Language Program Evaluation: Goals and Accountability in Language, Culture, and Literary Studies
Presiding: Nicole Mills (Harvard University) & John Norris (Georgetown University)
Abstract: The MLA report (2007) suggested that foreign language, culture, and literature departments undertake content/curriculum mapping to develop “unified four year curricula that situate language study in cultural, historical, geographic, and cross-cultural frames; that systematically incorporate transcultural content and translingual reflection at every level; and that organize the major around explicit, principled educational goals and expected outcomes.” In this vein, foreign language educators are becoming increasingly aware of disciplinary and
institutional demands to hold themselves accountable by incorporating benchmarks into their curriculum and
instruction, stipulating the unique missions and goals of their departments, and stating and assessing student learning outcomes. However, the extent to which these evaluative requirements are leading to tangible improvements such as articulation among all levels of instruction, or to changes in the dubious status quo of the “two tiered” discipline, remains in question. In this colloquium, presenters report on their experiences with approaching accountability evaluation first and foremost as a useful and participatory endeavor that asks high-priority questions and utilizes feasible empirical methods for inquiring into key dimensions of their language, culture, and literature programs. They also reflect on how, through strategic implementation and dissemination of these efforts, evaluation can lead to increased status within the institution, the possibility of legitimate improvements in teaching and learning across the program, the meeting of external accountability demands, and the concomitant reduction in useless or perfunctory evaluation activities. Finally, implications are drawn for how accountability evaluation might be used to illuminate the value of foreign language, culture, and literary studies to higher education and the public.
Paper titles & presenters:
1. “Responding to Accountability Mandates in the Humanities: One Foreign Language Department’s Response,” Heidi Byrnes, Georgetown Univ.
2. “Reframing Assessment: ‘Glocal’ Innovation and Accountability,” Theodore Joseph Cachey, Univ. of Notre Dame
3. “Using Empowerment Evaluation to Promote Change in the ‘Two-Tiered’ System,” Alessandro Zannirato, Johns Hopkins Univ., MD