Foreign Language Program Evaluation

    College and university foreign language (FL) programs are asked to engage in evaluation of many kinds and for many reasons, such as traditional program reviews and more recent accreditation pressures to assess student learning outcomes. In addition, particular programs have unique needs — as an example, the assessment of student proficiency to evaluate foreign language programs has just been announced as a Title VI NRC competitive priority for FY 2006. Often, however, evaluation within FL programs is perceived as an onerous bureaucratic task that is imposed from the outside. Distinctions between student assessment and program evaluation are poorly understood, as are the links between evaluation and the improvement of curriculum and instruction. This project is designed to help FL educators build their capacities to engage in evaluation for understanding, improving, and ensuring FL program quality across colleges and universities in the US.

    The project is divided into three phases. Phase 1 focuses on identifying the primary uses and demands for evaluation in US college FL programs and on appraising current capacities to meet such demands. In Phase 2 the research team will develop strategies and resources, such as self-study modules, evaluation instrument templates, and workshops on evaluation procedures, that will be made available on the project web site in conjunction with a searchable database. In Phase 3 the developed strategies and resources will be field-tested, evaluated, and revised, via implementation in and close collaboration with five representative foreign language program sites.

    This project is supported by a Title VI International Research and Studies (IRS) grant (2005-08), which supports the research and development aspects of the project. The NFLRC will carry the primary responsibility for disseminating results, in the following ways:

    • By hosting the project website on the NFLRC server and providing technical support as needed;
    • By co-sponsoring the annual Summer Seminar of the ADFL, held at UH in June 2007, with a major strand of the conference dedicated to foreign language program evaluation;
    • By conducting the Foreign Language Program Evaluation Summer Institute in 2007, a workshop that was held immediately preceding the ADFL conference. Outreach efforts for the workshop targeted educators from across the US who represent less commonly-taught languages. In addition, a number of ADFL conference participants (typically heads of departments of the more commonly taught languages) also participated in the workshop;
    • By providing graduate assistant support to maintain the website and continue the development projects planned for the project in years 3 (2008-09) and 4 (2009-10) of the grant cycle, following the conclusion of the IRS grant; and
    • By publishing and disseminating all results from the project. It is anticipated that this will include traditional media products such as technical reports and monographs as well as electronic publications.

    An additional benefit of this project is that it addresses the competitive priority that has been set for Title VI NRCs, to carry out “activities designed to demonstrate the quality of the center’s or program’s language instruction through the measurement of student proficiency in the less and least commonly taught languages.” Although proficiency testing of students and program evaluation are not the same (the latter being the broader construct), the NFLRC supports this NRC priority by publicizing the summer institute on program evaluation to NRC directors and encouraging their participation. NFLRC staff continue to meet and work closely with the directors of the three UH NRCs (East Asia, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands) and their faculty in order to plan and implement proficiency testing mechanisms for those languages.  John Norris, Director of this Project, has agreed to act as a consultant on program evaluation for the Ohio State University LRC, acting as coordinator of a collaborative project to develop unified reporting procedures for East Asian languages in collaboration with four East Asian NRCs.  The Japanese language program at UH has also been chosen to be one of the five demonstration programs for the implementation of evaluation strategies.