Increased Departmental Focus on Student Speaking Performance
By Nicole Sherf, department of foreign languages
In the Spring 2012 issue of Lingua Franca, we announced that the Department of Foreign Languages had been recognized with accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) through the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).
Although this specific accreditation is for the departmental teacher preparation programs, it would be fair to say that the resulting positive effects and focus on high standards have been felt in all the departmental programming from the language sequence courses, to the minors to the other concentrations of the Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. This is because one of the accreditation mandates is that foreign language teacher candidates acquire a specific level of proficiency as one of the required pieces of evidence. This requirement has led to a faculty discussion about what the various levels of speaking performance represent as outlined in the nationally accepted standard called the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.
The full- and part-time faculty of the department have held various retreats to discuss how work together to increase student speaking performance over time in our various programs with a focus on in-class activities and assessments as well as programmatic and advising strategies. The discussion has resulted in interesting cooperation and collaboration, and ultimately, higher speaking performance in our program completers. An interesting positive benefit of the focus on speaking performance is that students are participating in more service learning and study abroad experiences. Our departmental experience with this accreditation process has been a positive one in spite of the occasional tedium of the report and the documentation of evidence. And you, our students, are the beneficiaries of stronger overall programming. In fact, we have recently discovered that SSU is the only university in Massachusetts and only one of seven in New England to have earned the prestigious NCATE accreditation through ACTFL for the Spanish licensure programs!