For more, including Language Section Program Plans for each language, please see the Complete Assessment Plan

The introductory sections of the Assessment Plan follow below. The complete assessment document is available as a word document.

I. Mission Statement

We provide Western students the skills to learn firsthand about major world societies. The department believes that the best way to understand a culture directly is through its language. The modern languages offered in the department – Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish – are spoken natively by nearly two billion people. Latin and Classical Greek provide students the tools to study directly written works that form the foundation of Western civilization.

In keeping with the aim of providing the skills needed to learn about a culture, the department trains in the areas of language structure and literary analysis. Language structure is taught both holistically and analytically.

Holistic language learning is facilitated by modern methods and multimedia technology, as well as foreign study opportunities. The department supports the analytical instruction of language structures through a full range of language skills courses, as well as a significant number of courses in linguistics.

Literary analysis is essential to a student’s understanding of the highest achievements in aesthetic expression of a culture’s values. The department provides instruction in history and culture, as well as literary theory, with an end to enabling the student to gain access to the intellectual life in the culture.

Furthermore, the department imparts skills to future language teachers so that they may similarly enable high school students to begin the acquisition of other languages. To this end the department includes specialists in language methods.

The department provides Western students the opportunity to acquire intermediate skills in three Pacific rim languages other than English and Spanish: Chinese, Japanese and Russian. The department also supports the studies of Latin and Greek, and houses the Classical Studies program.

Hence, the multifaceted programs of the department provide an opening to the world through language, literature, culture and civilization. It is, therefore, a meeting place for true diversity.

II. Goals

The following goals represent the basic principles of the Mission of the department, and they focus them into categories of skills, abilities, and knowledge that will characterize graduates of our programs.

Skills/abilities Knowledge
  • Write effectively in target language
  • Speak effectively in target language
  • Read critically in target language
  • Comprehend target language when spoken
  • Cultural awareness
  • Familiarity with social, artistic, political, and literary histories appropriate to the language studied
  • Sensitivity to difference
  • Understanding of linguistic structure (grammar, syntax, phonology)

III. Objectives

For each goal, we have specific objectives, the outcomes assessment of which is facilitated by a clear connection between goal, objective, and outcome.

Goal 1: write effectively in target language


  1. demonstrate recognition of appropriate vocabulary and grammar
  2. demonstrate correct use of vocabulary and grammar in simple sentences
  3. demonstrate correct use of more sophisticated grammatical structures
  4. demonstrate ability to analyze target language from a variety of perspectives

Goal 2: speak effectively in target language


  1. demonstrate the ability to use simple sentences and appropriate vocabulary orally
  2. demonstrate the ability to use more complex sentences and accurate pronunciation
  3. demonstrate the ability to use basically correct sentences that reflect more sophisticated topics and terminology
  4. demonstrate the ability to speak on advanced topics with correct use of tense, aspect, and appropriate sequencing and subordination

Goal 3: read critically in target language


  1. read with comprehension short elementary texts in target language
  2. read more complex texts that include an ample vocabulary and shifts in tense
  3. read and understand longer texts, various genres, and nuanced narratives
  4. read and comprehend items not written for learners of the target language, but rather texts that native readers of the language would read

Goal 4: comprehend target language when spoken


  1. demonstrate understanding of target language when spoken slowly and kept very basic
  2. demonstrate some understanding of target language when spoken at a normal pace and with some technical vocabulary
  3. demonstrate almost complete understanding of target language when spoken by native speakers on basic topics
  4. demonstrate thorough understanding of target language spoken by native speakers, regardless of accent, on any number of sophisticated topics

IV. Assessment

1. Direct Measures

  • course portfolios constructed by instructors
  • student test results in sequenced language courses that reflect beginning and ending competencies
  • local competency tests (oral proficiency tested at end of senior year)
  • certification and licensing exam (German Business exam only)
  • embedded assignments of students in senior seminars
  • placement of graduates in language teaching positions

2. Indirect Measures

  • periodic review of syllabi, textbooks, exams, etc.
  • surveys of alumni
  • exit interviews/questionnaires
  • transcript analyses

3. “Assessment Blackboard”

  • individual language section mission statements
  • outcomes assessment plans for all courses
  • shared examples of activities and exercises that address the competencies and goals listed above
  • syllabi

4. Explanation

Information gathered by direct and indirect means is assessed and evaluated by individual professors, and then on the “sectional” and departmental levels. Faculty in the various language sections meet regularly to discuss student outcomes at specific levels of the curriculum so that any curricular adjustment might be made if deemed appropriate. An example of this is that Spanish faculty recently expressed concern about learning outcomes at the 300-level (with specific reference to both conversation and composition skills), and ultimately decided that evidence was compelling enough to dictate curricular change in SPAN 301 and SPAN 302. In terms of indirect assessment, a language section might take information from the exit questionnaire to effect revision. An example of this is the fact that students in German have consistently remarked that they would like to see more curriculum in contemporary German culture. This brought about the creation and subsequent approval of a new culture course in German. The department chair meets with section coordinators to convey exit questionnaire comments from students, then section faculty discuss and evaluate the need for any changes to procedure or curriculum.

There are many examples of how the MCL assessment plan has been implemented both formally and informally, but it must also be said that the majority of the changes brought about by assessment are changes undertaken on a course-by-course basis by individual professors. For this reason, and to be as complete and thorough as possible, our departmental assessment plan contains individual plans for every single course we teach, plans that involved the collaboration and participation of every faculty member in the department.

The Modern and Classical Languages Blackboard site, a closed resource available only to MCL faculty and staff, is used to share information pertaining to individual course assessment plans and corresponding syllabi. Additionally, examples of class assignments and activities useful in assessing the various competencies are provided for the use of faculty. Language section mission statements are also listed here (Chinese, Classics, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish).

Direct measures of student outcomes for any number of learning objectives are assessed by individual professors. This is accomplished by evaluating the results of activities and exams specifically designed to monitor the competency in question. So, professors are responsible for maintaining a direct link between goals, syllabi, and course activities. Departmental assistance is offered via examples on the MCL Blackboard. Concerns or problems that might arise in this process are typically discussed in language section meetings, where any data resulting from assessment of indirect measures is also presented.

Page Updated 11.08.2012