French Discipline Assessment 2006-2007


Scope of assessment activities

         ___√__Course-embedded assessment

                     ___√___ Pre- and post-testing

         ___√__ Outside the classroom

         ___√__ Across the discipline

Direct measures of student learning

         ___√__ Capstone experience

         ______ Portfolio assessment

         ___√__ Standardized tests

         ___√__ Performance on national licensure, certification or

                     preprofessional exams

         ______ Qualitative internal and external juried review of

                     of comprehensive senior projects

         ______ Externally reviewed exhibitions and performances in

                     the arts

         ______ External evaluation of performance during internships


Discussion and Description

Discipline goals, direct measures, and improved student learning


         1. French discipline learning objectives

Š      An introduction to the four skills of communication in French: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Š      Intermediate French: raising the level of sophistication in communication and broadening the cultural base to include French and francophone cultures.

Š      Continuation of objectives 1 and 2; mastery of literary texts and initiation into critical approaches and sharpening analytical skills.

Š      Application of objectives 1 through 3 above to original work in the field; post-baccalaureate employment and graduate study.


         2. Two phases of assessment

         The Iowa Placement Test is used to assess the first two years of the major, i.e., the beginning and intermediate phases. The last two years, the advanced phase, are assessed using the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking and Writing.



         3. Senior seminar

         The senior seminar is the discipline’s capstone experience, in which the student produces a substantial scholarly or creative work at a level appropriate for an undergraduate. It requires intensive revision of a major writing assignment and a public presentation given in French.


         4. First phase

         The Iowa Placement Test (IPT) is used in a pre-test/post-test format. It is administered to all students who have had previous experience with French and wish to enroll in French. It is administered again at the end of second semester of beginning French, and for a third time at the end of the second year, i.e., at the end of the second semester of intermediate French. The IPT assesses reading, grammar, and listening comprehension skills.


         5. Second phase

         5.1 Writing proficiency. The third year of the major requires one semester courses in conversation and composition, and in reading and analysis of texts. Towards the end of the second semester of the third year, a writing sample is obtained and assessed using ACTFL guidelines. Students complete a second writing sample in the capstone course that is assessed with respect to the same guidelines and is compared to the third year sample.

         5.2 Speaking proficiency. The oral presentation in the senior seminar is assessed using ACTFL guidelines.


         6. Outcomes

         6.1 First phase.

         Student IPT scores are compared to a standard score representing the student’s preparedness for the next course in the major.[1]

         6.2 Second phase

         On the basis of assessment, speakers and writers are placed in one of ten categories: superior; advanced (high, mid or low); intermediate (high, mid or low); and novice (high, mid or low).[2]


         7. Improving student learning

         Assessment in the French discipline has led to the following initiatives.

Š      Four new courses will weave grammar instruction through all four years of coursework. These are courses in phonetics, translation, advanced grammar, and business French.

Š      A system of one credit “maintenance” courses will allow students to practice oral skills in a more intimate setting.

Š      A professionalization component has been introduced into the senior seminar for which students prepare resumes, curriculum vitae, and cover letters in French, participate in mock interviews in English, and research (and in some instances even apply for) jobs using their French skills.

These are recent initiatives whose efficacy will be assessed.


         8. Possible forms for future assessment

         At the present time, only language proficiency is assessed systematically. However, nearly all of the advanced courses in the curriculum have a cultural focus, which is also a signficant component of the first and second year courses. The discipline will be discussing whether and how to assess the acquisition of cultural knowledge.


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Almost all French courses bear one of the following general education designators: FL, foreign language; IP, international perspective; Hum, communication, language, literature, and philosophy; or Hist, historical perspectives. Directed study and senior seminar carry no general education designator.



[1] Results for the 2006-2007 academic year are in the French discipline report that is in the appendices.

[2] See appendices for detailed results. For writing proficiency, senior seminar students ranged from advanced-high to intermediate-high. For oral proficiency, the same group ranged from advanced-high to intermediate-mid. The author of the report in the appendices notes that “study abroad is not a reliable predictor of higher levels of proficiency in writing,” but cautions that the sample size is small. The predictive power of study abroad is better for oral proficiency, but not clear-cut.