Identifying and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
I. Introduction. Student Learning Outcomes in programs of the Department of Modern Languages are listed in the six categories that are used university-wide in efforts to assess student output and program effectiveness. The categories are as follows: Knowledge, Critical Thinking, Communication, Diversity, Ownership for Learning, and Personal and Professional Development
Learning a foreign language implies the acquisition of detailed knowledge of the target culture as well as the comprehension of the language and its literature. Such knowledge encompasses purely technical knowledge of the target language as well as insights into modes of thinking other than those students already have. Studying a foreign language will stimulate the student’s critical thinking about the linguistic structure of that language as well as its literature, all within a cultural context that implies a range of paradigms. Critical thinking goes beyond the mere technical understanding of a text and the ability to summarize it. It also implies the ability to interpret texts and the development of an understanding of the target culture. Therefore, it extends into many disciplines across the social sciences, the humanities, and cross-cultural studies. Students develop and improve communication skills not only in the target language, but through exposure to another linguistic system, and ultimately also in their mother tongue. Our classes stimulates students to develop the ability to relate to diverse cultures and thus reflect on their own. A foreign language, once started, often has the impact of turning students into life-long learners. In that sense it is like a savings account that keeps growing once the initial investment is made. The longer a student stays with the chosen language, especially after an extended sojourn in one of the countries in which it is spoken, the less the student may be inclined to give up on studying this language and its culture. Language learning engages in a multitude of exercises and experiences in which students learn to interact with their peers and learn how to work as a team, an ability that is highly sought by government and industry employers. Learning to do research cultivates individual responsibility and reinforces personal ethics. The knowledge of another culture through its language and texts enhances social responsibility as well as cosmopolitan and even global thinking. Consequently, the study of a foreign culture and its language has the potential to turn students into more responsible citizens of the world. Students with four years of language training and a year abroad clearly demonstrate this development from local thinkers into more cosmopolitan thinkers.
Note: References to “advanced” and “superior” skills in reading, speaking, and writing are to definitions and guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). References are made in this document to Attachment A (*advanced) and Attachment B (**superior).
Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Grid
II. Student Learning Outcomes by Assessment Category.
Upon successful completion of the following departmental programs, students will be able to achieve the following outcomes:
A. Bachelor of Arts Modern Languages
Graduates in Modern Languages will have demonstrated:
B. Minor in Modern Languages
French, German, Spanish
Chinese, Japanese, Russian
Chinese, Classical Studies, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish:
C. Master of Arts in Modern Languages
Master’s Degrees Graduates in Modern Languages will have demonstrated:
Assessment Protocols and Report
The Dept. of Modern Languages regularly evaluates the efficacy of its programs and the progress of students towards achieving the program learning outcomes as defined here. Below, you will find the most recent summary report from the annual assessment of the undergraduate and graduate programs:
To complete the 2020‒21 Undergraduate Assessment of Student Learning Report, the Modern Languages faculty assessed 75 undergraduate students for writing proficiency in their target languages (i.e., German, Spanish, and French). The assessed students were close to completing their programs and were enrolled across six advanced-level (i.e., 700-level) courses. The data were gathered based on a standardized prompt, but each student was required to complete the writing task in the target languages. Overall, the results were satisfactory, as most students (74.7%) were either proficient (46.7%) or exemplary (28%). The remaining 25.3% of learners were assessed as acceptable. These results speak to the strength of the academic programs, particularly in terms of applied language use. The Curriculum and Assessment Committee will follow the same evaluation approach in AY 2021‒22 to establish the comparability of the results and facilitate further reflection. In the meantime, we continue our efforts to standardize the assessment SLO 3B (writing proficiency) by integrating the general writing prompt into our Canvas courses, which we plan on piloting in spring 2022. We aim to improve and ease the process of data collection while also deepening the information that assists us in enhancing our program. For the same purpose, we have added to our senior exit survey some questions concerning students’ perceptions of the factors that shape the development of their writing skills.