending business meetings, writing emails, or networking with colleagues, a strong grasp of business English vocabulary can set you apart and open doors to new opportunities.

    So, let’s dive in and explore some ways to improve your business English vocabulary.