All members of the department agree on the curricular philosophy and its cognitive, cultural and linguistic objectives as stated on the Learning Outcomes page. Also, departmental faculty commonly define major and minor requirements, and all sections underwrite the principles and expected outcomes for the senior comprehensive project. While these guiding principles shape the curricular identity of the department as a whole, the individual language sections act fairly autonomously in adjusting the curriculum to their specific goals and needs. The sections routinely survey and modify course structures and learning outcomes specific to their respective languages. They amend their course offerings to reflect the particular needs of their students and they modify certain pedagogical concepts that, in their opinion, need to be revisited.
Curricular decisions have in the past been based on assessment criteria gained from student evaluations, informal conversations with students and fellow faculty members and national trends within the profession. The department as a whole and the individual sections have so far taken into account the student evaluation instrument used at Allegheny (RSE) to evaluate the successful implementation of curricular objectives. Questions 4 (course design), 10 (effectiveness of readings and assignments) and 13 (amount learned) have provided valuable feedback to individual instructors and sections and have resulted in modifications of teaching materials and course organization. In addition, the sometimes extensive written comments by students concerning particular aspects of a course have greatly helped to reflect on a particular teaching methodology, have contributed to changes in the content of a course and have led to improvements of teaching methods.
The department, on the other hand, recognizes the need to have a more formal and reliable assessment of curricular objectives. The best approach to achieve that goal is by measuring more accurately student performance as a result of the senior project which is the capstone experience for our students at the end of their language study at Allegheny College. We see three major advantages in the assessment of the senior project and its learning outcomes:
1. It enables us to evaluate and compare the different language programs. It also allows us to gain insight from different approaches to the senior project within the department.
2. As a consequence, the assessment enables and compels us to routinely discuss our curricular objectives and their implementation across sectional boundaries. Faculty from different sections become more aware of their colleagues’ activities and of different curricular implementations within the department.
3. The assessment gives us information about the coherence and consistency of the curriculum in preparation for the senior comprehensive project, especially for third- and fourth-year courses. It is not geared only to the good students who comment more frequently than others on particular aspects of their experience in the department – and who perhaps tend to tell us what we would like to hear -, but to all students of various academic standing. The assessment provides us with some answers to the question of whether our teaching reaches students of various abilities and interests.
We use the following rubric in order to evaluate a student’s knowledge, language proficiency and critical abilities:
Modern Languages Senior Project Outcomes Assessment
(On a scale of 1-5, 1 is poor and 5 is excellent.).
1. Did the student situate works and ideas in historical, cultural, and political contexts? Student should connect concepts and various texts to the contexts in which they are embedded.
1 2 3 4 5
2. Did the student make a well-reasoned and original argument? Student should use logical, clear, and convincing reasoning to make a point and arrive at a conclusion.
1 2 3 4 5
3. Did the student demonstrate the use of an appropriate research plan? Student should learn, apply, and explain methodologies used in creating his/her own work.
1 2 3 4 5
4. Did the student engage in critical reading of primary and secondary sources? Student should use his/her judgment in selecting and using source material, particularly when confronted with conflicting information, opposing experts, or conflicting artistic approaches or models.
1 2 3 4 5
5. Did the student demonstrate oral proficiency in the foreign language? Student should speak argumentatively and persuasively about the topic with few spoken errors.
1 2 3 4 5
6. Did the student demonstrate written proficiency in the foreign language? Student should write argumentatively and persuasively about the topic with few grammatical errors.
1 2 3 4 5