Spanish 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. Spanish discipline objectives. The Spanish curriculum is designed to help students

Š      develop critical insight into the philosophy and values of another culture

Š      gain fluency in a second language

Š      gain sensitivity toward literature that reflects the experience of the Spanish-speaking world.

It accommodates liberal arts students interested in a cross-cultural perspective, language study, secondary school teaching, or preparation for graduate study in the field.


         2. Capstone course: Research Symposium

         2.1. A new course.

         This new course will be required of all Spanish majors entering under Morris Catalog 2007-2009. It was not required of 2007 Spanish majors, since students can graduate under the requirements of any catalog in effect during their residency. However, four seniors chose to take the capstone course.

         2.2. Course objectives.

         The capstone experience consists of

Š      an introduction to research methods and critical approaches to literature

Š      the development of an independent research project and presentation.

         2.3. Assessment tool.

         Student learning was assessed in the areas of listening, reading, speaking, and writing using American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guidelines and rating categories.[1] In addition, the instructor produced a written assessment of each research project, noting the critical approach used, and using a quantitative evaluative scale for four categories: originality of ideas; quality of research; persuasiveness of argumentation; and organization.

         2.4. Rating student learning.

         There are eleven rungs in the ACTFL ladder of ratings: distinguished, superior, and three levels (high, mid, low) each of advanced, intermediate, and novice. No student in any of the four areas of listening, reading, speaking, and writing was evaluated at less than advanced low, and some received a distinguished rating.

         2.5. Improving student learning.

         The author of the discipline report notes that in “reviewing the four papers we discovered that students did not recognize some situations where a particular theory would have been most appropriate for their discussions. We have decided therefore to introduce literary theory earlier in the curriculum [.]” This will be in a required third year course, Seminar: Origins of the Spanish Character. Students will study seven literary theories and write essays in which they apply them to the literature being read. Their mastery will be gauged on a five-step scale ranging from “does not understand the theories and how to apply them” to “shows exceptional skill in applying the theories.”


         3. Course-embedded assessment. Pre-test/post-test

         As part of the objective of gaining fluency in a second language, the Spanish discipline has sought to improve listening skills of students in Beginning Spanish II, the second semester of the introductory course.

         The assessment tool is the Iowa Placement Exam in Spanish, the listening part consisting of twelve questions. The IPE is used to place first-year students in the proper course, either the first- or second-semester of the introductory course or beyond. The placement constitutes the pre-test. The IPE is again administered at the end of the second semester course, which constitutes the post-test.

         The tool to improve listening skills is an eight-week series of listening exercises. Students

Š      listen to passages on compact discs developed by native speakers who have been UMM students;

Š      go through the passages with the instructor to resolve any problems of comprehension; and

Š      listen to the passages again.

         Two groups of students were tested, those who had placed directly into Beginning Spanish II, and those who had placed into Beginning Spanish I and were now completing the second semester. On the pre-test, students rarely complete more than half of the twelve questions correctly. On the post-test, the average successful completion rate was 6.5 to 7.0 of 12.

         Two issues were identified that each elicited a response from the discipline.

i.      The author of the Spanish assessment report notes that there was a “minimal change in listening skill.”[2] Next year the listening exercises will last the entire semester rather than half.

ii.     Interpreting the results was problematic because the two groups tested clearly differed in the knowledge and/or skills they possessed on entering college.[3] The spring 2007 assessments now offer a baseline for those in spring 2008 to see if doubling the listening exercises improves student listening skills. 


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Spanish courses carry one of the following general education designators: FL, foreign language; Hum, communication, language, literature, and philosophy; IP, international perspectives; or Envt, people and the environment. The only exception is directed study, which carries no general education designator.



[1] The author of the discipline report notes that “ratings were remarkably similar among faculty.” The author of this report notes that ratings were generally stronger in listening and reading than in speaking and writing.

[2] The Spanish report is in the appendices.

[3] The various parameters that may have influenced the outcomes are discussed in the discipline report.