Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Classics at William Jewell Adds New Capstone Courses

The Roman Forum

This week the faculty of William Jewell College approved two new courses for the Classics program. The Languages Department currently offers a Classical Humanities Minor, an interdisciplinary course of study in classical languages and literatures, either Latin or Greek, history, and other related elective courses. With the new addition of the two 301 Survey of Latin or Greek Literature courses, the 415 Capstone Project course is for students completing the classical humanities minor (or a self-designed Classics Major) with either a Latin or Greek emphasis in which they will use their knowledge of ancient Roman or Greek history and their abilities to read original Latin or Greek authors to pursue research in an area of special interest, culminating in a formal paper and some sort of public presentation.

Temple of Olympian Zeus (Athens)

William Jewell College approves IES program in Shanghai

Views of Shanghai

At this Monday's business meeting, the faculty of William Jewell College approved two IES programs in Shanghai, 21st Century China and Business in China, submitted by the Languages Department in support of the Chinese program. This year marks the first offering of beginning Chinese at Jewell, and with the faculty approval of the intermediate level, these courses will be offered next year. Under consideration in the next few weeks will be the Chinese Area Studies minor in which a student takes the first two years of Chinese language courses at Jewell (through the entire intermediate level) and then completes a semester abroad in either Shanghai or Beijing. We anticipate an enthusiastic response to this important addition to the Department's offerings.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

French Program at Jewell integrates CEFR assessment standards

The French program at William Jewell College is currently integrating CEFR (or the Common European Frame of Reference for Languages) assessment tools into the major curriculum as part of its ongoing efforts to encourage and support student achievement.

In 2008 Dr. Myers revised the French assessment plan to include the language portfolio as recommended by the Council of Europe. Each student has on file with the Department a dedicated electronic portfolio in their name. The portfolio has three components: a language passport that describes the student's self-assessment of his or her language skills, a language biography that narrates interactions with the language and culture and serves as a reflection on the learning experience, and a dossier replete with supporting files of written and oral French, such as essays and recordings of recitals. It was hoped that moving to an assessment program such as this would increase student participation in the learning process and become more aware of their progress, since the students had to submit the language passport and biography in FRE 315 Introduction to French Studies and then had to reassess those documents in FRE 415 the French Studies Capstone. With such participation, there was reason to believe that insights resulting into actionable suggestions would occur. Indeed, when the first senior class graduated under this assessment plan, the use of labs led by our French Assistant, generally of Masters level student from the Université de Nantes, was added to the curriculum of FRE 415 to support interpersonal communication, because students felt that even in a research-oriented class, having that time to work on oral expression with the assistant was to valuable to miss. This in turn let the instructor integrate assessment of the skills of interpersonal communication into the class to complement the assessment of writing and oral presentational skills.

Goals of the French major, from the William Jewell College 2012 catalog

In 2010 the assessment plan was modified again when Drs. Westlie and Myers revised the goals of the French major. The major now has four learning outcomes targeting literature, history and culture, competencies for life-long learning and language skills rated at the C1 level, Proficient User on the CEFR scale, aligning the assessment plan with the learning outcomes. Then in spring 2012, the first senior class to graduate completely under the new assessment plan enrolled in FRE 415 and it was time to build assessment tools to evaluate student achievement on the activities of the capstone course.

After a careful review of the Council of Europe's website and documents provided there, four assessment tools were developed in spring 2012. The process included three steps: (1) to find language both the instructor and the student could understand and work with, (2) to format the standards in a comprehensible ways, and (3) to align the standards with letter grades needed for course work. These assessment tools are clearly inspired by the CEFR materials, yet adapted to meet the needs of the academic nature of a college French program and, more specifically, to the needs of the Jewell curriculum.

The first assessment tool designed targeted writing skills. While creative and reflective writings are incorporated into the French major program, the dissertation explicative is the heart of academic writing in the major and is included and evaluated in every major course through research-based papers and essay exams.

CEFR assessment tool for writing

The second assessment tool provided guidelines for the French assistant leading the lab portion of the capstone course. This new lab asked the students to recommend and research a topic of discussion each week as well as questions to spur conversation. The instructor worked with the assistant who could then guide the conversations with questions designed to elicit skill development. At the end of the semester, the assistant held a final oral interview with the students that would provide an assessment of their interpersonal communication skills.

CEFR assessment tool for interpersonal communication

The third assessment tool would provide an evaluation of oral presentational skills that could be used at the Recital, held at the end of each semester, and for in-class presentations.

CEFR assessment tool for recitals and presentations
It became apparent that a fourth assessment tool would be necessary for Recitals. Some recitals are creative, some are presentational, and some are truly recitative in which students portray a scene from a French play or recite a French poem. In this case, the language is not their own or it is written beforehand and memorized, and since an assessment tool should adequately relate to the goals of the activity, a sketch assessment tool should evaluate interpretation and use of customs and accessories.

CEFR assessment tool for sketches

Our thanks go to the students of the capstone course who were willing first subjects and these documents did go through revisions based on that first experience and I suspect that they will most likely be updated as they are integrated throughout the curriculum. Thanks as well to the spring 300-level students who first tried out the presentational assessment tool at their Recital after one test run at their midterm in-class presentation.