Students will demonstrate:

  • basic proficiency in the understanding and use of a foreign language;
  • knowledge of the distinctive features of culture(s) associated with the language they are studying.


The Department of Foreign Languages assessed 218 students in Spring 2007. Outcome 1 was assessed according to the proficiency standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and was fairly straightforward to measure numerically. Part of the final examination in FL 201 was earmarked for assessment of language usage skills; students were expected to perform at ACTFL novice-mid or higher.



Understanding and Use











Not Meeting



Observations from the Department of Foreign Languages

The main challenge associated with Outcome 1 was that it was not possible to designate common grammatical elements to be assessed across all languages. The grammatical concepts that students have learned by the end of Latin 201, for example, are not necessarily the same ones that students have learned by the end of Spanish 201. Therefore, the concepts to be tested were determined according to the language in question.

Outcome 2 presented a challenge because there is no widely-accepted agreement on how to measure "cultural knowledge" or "cultural awareness". In fact, there is no general agreement on what makes one cultural "fact" more "significant" than another. No institution has come up with a universally viable plan for assessing cultural competency. The best one can do in this regard is to remain constantly aware, when presenting cultural context in class, the knowledge of this type will ultimately have to be tested and quantified. The tendency to "teach to the test" will probably become significant, as has been the case with Regents and various other examinations.

Another challenge with respect to Outcome 2 is that our department deals in eight different languages. While students may be able to express culturally-related concepts in the target language for some languages (e.g., Spanish, French, Italian), they might have trouble doing so in languages that are considered more difficult for anglophones (e.g., Russian, Chinese). Also, as in the case with Latin, the concentration is in reading of a language that is no longer spoken. Furthermore, some textbooks present cultural information in English. In an effort to account for these issues, students taking Latin and Russian 201 were allowed to write in English about the culture associated with the particular foreign languages they were studying.

Based on instructor feedback, it seems that the department would benefit from meetings in which strategies for the integration of the cultural element, as material to be tested, and the assessment process is discussed. This would greatly aid the adjunct faculty who are new to our assessment procedure. It is recommended that this be done at the beginning of the academic school year.

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