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Vanderbilt University Center for Second Language Studies Virginia M. Scott November 11, 2011 ACTFL Proficiency and the National Standards.

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Presentation on theme: "Vanderbilt University Center for Second Language Studies Virginia M. Scott November 11, 2011 ACTFL Proficiency and the National Standards."— Presentation transcript:

1 Vanderbilt University Center for Second Language Studies Virginia M. Scott November 11, 2011 ACTFL Proficiency and the National Standards

2 Overview of the session 1) Historical context for our discussion 2) Proficiency-oriented instruction and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 3) Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21 st Century

3 Audiolingual Method (ALM) ca. 1950-1980 ALM = combination of Army Method and behaviorist theories:  input  drill (rote learning)  use of language laboratories The first language lab was installed at Louisiana State U. in 1947.

4 Proficiency-oriented instruction ca. 1980-2000 The idea of “proficiency” was founded on new understandings in about the nature of communicative competence.  Canale & Swain’s (1983) model includes 4 components: 1. grammatical: mastery of linguistic code 2. sociolinguistic: knowledge of social and cultural rules 3. discourse: ability to connect sentences coherently 4. strategic: ability to use verbal and non-verbal communication strategies

5 A proficiency-oriented approach develops communicative competence: “It is now generally accepted that proficiency in another language includes much more than knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary, or linguistic competence. It includes the ability to say the appropriate thing in a certain social situation (sociolinguistic competence); the ability to start, enter, contribute to, and end a conversation and the ability to do this in a consisted and coherent manner (discourse competence); and the ability to communicate effectively and repair problems caused by communication breakdowns (strategic competence).” (Brandl, 2008, p. 278)

6 Principles of proficiency-oriented instruction Focus on what learners can DO and not just what they know. Provide rich, authentic input (oral and written) Organize lesson around 4-skills Avoid a focus on grammar and accuracy Provide opportunities for learners to USE the language INPUT + INTERACTION

7 ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (1986) Four levels for assessing speaking, listening, reading, writing proficiency: Novice = words, phrases Intermediate = sentences Advanced = paragraphs Superior = extended discourse


9 ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (1986) The guidelines represent a hierarchy of observable behaviors, or performance, in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Each description is a representative, not an exhaustive, sample of a particular range of ability. These guidelines identify stages of proficiency, as opposed to achievement. They do not measure what individuals achieve through specific classroom instruction, but assess what individuals can and cannot do. The levels of proficiency are designed for global assessment and are not related to where, when, or how the language was learned or acquired.

10 Oral Proficiency Interview 1) Warm-up  Puts interviewee at ease  Reacquaints him/her with L2  Tester builds database (context, areas of interest and experiences) 2) Level checks  Shows what s/he can do (narrate & describe in major time frames; hypothesize; express opinions; persuade)  Identifies functions/content  Finds highest level of sustained performance = floor 3) Probes  Shows what s/he cannot do  Identifies the areas that result in linguistic breakdown  Finds lowest level at which performance can no longer be sustained = ceiling 4) Wind-down  Returns interviewee to level at which s/he functions accurately; leaves interviewed with a sense of accomplishment and positive feelings.


12 Communicative LanguageTeaching ca. 2000 - present CLT in an approach based on a socio-cultural understanding of learning. In particular, it addresses several important issues that were not addressed in the proficiency-oriented approach. Use tasks as organizing principle for teaching Promote cooperative and collaborative learning Focus on meaning before form Respect affective factors of learning (anxiety, motivation, learning style, etc.)

13 The “weave” of curricular elements Language system * Cultural knowledge * Communication strategies Critical thinking skills * Learning strategies * Technology “The Standards (1999) grew out of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act... and represent an effort to go beyond a limited four-skills view of language education, proposing in the process to change radically current teaching paradigms.[...] Rather than seeing language study as a fundamentally skill-oriented, self- contained enterprise that only tangentially includes culture in terms of practical competencies, the Standards encourage language instruction that focuses on its interdisciplinary implications and ability to influence learners in terms of developing an increased awareness of self and others and in terms of encouraging deep cognitive processing skills”(13). Jean Marie Schultz. 2001. The Gordian Knot: Language Literature, and Critical Thinking. In SLA and the Literature Classroom, edited by Virginia Scott and Holly Tucker. Boston: MA, Heinle.

14 Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21 st Century 1. Communication: communicate in languages other than English 2. Cultures: gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures 3. Connections: connect with other disciplines 4. Comparisons: develop insight into the nature of language and culture 5. Communities: participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world Arabic, Chinese, Classical languages, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish

15 Standard 1 Communicate in Languages Other Than English  1.1: Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions. (interpersonal mode)  1.2: Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics. (interpretive mode)  1.3: Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics. (presentational mode)

16 Standard 2 Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures  2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.  2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.

17 Standard 3 Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information  3.1: Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language.  3.2: Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.

18 Standard 4 Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture  4.1: Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.  4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.

19 Standard 5 Participate in Multilingual Communities at Home & Around the World  Standard 5.1: Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting.  Standard 5.2: Students show evidence of becoming life- long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment.

20 Define goals in terms of developing literacy “What I mean by “literacy”… is more than reading and writing as skills or as prescribed patterns of thinking. It is about relationships between readers, writers, texts, culture, and language learning. It is about the variable cognitive and social practices of taking and making textual meaning that provide students access to new communities outside the classroom, across geographical and historical boundaries. It involves an awareness of how acts of reading, writing, and conversation create and shape meanings, not merely transfer them from one individual or group to another. It is precisely because literacy is not monolithic, but variable and multiple, tied to the various sociocultural practices of a given society, that is of key importance in our teaching of language and culture.” (Kern 2003, p. 3)

21 DISCUSSION BREAK In language specific groups, look at the standards for your target language. THANK YOU FOR BEGINNING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT STANDARDS AT VANDERBILT!

22 Klaus Brandl’s 8 principles of communicative language teaching 1) Use tasks as an organizing principle (rather than grammar topics) Ex: Talk about your family; organize a dinner; plan a trip 2) Promote learning by doing 3) Input needs to be rich and authentic; maximize use of the target language 4) Input needs to be meaningful and comprehensible IRE vs. IRF

23 Klaus Brandl’s 8 principles of communicative language teaching 5) Promote cooperative and collaborative learning 6) Focus on form explicit grammar teaching: deductive = rule  example inductive = example  rule 7) Provide error corrective feedback positive vs. negative feedback 8) Recognize and respect affective factors of learning (anxiety, motivation, attitude, etc.)

24 References Brandl, K. (2008). Communicative language teaching in action: Putting Principles to Work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Kern, R. G. (2003). Literacy and advanced foreign language learning: Rethinking the curriculum. In H. Byrnes & H. H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 2-18). AAUSC Issues in Language Program Direction. Boston, MA: Heinle.

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