Foreign Language Outcomes Assessment and Program Evaluation

    Foreign language (FL) educators are asked to engage in evaluation of many kinds and for many reasons, such as traditional program reviews, federal accountability requirements, and accreditation pressures to assess student learning outcomes. Often, however, evaluation within FL education is perceived primarily as an onerous bureaucratic task that is imposed from the outside and lacking in any clear value for ensuring educational effectiveness or other valued program/project outcomes. Furthermore, distinctions between student assessment and program evaluation are poorly understood, as are the links between evaluation and the improvement of curriculum, instruction, and other aspects of program implementation. This project is designed to help FL educators build their capacities to engage in evaluation and assessment for understanding, improving, and ensuring FL program quality across US educational settings.

    This project leverages previous work co-sponsored under a Title VI International Research and Studies (IRS) grant (2005-08) and the 2006-2010 NFLRC grant, which identified evaluation needs expressed by tertiary FL educators, led to the development of a high-use website with extensive resources for FL program evaluation, included the training of a large number of FL program evaluators (in the 2007 NFLRC summer institute and through direct outreach), and resulted in the publication of numerous articles and an edited collection of case studies on program evaluation in college FL education. One important pattern that emerged from that work was the intensifying nature of demands to engage in outcomes assessment for both improvement and accountability purposes, along with a lack of clear guidance from the FL disciplines on how to pursue outcomes assessment in useful ways. During the 2010-2014 grant cycle, the NFLRC will build upon previous work and respond to the new challenges identified:

    • By expanding outcomes assessment resources on the Foreign Language Program Evaluation Project (FLPEP) website on the NFLRC server (in 2010-11), specifically by developing web-based self-study training modules on student learning outcomes assessment, see
    • By designing and carrying out a national survey on accreditation-mandated outcomes assessment in college foreign language programs
    • By delivering a workshop in 2011 on utilization-focused outcomes assessment to representatives from the Western Consortium of Middle East NRCs. The National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC) will videotape and make this training available for all on its website, and NFLRC will disseminate segments on its proposed YouTube channel
    • By conducting a Summer Institute in 2012 on “Assessing foreign language learning outcomes,” including training in the foundations of useful outcomes assessment and specialized workshops tailored to particular interest groups such as assessment for Japanese language teachers; assessing proficiency development in NRC projects; outcomes assessment for primary and secondary education; and training a cadre of assessment trainers for Middle East languages
    • By collaborating with NMELRC and select Middle East language programs (2011-14) to develop and validate easy-to-use protocols, indicators, and frameworks for the systematic evaluation of specialized language programs, from online learning modules to intensive study abroad programs, with a particular emphasis on advanced levels of FL achievement
    • By collaborating with the UH NRCs and CIBER (2012-14) on the development and validation of easy-to-use protocols, indicators, and frameworks for the systematic evaluation of project outcomes for formative and summative purposes
    • By conducting a summer institute in 2014 on “Evaluation in foreign language education,” including training in program evaluation techniques and the exploration of evaluation as a means for curricular innovation