Results of Assessment for the French Discipline, 2008-2009


This measurement of student learning records studentsŐ performance in terms of four basic skills typically measured in the acquisition of a second language: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The Beginning /Intermediate stages of a studentŐs encounter with French were assessed by comparing results on the Iowa Placement Test. The advanced students were assessed using the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking and Writing.


ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are national standards that have been developed for speaking and writing skills by specialists in second language acquisition, and can be found as .pdf files on the ACTFL web site: (in the Publications menu).


See also the assessment charts.


FREN 1001-1002


The Iowa Placement Test (IPT) is administered to all students at the beginning of 1001, to establish  pre-existing knowledge of and competence in French. It assesses reading, grammar, and listening comprehension skills. Students take the IPT a second time at the conclusion of Fren 1002 to ascertain individual proficiency at the end of the FL requirement.


The average score among students who took the French Placement test at the end of Fren 1002 was 29.88. The minimum score indicating preparedness for the next course in the language sequence (Fren 2001) is 27. Of the 17 students assessed, five scored below a 27 (three of these scored a 26, so they are on the threshold of preparedness for 2002). However, successful completion of French 1002 marks the completion of the foreign language requirement at UMM. That is, students are not required to demonstrate proficiency with an adequate score on the IPT. Thirteen of the seventeen students assessed either had an existing placement score on file at the University or took the IPT at the beginning of 1001; scores for these students improved an average of 8.92 points over the previous test. These data reflect marked improvement over the last three years for which data is available: 6.9 points in 2008, 6.3 points in 2007, and 7.89 points in 2005.


FREN 2001-2002


The IPT is administered at the beginning of 2001 and again at the end of Fren 2002. Scores are compared to existing IPT scores for each student. The administration of the test at this stage is particularly appropriate because the second year emphasizes review and mastery of basic grammar concepts.


The IPT Test was administered to nine students at the end of 2002, with a resulting average score of 37.89. The minimum IPT score that indicates a studentŐs preparedness for the next course in the language sequence is 37. Six of the nine students assessed scored a 37 or above. Seven students had preexisting IPT scores on file; all but one student demonstrated considerable progress over the previous test, for an average improvement of 5.43 points. This compares favorably to an average improvement of 3.1 for the 2007-2008 academic year.


FREN 3001-3011


A writing sample was assigned at the beginning of Fren 3001 and again at the end of Fren 3011. These samples were then assessed for grammar, as well as according to ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Writing. The scores for this year were complicated by the fact that the two writing samples were not equivalent: the essay topics differed, and in the fall students had time to work on these essays at home and therefore produced more polished work than they would have on an in-class assignment. Nevertheless, of the ten students assessed at the end of 3011, five produced written French at the Advanced-Low or Advanced-Middle level; four of the remaining students were assessed at the Intermediate-High level, with one student at the Intermediate-Low level.


In addition to the ACTFL scores, these studentsŐ essays were graded on discrete grammar points to assess their level of grammatical mastery. A chart was developed, with a total of 120 possible points. Again, the conditions of the fall and spring samples were not equivalent; in addition, the grammar score for the fall sample was assessed out of a total of 110 points. As a percentage, the fall average was 79.90% and the spring average 78.33%. Given the different conditions of the two samples (at-home vs. in-class writing), those assessed at the end of 3011 demonstrated an impressive accuracy relative to their earlier in-class samples.


FREN 4901


Fren 4901, Senior Seminar, taken in the studentŐs final semester at UMM, includes intensive revision of a major writing assignment and a public presentation given in French. Students complete another writing sample in French which is assessed according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Writing. The oral presentation is scored according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. See enclosed .pdf files of ACTFL Writing and Speaking Guidelines. While we are missing the data to track individual studentsŐ progress according to ACTFL Guidelines from Fren 3011 through Fren 4901, when compared to Fren 4901 scores from the previous year (spring 2008), students assessed at the end of the Fren 4901 in 2009 displayed a very similar distribution, ranging from Intermediate-High through Superior in writing proficiency, and from Intermediate-Mid through Superior for oral proficiency. Notably, in both categories there was a higher percentage of students ranked as Superior in spring 2009.


Discussion about upper-division studentsŐ strengths and weaknesses, 2008-2009

(Discussion between Stephen and Sarah held on 5/20/09; Tammy on sabbatical)


For 3001-3011:

I.              Strengths:

a.   Use of conjunctions and transitions are better than in previous year.

b.   Use of gender seems better, although the students still need improvement, especially in recognizing how certain endings communicate gender

c.    Solid basic vocabulary

d.   This class has a particular ease of expression and comfort with their skill level (they know when they make errors and are comfortable being corrected)

e.   Good literary analysis skills and basic understanding of literary terms.


II.           Weaknesses:

a.   Demonstratives—both adjectives and pronouns

b.   While this class uses conjunctions more consistently, they often use the wrong ones. They need more work to recognize differences between conjunctions.

c.    Comprehension: although they express themselves fairly well, they seem to misunderstand regularly.

d.   Direct and indirect object pronouns

e.   Need more cultural exposure


For 3xxx-4xxx students:

I.              Strengths:

a.   Good basic paper writing skills, with some very insightful contributions.

b.   Good enthusiasm for discussions.

c.    Excellent presentations


II.           Weaknesses:

a.   Use of gender

b.   Use of dictionaries and being precise with the categories of words they find.

c.    Preparedness: students seem to be coming to class unprepared and just ŇwingingÓ discussion.


Goals for 2009-2010 (to be tweaked in the fall) in discussions with Tammy:

I.              Professors should speak more French outside of class with their students

II.           Continue exposing students to more cultural and historical background

III.         More verb practice

IV.          Review the following grammatical structures periodically, even in literature courses:

a.   Demonstratives

b.   Conjunctions

c.    Object pronouns

d.   Verb conjugations