Over a three-year period, from February 1997 – May 2000, the German Department at Georgetown University engaged in a comprehensive curriculum renewal project that is unique in college-level foreign language departments in the United States. In a highly collaborative approach, the entire faculty and graduate students developed a curriculum that is content-oriented from the beginning of instruction and explicitly fosters learners’ language acquisition until the end of the four-year undergraduate sequence. That is, the program of study is neither merely an aggregation of courses, as is otherwise customary, nor does it differentiate between so-called “language” courses and “content” courses. Instead, the curriculum presents an integration of content and language through oral and written textual genres throughout the undergraduate program.
Detailed descriptions of the various aspects of the German Department’s Curriculum Project can be found below.
This curriculum project, which we have called “Developing Multiple Literacies,” reflects a literacy orientation that recognizes that foreign language instruction of adult learners, as contrasted with second language instruction, is fundamentally about engaging these already literate learners in imagined textual worlds which provide the occasion for thought-full language acquisition. The curriculum draws its content and its socially situated language use for the acquisition of advanced competencies in listening, speaking, reading, and writing from a wide range of oral and written genres. These are sequenced in a principled way across the curricular levels, thereby contributing to program articulation. The pedagogies, too, are linked to genres, inasmuch as instructional tasks within the curriculum, in contrast with prevailing recommendations about task- or activity-oriented instruction, are themselves genre-derived, thus inherently linked to the socio-cultural context within which the chosen genres naturally occur in the German-speaking world.
The curriculum spans the entire four-year period of undergraduate study and is conceptualized to enable learners to become competent and literate non-native users of German who can employ the language in a range of intellectual, professional, and personal contexts and who can also draw from it personal enrichment, enjoyment, and formation.
This web site provides an overview of the project. It offers a summary chronology of its major stages, and presents information and documents on the background of this effort, its goals and major stages, and outcomes. It identifies the principles and approaches adopted with regard to curriculum construction in the context of U.S. higher education, and outlines the curricular progression that was developed. It provides detailed information about course syllabi (including goals and thematic units), about pedagogical considerations, and about assessment practices that bring this curriculum to life for our undergraduate students. Because the curriculum resides in a graduate program, it specifically addresses the role of graduate students in such an integrated instructional context and offers details about our mentored graduate TA development sequence. With an understanding that curricular work is continual, we document how we ourselves envision continued curriculum enhancement. The pages of this site also link the project to diverse research and dissemination efforts, especially in the area of assessing the development of speaking and writing abilities. Finally, we provide information on a number of action-research efforts undertaken in conjunction with a grant the Department received from the Spencer Foundation (2000-2002) under its Practitioner-Research Communication and Mentoring Grants Program.
We present this information because the need for curriculum renewal in college foreign language departments has recently been amply acknowledged in publications and in an array of professional fora. We provide it as well because of an urgent societal and global need for upper levels of competence in several languages. However, despite those internal and external needs, surprisingly little curricular work exists that deliberately takes account of the dramatically changed environment in terms of theoretical, research, and educational practice pertaining to adult foreign language learning and teaching and the dramatically changed goals for language learning. The latter, in particular, reflect shifts in a multicultural, multilingual, AND global environment, one that addresses linkages between the native language (L1) and additional second or foreign languages (L2). The foreign language field is challenged to access the rich discussion in instructed second language acquisition (SLA) research, specifically its insights regarding the complex relationships between meaning and form at various stages of language development. We are invited to rethink learning and instruction in a conceptual framework that is centrally functional and focused on contexts of use, and therefore meaning- and discourse-oriented, rather than formal. The far-reaching implications of that shift remain to be explored in many areas, but most particularly in the area of program building and curriculum development in higher education.
The German Department’s curriculum, Developing Multiple Literacies, attempts to address these interrelated issues innovatively for the benefit of our learners. Our own experience with curriculum construction makes one thing quite clear: it is an ongoing project. Even after six years of experience with this curriculum — or, perhaps more precisely, because of six years of experience with it — we do not claim to have the final answers to the many complex issues that fall under the above-named areas. But we continue to search for them deliberately in a community of practice, by no means a common occurrence. Given the urgency of such work in higher education in general, in foreign language departments in particular, we hope that our efforts might encourage colleagues at other institutions in their own curricular planning. We post this material as a way of inviting comments, both in terms of suggestions to us since our pledge to continued curriculum enhancement envisions further adjustments of our work, and in terms of experiences others might have had in their efforts to modify curricula. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 4, 2004; revised July 2011
Preparatory Work (Spring 1997)
Jan. 1997 Original proposal presented to the faculty
Feb. 1997 Acceptance, with minor modifications, by the faculty. Subsequent presentation to and input from the graduate students.
Spring 1997 Administrative work to describe the new curriculum to deans, advisors, and students, in flyers and diverse Newsletter announcements, readying for fall 1997 preregistration in April.
This followed the decision to begin full implementation of levels I – III and Text and Context immediately in the fall of 1997, rather than using a phase-in model.
Note: Subsequent workshops have always included all faculty and all TAs. In addition, all graduate students, irrespective of whether they were currently serving as TAs, were encouraged to participate in these events.
April 11 Half-day workshop in which the goals and themes of the sequenced courses, at levels I and III and Text and Context, were further specified
May 15 Half-day workshop
Further discussion of level goals for levels I – III, themes that best represent the content focus of the levels/courses; issues of syllabus construction and assessment; favored pedagogical approaches for enhancing particular language competencies (e.g., speaking, writing), and issues pertaining to new course development for the non-sequenced courses.
Decision on materials (including English background readings for levels I – III) and materials development, particularly authentic listening texts.
Summer 1997 Coordinated materials development
Greater incorporation and didacticization of authentic video materials, particularly at Levels II and III, the Intermediate and Advanced levels.
Preparation of framework statement for the curriculum and guidelines for the TAs.
Implementation Year One (AY 1997-1998)
Beginning of the semester:
Meeting of all teaching staff to discuss summer work and further coordinate the upcoming first implementation phase of the new curriculum
End of Fall semester:
The decision to teach the remainder of level III, part 2 (spring semester), and the new Intensive Level III course in the spring semester without a textbook and to develop the necessary instructional materials. Determination of themes and topics; course development during Christmas break.
Revamping of Text in Context and preparation of proposals for new level IV courses: “Grim(m) Fairytales,” “Murder, Mysteries, Madness,” following the guidelines developed for Level IV courses (see courses for course development activities that accompanied the curriculum renewal).
End-of-semester student opinion survey to obtain students’ feedback on the curriculum
Increased mutual observation of classes by faculty and graduate students
Further development of level IV courses (e.g., “Look who’s laughing: German comedies”)
End-of-semester data collection of language samples, at levels I – III
Ongoing analysis of this material.
May 14, 15, 21, two and 1/2 day workshop
Recapitulation of the previous year (e-mail comments had been solicited from all teachers, about their assessment of the curriculum renewal effort)
Summary of fall 1997 student questionnaire feedback
Coherence from level to level, and coordination of pedagogies and assessment
Further specification of themes, topics, texts, and pedagogical tasks
A process approach to second language learning on each level and its pedagogical implications
Issues of syllabus construction and assessment
The decision to do away with the Level II textbook
Materials development, at levels I – III
Particular emphasis on Levels II and III because of the discontinuation of textbooks
Creation of faculty/graduate student teams to be engaged in syllabus and materials development
Begin web page development
Implementation Year Two (AY 1998-1999)
August workshop of all teaching staff
Report on the summer work, and coordination and fine-tuning prior to the beginning of the semester.
Presentation of draft syllabi.
Continued class visits
Additional proposals at levels IV, two accepted from graduate students, to be taught in Spring 1999, “Berlin Stories” and “Voices from Germany: Inside and Outside”
Further refinement of various documents, pertaining to the curriculum and to the Department’s sequenced mentored TA development
Amendment of the Departmental merit review guidelines to include the curriculum renewal effort: For a three-year period, the faculty are evaluated on four criteria, teaching, scholarship, service, and the curriculum renewal effort.
Continued web page development to document the curriculum project
Series of faculty development workshops emphasizing issues at Levels IV and V
Focus on assessment (for further details see the entry “Assessment”)
Under the guidance of John Norris, Ph.D. (then Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawaií, Manaoa), developed, specification, and implementation of a task-based performance assessment framework: in the spring and summer of 1999.
Specific activities included
- Three faculty development workshops (January 27, April 15, and May 21)
- Creation of a series of questionnaires on assessment practices and test use addressed to both students and teachers in Level I-IV courses
- Creation of use specifications for Level I-IV courses and policy guidelines pertaining to assessment practices in the Department as a whole
Approval (April 13) of the document “Statement on Graduate Teacher Development, Supervision, and Curriculum Maintenance”
Level I materials decision:
Based on a comprehensive questionnaire answered by both Level I and Level II instructors which pertained to the attainment of Level I goals and objectives and also addressed the suitability of current materials the decision was made to adopt a new textbook, as of fall 1999.
Realignment of Level IV and V courses
The decision to create a small group of five courses at Level IV, as contrasted with the previous practice of more varied offerings at this level. They are united by a focus on discourse features and textuality. Majors are highly encouraged to take Text in Context. All students must take at least two Level IV courses; no other restrictions apply.
The remaining courses are now located at Level V and will be reconfigured in accordance with the curricular goals.
Diverse dissemination efforts.
Development of new curriculum-based placement procedures and instrument(s)
This effort was directed by John Norris, assisted by graduate students, and pilot testing with participants in the Trier Summer Program.
Faculty-graduate student teams work on extensive materials development and syllabus and pedagogical work for Level I courses and further refinement of Level II and III courses.
New course development (e.g., “Germany in Europe”; third Business German course; “Narrative and Memory”) and reconceptualization of Topics and Methods course.
Creation of a shared computer drive, accessible to faculty and graduate students, for all curriculum materials
Expansion of web site on the curriculum project
Implementation Year Three (AY 1999-2000)
During the final year of implementation, the curriculum renewal project continued to refine the entire sequence in terms of its objectives and also adjusted specific course syllabi and materials on the basis of input from the level-specific teams which was then interpreted by the entire group. Beyond those pan-curricular efforts, work focused heavily on assessment in two broad areas: assessment of learner outcomes at the curricular and course level, both summative and formative, and beginning assessment of the curriculum itself in terms of learner outcomes. Within the assessment of learner outcomes, we devoted particular attention to the development and assessment of writing in a process-writing environment that, furthermore, was content-oriented and task-based. Further information on that aspect of our work which is ongoing is found under “assessment.”
Beginning-of-the-year curriculum workshop, presenting summer materials and course development work, and general outlook for the year’s work (August 25, 1999).
The first use of new placement instruments, collection of background information on examinees, and tracking of placement in courses.
Administration of the C-test portion of the placement exam to all students, levels I-IV, at the beginning and end of the semester.
Administration of self-assessment to all students, levels I-IV.
Administration of the German Speaking test (GST), a simulated Oral Proficiency Interview, to a sample of student volunteers at levels II-IV. This was done both at the beginning and at the end of the semester.
Training and certification of graduate students in rating the German Speaking test (GST) offered by the Center for Applied Linguistics
Collection of semester-end written essays, levels I-III.
Collection of semester-end oral interviews, levels I-III.
Collection of semester final exams, levels I-III.
Implementation of curriculum maintenance procedures, including regular meetings of level coordinators with instructors.
Faculty seminar on the further specification of Level IV and V courses (Byrnes, October 25, 1999).
Level-specific work to coordinate speaking and writing-assessment and end-of-semester assessment and data gathering.
Creation of a shared network drive that contains all pedagogical information of the sequences levels I-III and Text in Context and is available to the entire teaching staff.
Workshops/presentations by faculty on various aspects of developing academic literacy in Level V courses (January 2000)
Administration of GST to all classes, levels I-III
Rating of GST tapes by graduate student raters
Specification of writing tasks and associated pedagogic/assessment purposes
Initial analyses of (a) placement exam; (b) C-test; (c) self-assessment; (d) GST
Transcription of fall, 1999 semester-end performance data (ongoing)
First, two stages of the three-stage specification of writing assessment (ongoing during AY 2000-2001): (a) gathering of information on all graded writing events, Levels I-III and Text in Context; (b) beginning development of assessment criteria in terms of language focus, the weighting of specific features, and creation of an idealized performance profile of writing at these levels.
Creation of writing assessment document, with general and level-specific components.
Adjust cut-off ranges of placement test
End of academic year departmental workshop (May 15), with a preliminary summary presentation on assessment (learning outcomes and curriculum) by John Norris.
Updating and organizational tasks pertaining to the sequenced courses, particularly the availability of all current materials on the shared network drive.
Award of the Spencer Grant focused on the teacher researcher.
Completion of the implementation phase of the curriculum renewal project.
Outlook for AY 2000-2001
Finalize writing assessment guidelines and conduct workshops emphasizing the consistency of assessment/grading practices and making recommendations on feedback.
Begin the process of developing speaking assessment guidelines
Beginning of the three teacher-researcher activities proposed under the Spencer Grant.
September 1, 2000, hb; revised July 2011
Background Proposal Excerpts
The full text of this Report, entitled “The Future of German in American Education: A Summary Report,” is published in Die Unterrichtspraxis 29.2(1996):251-59.
Excerpts from its Curricular Recommendations:
Replace a mastery-oriented, additive model of language learning with a holistic model that integrates linguistic and cultural knowledge right from the beginning in a fashion that is appropriate to the educational level/age of the learner;
Provide for multi-year, long-term integrated sequences of instruction across instructional levels that aim at usable, preferably advanced, German language abilities
Create high-quality programmatic linkages across the curriculum/discipline which consider the student population of a given institution;
At the graduate level, assure that all students, irrespective of program emphasis, attain high levels of German language ability and differentiated cultural knowledge and insights (“multiple literacies”); reconsider the near-exclusive focus on PhD studies and create multiple exit points (diverse MAs) by making connections with a variety of professions and employment opportunities; for the PhD include non-academic career paths as a deliberate option; consider a loosely coordinated effort aimed at developing different emphases in different PhD programs.
EXCERPTS FROM THE PROPOSAL FOR CURRICULUM REVISION
I. Departmental Mission
The German Department at Georgetown University seeks to serve all students at the University, not only the potential future majors. Such a comprehensive mission requires the creation and delivery of curricula that accomplish seemingly disparate goals. Our programs must be open, accessible, academically and personally appealing and “useful” to the entire university and they must reflect a clearly defined identity that will make educational sense at Georgetown University. These seemingly dichotomous demands must be creatively addressed for practical enrollment reasons, but to avoid disintegration into “service department” status in relationship to the other programs whom we are eager to serve they must be reconciled through an intellectual approach that substantiates our academic presence and contribution on its own merits.
… two different student populations …
Though these two student groups will naturally reach different levels of ability in German, they do not differ with regard to the intellectual merits with which we shape their study of German, no matter how long or how short that is. …
The departmental faculty has agreed in principle that one key way in which to arrive at such an intellectual mooring for its program is to leave behind a thinking and a practice that distinguishes between “language courses” where language is taught and learned without any readily discernible connection to content, and “content courses” where content is taught and language is presumed to be known. To be more specific, perhaps our students, irrespective of program or school affiliation, do not really differ with regard to the content that we can and should teach them or the pedagogies that we employ through the proposed “Level III” courses. Only beginning with “Level III” will we see differentiation, and that is a differentiation that is largely based on student choice as to content focus, not with regard to intellectual and linguistic goals and demands. In sum, language and intellectual content are learned/taught concurrently throughout our undergraduate curriculum.
Such a reorientation has far-reaching consequences. Internally these are primarily concerned with a rethinking of curriculum and pedagogy. Externally, we must assure that we carefully follow a host of administrative steps all of which are intended to implement this shift smoothly and in a timely fashion, and to we must inform the University community of this curricular reorientation and explain its potential significance to diverse programmatic components and, ultimately, its students.
We note particularly two areas of change for the curriculum:
first, such an approach requires us to come up with content areas that we can profitably pursue right from the beginning of instruction;
second and equally importantly, all faculty will have to assure that language acquisition at higher academic levels, i.e., academic literacy in German, is addressed in all courses, including particularly the 3rd and 4th year courses.
If we look at larger implications (including pedagogy, materials, and administration), we are aware of important changes being required at least in the following areas:
the pedagogies and levels of engagement with our students that we must demand of all of us, materials being used, both textbook materials and others that we assemble within the department, faculty development, particularly in the area of second language acquisition that must have long-term consequences and lead to a different culture of teaching; such an approach would be more akin to a “scholarship of teaching” (see the influential Boyer Report), rather than the “skill” of teaching language “skills,”
the use of technology;
“care and feeding” of all our students, including advising, and
public relations and student recruitment within the university.
To succeed, such a shift requires a maximum of cooperation among all parties who make up the department, faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, administration, and staff; the pooling of departmental resources and capabilities and their optimal use (which may require some reassessment of practices and reassignment of teaching staff); securing additional funding from outside the department during the first implementation phase; a certain level of coordination of the diverse efforts; periodic reassessment during the implementation phase; summative assessment at the end of the implementation phase, at the beginning of 2001.
II. Departmental Goals and Approaches
1. General Considerations
All curricula and courses offered by the German Department intricately link learning about the German-speaking world (e.g., its intellectual history, socio-political and economic realities, and its culture and literature) with acquiring the German language. Indeed, the order of priority lies with intellectual content and not initially and in a separatist fashion with the language. In other words, this approach contrasts in fundamental ways with the more customary division of a curriculum into language courses–usually the first four semesters– and content courses, the so-called upper level classes. It emphasizes facility in the use of a language in a variety of communicative contexts and situations and, therefore, differs in important ways from a one-dimensional and normative approach that often unduly privileges knowledge about the rules of a language over saying something meaningful in and with a language. We hope to foster such differentiated meaning-full language abilities through a coherent, and well-sequenced program of study that extends over all four undergraduate years and carefully incorporates all modalities of language, reading, listening, writing, and speaking. We refer to this as an approach that aims at reflective MULTIPLE LITERACIES in our students.
2. The Department’s Curriculum in the Context of Georgetown University
By putting the focus on language in use– that is, on meaning, context, and content, and connecting meaning with accuracy, fluency, and complexity of expression in German as a second language–we not only incorporate the best knowledge in second language acquisition research and pedagogy; we also respect our unique student population and the kind of education it seeks.
Our program is located at a highly selective university which, furthermore, draws on a student body with extensive international experience and interests. Consequently, we have shaped our curricula with the assumption that students choose to study German based on certain intellectual motivations and expectations, but also with certain practical goals and ambitions:
Though they may be able to express the following insight only after extended study of the German language, our students desire to touch and be touched by its formational role, its potential for helping them cross those borders that inherently limit the monolingual and monocultural person.
Alongside these formative experiences they, of course, wish to learn to use German and learn to use it well, enabling them, as much as possible, to use the language in scholarly, professional, and public contexts. They are interested in gaining access to knowledge in diverse academic fields (e.g., literary studies, history, philosophy, psychology, the arts) that is available in a German linguistic/cultural context, and they want to facilitate their work in a range of professional environments (e.g., the international arena in business, trade, policy-making, consulting, management, foundation work, the media).
Because we are a university-level program our emphasis on language in use is not limited to assuring that students are able to handle simple communicative needs. On the contrary, we engage students in literate language behaviors right from the start: the language of public discourse in public places and not only the language of private and personal feelings; the language of the text, in reading and writing, and not only oral, highly situated language; the language of special purposes (e.g., in the academy, in the business world, in international relations and diplomacy), as contrasted with only cotidien communicative needs. In other words, right from the beginning students’ interests and background knowledge (in subject matter areas and in native language abilities = L1 abilities) are deliberately incorporated into the curriculum and our pedagogy.
We believe that both aspects can be combined into a formational experience for the whole person by taking an approach that
savors the language, in its sounds and rhythms, its stories and poetry;
exemplifies that meanings are situated and contextualized and are shaped dialogically through ways of being in relationship to others, ways of telling a story, interpreting an event, organizing a discourse, referring to other texts of the culture, in what is assumed as given, therefore remains unexpressed, and what is being expressed– all of which is manifested in choices of language forms, words and their arrangement in syntax;
deliberately and unapologetically connects L1 knowledge (usually, but not always, English) with the learning of German, e.g., through additional readings in English for background knowledge in history, and through a choice of topics that are appealing to our students;
continuously invites students to compare and contrast their native language and cultural assumptions with those that mark the German-speaking world as both similar and different.
In sum, the program hopes to…help students understand their own positionality in terms of the other.
3. Implications for the German Department’s Program
All four language modalities–reading, listening, writing, and speaking–are fostered right from the beginning in an intricately interrelated fashion. The previous order indicates a slope of likely intellectual engagement and performance: reading comprehension can be constructed in such a fashion that it is closest to their current behaviors as L1 readers — speaking is furthest from their L1 capacity, nevertheless need not lack intellectual merit.
The curriculum focuses on content and makes intricate content/function to language form connections, rather than following an approach that implicitly assumed that students first learn, in an additive fashion, the formal inventory with the goal of accuracy, and THEN use it to access and express content. Unfortunately, all too often, by the time the “THEN” finally comes around, many students have given up on their study of a foreign language.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS IN ADULT INSTRUCTED LANGUAGE ACQUISITION (SLA) FOR THE COLLEGIATE SETTING
Emphasize “Communicative Competence” rather than formal knowledge
This requires a performance and use orientation
Shift from a product focus to an elaborated interrelatedness of product and process
Context, situatedness, contingencies, choice, creativeness, and variation not merely nice “add-ons” that can be attended to after the “norm” has been established.
Variation motivated by communicative context is the norm
Language acquisition, too, needs to be understood contextually
It is a highly complex long-term developmental process in which new meaning-form connections are established. The situatedness of the learner, of language learning, of the learning task, of the modality, of language register, of genre.
The centrality of the notion of interlanguage
The pedagogical approach is neither heavily analytical nor primarily experiential/natural
Use to advantage the performance aspects and the pedagogical implications of two kinds of processing: Syntactic/analytical and collocational/memory-based
The classroom is not a deficit environment
Consider a “Focus on Form” approach that makes meaning central (FonF), rather than a focus on forms
The multiple relationships of accuracy/fluency/complexity need to be considered, in the curriculum and in individual courses, in pedagogies, and in assessment
revised July 2011
The curriculum aims to enable students to become competent and culturally literate users of German by combining a focus on content with carefully conceived pedagogical interventions that reflect the best available knowledge in classroom-based second language acquisition research.
Students gain a rich understanding of the German-speaking world through a variety of content areas and their topical emphases and range of texts, through the medium of the German language itself, and through a process of learning German that attends to accuracy, fluency, and complexity of language use and development. They will critically explore their own assumptions in terms of that world, and learn to value the multiple perspectives learning German and engaging the German language opens up. In short, the curriculum is conceptualized to allow learners to become competent and literate non-native users of German who can employ the language in a range of intellectual and professional contexts and who can also draw from it personal enrichment and enjoyment.
May 16, 1999; revised July 2011
- The curriculum is content-based from the beginning of instruction and explicitly fosters learners’ language acquisition until the end of the four-year undergraduate sequence of courses. That is, it does not differentiate between so-called “language” courses and “content” courses.
- The pedagogical approach underlying the curriculum reflects a learner perspective. In particular, courses in Levels I – IV take a psycholinguistic language-processing perspective that, in current thinking, is best achieved through task-based teaching and learning.
- Content, instructional tasks, and pedagogical approaches are carefully interwoven, so as to maximize both implicit and explicit learning of content and language forms.
- Throughout the four years of instruction, the program fosters all four modalities — listening, reading, writing, and speaking — an approach that challenges students intellectually and cognitively.
- Within a communicative approach the curriculum attends to careful development of accuracy, fluency, and complexity in learners’ language use through a task-based pedagogy. This is to assure continued interlanguage development toward target-language norms.
- As early as practicable, instruction makes discourse in interactive conversation and narration a central focus. Within that discourse focus, instruction incorporates a wide variety of comprehension and production tasks. Specifically, the curriculum engages students in literate language use right from the start, including reading of a complete book as early as the second semester of intensive instruction.
- The chosen themes and topics are presented through a variety of textual resources using a variety of media. These texts have an underlying slope that recognizes students’ second language processing preferences and abilities: from private to public language; from interactive to monologic; from contextualized to decontextualized; from narrative to descriptive and analytical; from concrete to abstract; from everyday language to poetry and literary language; from planned to spontaneous. These bands of language and language use are explored from level to level as well as within the topics and pedagogical tasks themselves.
- The curriculum reflects the interests and orientations of learners at Georgetown University. Their background knowledge and interests are deliberately drawn into instruction and expanded with supplementary readings in English and deepened with e-mail discussion groups, particularly during the first two levels.
- All courses invite students to compare and contrast their native language and cultural assumptions with those of the German-speaking world.
- Students are encouraged to become autonomous, self-reflective learners who are aware of those strategies for acquiring German that are most effective and efficient for them.
- Through its emphasis on literate language use in all modalities, the program is conceptualized so as to lead to advanced level language use by the time of students’ graduation.
revised July 2011
The curriculum is divided into five levels:
- Levels I – III, the so-called sequenced courses, must be taken consecutively.
- Levels IV – V are non-sequenced courses, except that Text in Context, a level IV course, is strongly recommended before students enroll in other non-sequenced courses at Level IV and, ultimately, in Level V courses.
The sequenced courses (Levels I – III) are taught on two tracks: a non-intensive track with two 3-credit courses per level; and an intensive track, with one 6-credit course per level. A two-track approach was chosen to give students maximum flexibility and the possibility to shift as necessary so as to accommodate their various programs of study. This structure is also maximally inclusive of all types of students and encourages students to study German at a later point of their undergraduate career or to re-enter after some interruption and still attain a usable level of proficiency.
For levels II and III and Text in Context, teams of faculty and graduate students have chosen and didacticized all content- and theme-oriented materials. Only Level I uses a commercial textbook. However, here too a variety of additional authentic materials and pedagogical and authentic tasks support the primacy which the curriculum gives to content and meaning-full communication and its emphasis on the development of literacy abilities right from the beginning. The themes, topics, and a wide variety of texts and tasks have been carefully chosen for maximum fit between meaning and language form and increasing appreciation of the intricate relationships between form and function in different communicative contexts of use.
Members of the ordinary faculty teach at all five instructional levels. Graduate students primarily teach in levels I-III. However, with appropriate preparation in the Department’s mentored TA development sequence, they also regularly teach Level IV courses. In addition, graduate students may be invited to teach newly developed upper-level courses after having submitted a proposal for approval by the Department.
The undergraduate curricular initiative is supported by a mentored TA development program that expands over several semesters. The supervisor and the level coordinators work closely with all faculty who themselves are engaged in a number of critical activities in support of TA development, among them regular class visits, participation in level-specific meetings and, where possible, mentored teaching for an entire semester.
With the completion of the three-year implementational phase of the curriculum Developing Multiple Literacies, at the end of the spring semester of 2000, departmental faculty will adhere to a system of curriculum maintenance that involves regularly ascertaining the fit between curricular goals and objectives and learning outcomes; determining appropriate adjustments in terms of curricular goals, materials, pedagogies, and modes of assessment; and making available targeted faculty development opportunities.
Posted September 1, 2000; revised July 2011
The curriculum is divided into five curricular levels.
Levels I – III, the so-called sequenced courses, must be taken consecutively.
Levels IV – V are non-sequenced courses, except that Text in Context, a level IV course, is strongly recommended before students enroll in other non-sequenced courses at Level IV and, ultimately, in Level V courses.
For details on the courses themselves, consult the syllabi for the courses provided on this portion of the departmental web page by using the back-button on your browser (particularly for Levels I – III syllabi and unit goals and overviews) or see the department’s complete listing of courses.
Another way to understand the curricular progression is through the assessment practices that have been developed as a result of its content-/text-/genre-base as it is realized in genre-derived tasks. A particularly detailed view of the integration of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment can be gained by exploring the department’s approach to developing and assessing writing.
Genre and Narrativity
The curricular focus on content and language acquisition toward advanced levels of literacy has resulted in placing discourse (or texts in oral and written form) at the functional center of the “Developing Multiple Literacies” curriculum. This affects materials choices, preferred pedagogical approaches, preferred pedagogical tasks, and the nature of assessment. In its efforts to develop students’ writing ability, the program has replaced an additive approach–from word, to phrase, to sentence, to paragraph, to coherent writing event–with a functionalist approach that is shaped through the construct of genre. Within the sequenced levels of the curriculum (Levels I – III and Text in Context) in particular, narratives have become a useful way for highlighting central characteristics of cohesive and coherent texts and for making learners aware of the shift in semiotic practices that accompanies the shift from telling private stories to presenting public (hi)stories.
In Level I, instruction is primarily geared to modeling short functional texts in a range of contexts, thereby acquainting students, right from the beginning, with a whole-text perspective and with various ways of reaching toward comprehending such texts and producing their own first coherent texts. Emphasis lies on the sentence and its various formal requirements.
In Level II, one form of narrativity becomes prototypical, the personal story that relies on chronological ordering. This means that various aspects of the creation of coherent and cohesive discourse will be extensively modeled, analyzed, and practiced in a range of contexts. As that basis continues to become firmer, other forms of discourse are gradually introduced, particularly in terms of their organizational patterns and their most frequent discourse markers.
In Level III, discursive behavior is extended in the following ways:
- the personal stance that prevailed in Level II is expanded into the public sphere, that is, individual events are put into larger contexts, mainly through comparison and contrast, cause and effect, the presentation of alternative proposals, and making decisions based on real or imagined choices.
- the simple narrativity of consecutive chronology is expanded and made more complex (different positions of author and actor(s) with regard to retrospective, prospective, contemporaneous, involved, distanced perspectives and different forms of engagement);
- discourses beyond the narrative are deliberately taught, to be acquired on a first level of awareness and use (e.g., comparison and contrast; description; supporting opinions, providing information cogently and persuasively; cause and effect).
This expansion involves many of the previous formal characteristics, particularly as far as actor/action sequences are concerned. In those areas, greater emphasis can be placed on accuracy. In the other areas, this treatment amounts to expanding the notion of discourse, inasmuch as other ways of presenting and managing information or interaction between different actors and the author, and other forms of realizing local cohesion and global organization/coherence are gradually incorporated.
Text in Context extends discursive behavior from the concrete into the abstract realm, focusing on the secondary discourses of public life, as contrasted with the primary discourses of familiarity and direct interaction that were at the heart of Levels I – III. While many of the issues that were central to Level III require continued attention, particularly as far as accuracy is concerned, Text in Context targets the cognitive and linguistic demands that characterize this shift from congruent to synoptic semiosis with its increasingly complex nominalized system (including expanded options for modification).
Specific Uses of Genres in Curricular Sequencing and Pedagogy
The importance of genre and of narrativity is best exemplified through the range of genres incorporated into the curricular levels I – IV. Particularly instructive is the use of genres that exemplify the shift from personal to public stories that characterizes the Level III courses, “German Stories, German Histories.” This detailed tabulation prepared during the fall of 2003 by Cori Crane further demonstrates the link between genres and tasks and the diverse ways in which pedagogies and instructional goals explicitly rely on the characteristics of genres.
Updated November 13, 2003; revised July 2011
Overview of Intellectual Sources
Content-oriented instruction and the creation of diverse curricular models have been extensively discussed in ESL contexts in the United States, particularly within the lower grades of the K-12 sequence and as part of the mandate for bilingual education in Canada. Yet, with few exceptions, these issues have received almost no attention from the foreign language teaching community in general, from foreign language professionals in higher education in particular. Furthermore, the entire notion of curriculum virtually nonexistent. virtually nonexistent. Thus the profession lacks proposals for a programmatic frame of reference that explicitly acknowledges the long-term nature of L2 learning and strives to make students? learning activities as efficient and effective as possible in order to enable them to become competent advanced users of the language. Instead, a communicative orientation and the Standards for Foreign Language Learning mandates notwithstanding, programs by and large continue to consist of a bifurcated aggregation of courses, where the language courses continue to be separated from the remainder of the enterprise, the content program, and both, in their own ways, tend to follow a formalist understanding of language that has no trajectory into language, language use, and language acquisition as situated discourse.
Our project therefore turned to a variety of sources, resources, and experiences outside the immediate FL field, even outside the United States. Our focus was on exploring the literature for helpful discussions that could connect content and language acquisition in the core components of an integrated and comprehensively conceptualized program that would have a likelihood of leading to advanced language use. Curriculum construction, therefore, inevitably was linked to pedagogical considerations, to materials selection and sequencing, and to new approaches in assessment. In the end, we particularly benefitted from the following areas in the professional literature:
- Systemic functional grammar in the Hallidayan mode and its numerous followers and its diverse applications, particularly in educational settings in Australia. This approach provided us with a strong orientation toward language in use with a focus on discourse level phenomena that facilitates both a product and a process view of language (see e.g., Bhatia, Christie, Cope and Kalantzis, Eggins, Hasan, Hyland, Martin). With its particular emphasis on genre, this approach also provided us with the necessary model of text in context “of discourse in relation to grammar and lexis.” (Martin 1998, 249).
- Socioculturally oriented analyses of language and literacy (e.g., Gee, Hasan, Heath, Lantolf, Martin, Vygotsky, Wells, Wertsch). These provided us with a better understanding of the nature of primary and secondary discourses and the need for carefully conceptualized instructional interventions if the discourses of public life were to be attained by our learners of German within a relatively limited period of time. The notion of literacy not only allowed us to consider at length what constitutes “advanced”abilities in an L2 and how we might support our learners’ efforts, it also provided the important link between these adult learners’ literate behaviors in their L1 and their study of an L2. In this fashion we arrived at the centrality of the story, both in interactional language use, and in written narratives and, by implication, in L2 development.
- Extensive discussion of models of curriculum building aside from linguistic-structural models. Earlier on these flourished particularly in the British or more generally in the ESL context; in the North-American professional discussion they have been expanded by Crookes, Long, Long and Crookes, Nunan, and Richards. They have been researched particularly carefully within the Canadian setting. Though these models and their attendant claims are rarely applicable to the collegiate FL environment in the U.S., we found them invaluable as we began to conceptualize a curriculum that would be both content-oriented and focused on continued long-term language development and would require us to make the all-important decisions of selection and sequencing of instructional events, and by implication materials and forms of pedagogical intervention
- The SLA literature with a cognitive language processing perspective that focuses on tasks, including such central dimensions as ask complexity, task difficulty, and task performance conditions (e.g., Bygate, Skehan, and Swain; Crookes, Crookes and Gass; Long; Nunan, Skehan, Robinson). Again, these sources provided less ready-made answers and more occasions for translation into our context. This is, in part, due to our explicit literacy orientation and because of a notion of language learning that emphasizes that language use and language learning are situated sociocultural activities that are mediated by communicative practices. Even so, cognitive approaches that give center stage to an individual knower who processes language provided us with some important principles for linking language performance with long-term language development in a way that could lead to upper levels of performance. Related to that perspective, though different from it, the literature on effective learning strategies was an important source for re-imagining our pedagogy.
- The educational and L2 acquisition literature that examines knowledge structures and their link to text structures (e.g., Mohan) as a way of structuring and sequencing pedagogical tasks that, of necessity, had a strong text base.
- Research on the importance of learners having differential opportunities for learning at various stages of their interlanguage development and for various aspects of language use and learning for engaging in dual modes of processing, analytical syntactic and collocational-memory based approaches.
- The Focus on Form (FonF) literature (see particularly Doughty and Williams 1998) which allowed us to explore possible instructional interventions that explicitly linked content with language form and that would attend to the development of accuracy, fluency, and complexity of language use.
- Task-based assessment of learning outcomes and criterion-referenced performance assessment and their linkage to curriculum development and assessment. (Norris et al., 1998)
In offering this necessarily incomplete list of intellectual sources for our curriculum construction effort, we are not suggesting that we embarked on this project with a well laid out blueprint that was carefully adhered to over the three year period. Instead, as we launched this venture and progressed through its various phases and stages our students provided the most important anchor in what was otherwise a complex system of proposing directions, refining them, implementing them to the best of our abilities, conferring on their appropriateness and efficacy, making adjustments accordingly and, in turn, subjecting the resulting solutions to another round of scrutiny. In all of this both our starting point and surest guide came from our awareness of and commitment to our students. Extensive familiarity with them as young adult learners in a highly selective institution, consideration of our particular institutional context, and acknowledgment of students’ special ambitions as individuals and as future professionals in a wide array of contexts guided our determination of their needs and the most appropriate forms that instructional interventions might take.
Once we were on our way, we benefited remarkably quickly from a dramatic change in departmental culture due to the collaborative nature of curriculum construction. In turn that enabled us, due to a growing shared knowledge base, to draw on relatively sophisticated considerations regarding adult FL teaching and learning. At the end of the implementational phase of the curriculum project, it is this comfortable acceptance of a shared discourse on pedagogy and on the nature of adult L2 learning within a collegiate setting that we hope will enable us to maintain our momentum.
Postscript: It is impossible to provide a list of all the sources that have influenced our thinking. Furthermore, scholarly influences on our project have changed over the years. In particular, we have come to see working with textual genres in an array of genre-derived tasks to be particularly suitable for our educational goals, for our students’ motivation for language learning, and for our own preferred pedagogies. Recognizing both of these constraints, we present a bibliography that, at the very least, shows the scholarly directions that most influenced our work.
September 4, 2004; revised July 2011
From 1997 to 2000 the German Department carried out a curriculum renewal project, “Developing Multiple Literacies,” that reconfigured its undergraduate program as an integrated, content-oriented, task-based curriculum spanning all four years of undergraduate study. The curriculum focuses on literary-cultural studies content from the beginning of the instructional sequence and continues to devote explicit attention to connecting content and language acquisition at the upper levels of instruction. With its focus on the literate adult learner, the curriculum is built on the centrality of narrativity and the facilitative relationship for second language acquisition between diverse genres, as reflected in texts and topics, and tasks. The implementation of the curriculum involved extensive materials development, numerous reconsiderations of these materials and accompanying pedagogies, and a thorough rethinking of assessment practices, all conducted in a highly collaborative manner by faculty and graduate students.
Having completed the development and implementation of the curriculum, the Department continues to enhance all levels of the curriculum, particularly the advanced levels of language acquisition (Levels IV-V). Specifically, work is focused on ascertaining the curriculum’s effectiveness through an examination of learner outcomes and the degree to which they correspond with stated curricular goals, pedagogies, and materials. Much of the initial input for curriculum enhancement comes from the instructors who have put the materials into practice with their students. In addition to teacher feedback, analyses of student performance at each curricular level reveal learner outcomes across the curriculum as well as possible curricular progression. As a result of the emphasis on analyzing student performance within the curriculum, refining assessment practices plays a central role in this phase of the curriculum project.
In line with the integrated nature of the curriculum and continuing the collaborative nature of the implementation phase, responsibility for curriculum enhancement is shared by all members of the Department and coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. The contributions and responsibilities of all members of the Department (the Curriculum Coordinator, the Level Coordinators, faculty members, and graduate student teachers) are outlined as follows:
Role of the Curriculum Coordinator
Primary responsibility for curriculum enhancement lies with the Curriculum Coordinator. He/she is responsible for assuring continued curricular and pedagogical coherence, particularly in the sequenced Levels I-III and Text in Context (Level IV). To accomplish this task, the Coordinator works closely with the Department Chair and Level Coordinators in supervising and coordinating curriculum enhancement efforts. In particular, the Coordinator attends to the following components of curriculum enhancement:
- Coordination and preparation of course materials, particularly at the beginning of each semester and during the annual summer review of levels I-III.
- Level coordination of Level I
- Administration of the departmental placement exam, including supervision and enforcement of proper student placement
- Organization and coordination of departmental curriculum workshops
- Attendance at all level coordination meetings
- Supervision and implementation of instructional technology in order to improve access, pedagogy, and flexibility of instruction within curricular guidelines
- Dissemination of information to the rest of the Department regarding all curriculum enhancement projects
- Coordination and supervision of curriculum-wide enhancement projects (e.g., oral assessment)
- Supervision and enhancement of the departmental shared drive (J-Drive) that contains all curricular materials
- Supervision of revisions to levels I-III
- Clear communication between instructors and coordinators, graduate student teachers and faculty
- Orientation for first-time graduate student teachers
- Coordination of faculty class visits
Role of the Level Coordinators
As the coordinators of all work pertaining to intensive and non-intensive courses at Levels II, III, or IV, the Level Coordinators ascertain the curriculum’s effectiveness at that level in the following ways:
- Level meetings. Through regular level meetings with instructors, the Level Coordinators monitor the effectiveness of materials, pedagogies, and assessment instruments.
- Coordination of assessment procedures. The Level Coordinators coordinate the implementation and scoring of assessment instruments in all sections.
- Class observation. With the assistance of other faculty as part of faculty class visitation program each semester, the Level Coordinator visits and observes other sections in order to provide feedback to instructors, faculty, and graduate students and to gain additional insight into the course’s effectiveness at achieving curricular goals.
- Updates and feedback. Throughout the semester, the Level coordinator cooperates closely with the Curriculum Coordinator to identify specific needs for level courses. The Level Coordinator also is responsible for maintaining the J-Drive for the level and updating the level binder with new materials.
Role of the Faculty
All faculty share the responsibility for assuring continued curricular coherence and participate in curriculum enhancement in the following ways:
- Faculty development. All faculty contribute to curriculum enhancement through their participation in departmental curriculum and pedagogy workshops.
- Course development. Developing new and updating existing courses in line with the major goals of specific levels of instruction and the curriculum as a whole are important contributions the faculty make to the quality of the program. As the primary developers and instructors of Level IV and V courses, faculty ensure the connection between content and language acquisition at the upper levels of instruction.
- Participation in curriculum-wide enhancement projects. Faculty also contribute to enhancement projects that span beyond one curricular level (e.g., writing assessment across the curriculum).
- Feedback. Whether in their roles as Level Coordinators, mentors, or instructors, faculty suggest course- or level-specific improvements to the Curriculum Coordinator.
Role of Graduate Student Teachers
All graduate student teachers participate in enhancing the quality of the undergraduate curriculum in the following ways:
- Participation in curriculum-wide enhancement projects. Graduate student teachers also contribute to enhancement projects that span beyond one curricular level (e.g., writing assessment across the curriculum).
- Course development. Developing new and updating existing courses in line with the major goals of specific levels of instruction and the curriculum as a whole are important contributions graduate student teachers make to the quality of the program.
- Participation in departmental workshops. All graduate student teachers contribute to curriculum enhancement through their participation in departmental curriculum and pedagogy workshops.
- Feedback. Regardless of their role in the curriculum (e.g., teaching, assisting, observing), they suggest course- or level-specific improvements to the Level Coordinator or Curriculum Coordinator.
January 1, 2003; revised July 2011
Note: For background reading and sources, see the bibliography
- Content-based approaches to language teaching (CBI) are aimed at “the development of use-oriented second and foreign language skills” and are “distinguished … by the concurrent learning of a specific content and related language use skills.” (Wesche, 1993, in Krueger and Ryan)
People do not learn languages and then use them, but learn languages by using them. Acquisition and use are essentially the same phenomenon. (Widdowson, 1981 in Eskey)
- Formal linguistic competence does not emerge on its own as a result of learners? engaging in communicative activities.
There is a need for principled syllabus design beyond content (themes, topics).
- Three aspects must be addressed: language form (grammar focus PLUS … ), language function (functional/notional, communicative PLUS …) and the factual, conceptual content and discoursal construction of material
Finding the right mix/balance between these aspects is perhaps the single most challenging task for the teacher in CBI.
- A CBI curriculum operates with stretches of language above the sentence level and with real language in real situations.
Teaching toward such communicative ability may use procedures which are either synthetic or analytic (i.e., learning forms and then practicing how to combine them; and introducing complete interactions of texts and focusing on how these are constructed according to discourse rules pragmatic awareness, and strategic competence).
- Content is not merely something to practice language with; rather, language is something to explore content with. (Eskey)
- “Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules for the composition of sentences and being able to employ such rules to assemble expressions from scratch as and when occasion requires. It is much more a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns, formulaic frameworks, and a kit of rules so to speak, and being able to apply the rules to make whatever adjustments are necessary according to contextual standards.” (Widdowson, 1989, Applied Linguistics 10).
Communicative competence is not so much rule-governed as it is rule-referenced. Something more than rules is required for learning how to use a new language in the real world
- A principled communicative approach (Kumaravadivelu) attempts to synthesize direct, knowledge-oriented and indirect, performance-oriented teaching approaches.
- CBI occurs along a continuum, from “content-driven” to “language-driven”. The emphasis shifts across levels, within each level, within themes, topics, and, finally and most noticeably, among specific tasks.
In language-driven curricula/courses key questions are
- the fit between content and specified language objectives
- the fit between content and students? current language proficiency
- the degree of cognitive engagement and demand.
Even in a CBI curriculum which, like ours, is “language-acquisition driven”, at least through our level III, the curriculum in general and the syllabi in particular do not begin with a list of either forms or functions, but with themes and topics of interest ? a network of issues, concepts, and facts all of which must be brought to life for a particular group of students.
CBI critically depends on presumed subjects of interest. We should be careful to select those for which we can already assume interest and knowledge or for which we can and should responsibly create interest and knowledge in our learners, literate adults. A curriculum and the courses/syllabi within it are always the result of choices. Let us choose wisely!
- Combining both our interest in students learning content and learning German, our instructional approach ultimately recognizes that it is not so much the content itself, in terms of factual knowledge, that is being taught, but some form of the discourse of that content as it is constructed in the German-speaking world.
As teachers, we are acculturating students to the relevant discourse communities. That means that it is critical that we explicitly teach on the basis of the assumptions, conventions, and procedures of their own L1 discourse communities (usually U.S. – American and English-language) and toward the assumptions, conventions, and procedures of the L2=German language discourse communities.
Thus, “the content-based syllabus, with its stress on our culture’s normal use of language to explore issues of real interest to students, may turn out to be what we have been looking for all along.” (Eskey)
May 17, 1999 (11/6/03); revised July 2011
Processing and Acquisition
As we explored the implications of the central fact of language learning, namely that it is an extended, long-term phenomenon and, furthermore, is neither linear nor best described in terms of the acquisition of sentence-level grammatical accuracy, we faced a certain dilemma: A curriculum is inherently a certain projection of an appropriate selection and sequencing of instructional events.
Thus, the challenge was to meld the two fundamental facts of instructed learning: the sequential nature of curriculum and the non-linear but clearly developmental nature of instructed second language learning by literate adults.
We addressed this in level-specific statements about the particular foci of processing (that is, in terms of the attention both teachers and learners would focus on certain phenomena of language use as part of language learning) and about the acquisitional consequences we would expect as a result of these foci. In these statements particular attention was paid to considerable overlap of L2 development between levels but also the need to articulate a clear progression toward the curriculum goal of developing advanced levels of competence, what we refer to as “developing multiple literacies.”
- Foci for Level I
- Foci for Level II
- Foci for Level III
- Foci for Level IV
- Foci for Level V
(by John M. Norris)
The Georgetown University German Department (GUGD) Placement Exam consists of three sub-tests:
- the Listening Comprehension Test (LCT),
- the Reading Comprehension Test (RCT),
- the C-test.
Each of these sub-tests was designed to provide information about how well entering students are able to understand and process German language texts (both aural and written) like those found at various levels within the German Department’s “Multiple Literacies” curriculum. The three sub-tests were also designed to provide this information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Students’ scores on these sub-tests are used for the sole purpose of deciding where students most appropriately fit within the set of courses offered in the “Multiple Literacies” curriculum; that is, at what curricular level students would benefit the most from instruction. Based on their placement exam scores, students may be placed into one of the first three levels of sequenced instruction (Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced courses), or, with high enough scores, they may be placed out of the first three levels of instruction into Level IV courses.
Given the very broad range of language abilities reflected in these decisions, the three sub-tests were designed to contain both texts and items that range considerably in the amount of difficulty they may pose for students. Accordingly, most entering students should generally not expect to be able to answer all of the test items correctly.
The straightforward multiple choice format for items on the LCT and RCT will be familiar to most students. These items test students’ abilities to understand details and main ideas in the texts, as well as their abilities to make inferences based on their understanding of the meaning communicated in the texts.
The C-test format will probably be less familiar to most students, although it appears at first glance to be similar to a fill-in-the-blank test. However, the C-test is not a simple fill-in-the-blank test. The C-test asks examinees to complete the second half of words which have been deleted at regular intervals throughout a series of otherwise intact texts that are each around a paragraph in length. This i___ an exa___ sentence fr___ such a___ exam. As examinees complete the words, they recreate a meaningful text. However, in order to do so, they obviously have to know both the deleted words and the surrounding words, they have to understand the meaning conveyed by sentences within the text, and they have to understand the grammatical relationships expressed between particular words and between sentences. All of these abilities figure into the accurate completion of a C-test text; as such, the C-test presents students with a very challenging language task. Again, only very advanced language learners will be able to correctly answer all of the items in each C-test text, although certain texts will be easier or more difficult than others, depending on which level of the “Multiple Literacies” curriculum they represent.
The C-test format (and the multiple choice formats for the LCT and RCT, for that matter) may appear somewhat “artificial” in terms of the kinds of communicative language abilities that students are expected to develop in college foreign language contexts. Indeed, the activities that students engage in on these placement tests should not be taken to reflect the kinds of communication they will be doing in Georgetown German classes. However, it should be understood that these tests are not intended as achievement or proficiency tests rather, their sole purpose is to inform a quick and accurate placement decision. Several sources of evidence support the use of the C-test for placement purposes in college German language programs and in the GUGD:
1. C-tests have enjoyed a long history of successful use as placement exams in a number of foreign language programs in German universities, where this testing format was originally developed. Extensive research there has shown that: (a) scores on C-tests consistently provide good estimates of examinees’ abilities, (b) placement decisions based on C-tests equal and often surpass the accuracy of other placement tests combined (such as oral interviews, written essays, grammar and vocabulary tests), and (c) C-tests provide accurate estimates and inform decisions in much less time than most other placement exam formats.
2. The GUGD placement exam was carefully developed such that the accuracy of placement decisions into the “Multiple Literacies” curriculum would be maximized. Research on this placement exam has shown that:
- individual students’ scores on the C-test improve consistently and as predicted as they advance through the levels of the curriculum;
- average student scores on the C-test differ from curricular level to level as predicted;
- graduate students and other very advanced German learners consistently place out of the sequenced courses in the curriculum;
- scores on the C-test, LCT, and RCT are closely related as predicted; and, perhaps most importantly,
- students and teachers almost always agree with a student’s placement based on the exam.
These and other sources of evidence support the use of the C-test and the full GUGD placement exam as a tool for making quick and accurate decisions about where, within the available German Department courses, incoming students most appropriately belong. Of course, as with any placement decision, there is always a small chance of students being placed into a course which does not provide the best fit for their language learning needs. Accordingly, placement policy in the GUGD treats the first several weeks of a typical semester (for study abroad, the first several days) as a probationary period for all placed students. During this period, teachers provide numerous opportunities for students to display their language knowledge and abilities, and they carefully compare their observations of placed students with the language learning demands that characterize the particular curricular level and course. On those occasions when a student and a teacher agree that the student would probably be better served in a lower or higher level course, placement decisions may be adjusted accordingly by the undergraduate curriculum supervisor or the department chair. While such changes happen rarely, this policy is in place in order to make sure that students benefit maximally from their time in the Georgetown University German Department.
Finally, it should be emphasized that it is not the expectation of the GUGD that incoming students will present homogeneous German language knowledge and abilities which match exactly the abilities of other students and the coursework in particular classes. In fact, while the “Multiple Literacies” curriculum was designed to foster certain kinds of continuing advanced language development throughout all levels of the program, it also recognizes the variable abilities that students will develop as they pursue their individual interests in using the German language for various communicative purposes. As such, the GUGD placement exam was designed to provide an efficient ?best-fit? estimate for incoming students. It was not designed to profile all of a student?s strengths and weaknesses in using German for meeting various communicative ends. It should go without saying that, once the placement decision has been made, it is up to the learner and the teacher to make sure that related language learning needs and objectives are met.
Posted January 22, 2003
[Note: For a research perspective on the C-test, see
John M. Norris. 2006. Development and evaluation of a curriculum-based German C-test for placement purposes. In Rüdiger Grotjahn, ed. Der C-Test: Theoretische Grundlagen und praktische Anwendungen. New York: Peter Lang, 45-83.
Posted May 10, 2006
Revised July 2011
Reflecting the Department’s educational goal that students should acquire sophisticated multiple literacies through the study of German, the Department places great emphasis on students’ writing development, beginning with Level I and across all curricular levels.
Curricular and pedagogical documents that specifically focused on writing were developed over a number of semesters, beginning with the spring of 2000. After multiple revisions that benefited especially from work done in two of the teacher-researcher groups that collaborated under the Spencer Grant (2000-2002), the bulk of the work was completed and agreed upon at an all-department meeting at the end of the fall semester 2002.
This portion of our curricular web site provides a summary of that multi-semester work. It is organized into the following sections:
- Overview of writing-related principles and practices
- The special role of genre in content-oriented pedagogies
- Fostering writing development through task-based writing
- Writing development across the curricular levels
- Linking meaning and form: Language foci and weighting in writing tasks by Level: Level I, Level II, Level III, Level IV (Text in Context)
- Assessment and grading of writing performances
- Assessment of a particular writing performance
- Research on writing development in the GUGD
Visitors to the web page are invited to consult the individual sections for details. A number of these sections contain principles and/or curricular and pedagogical documents that have become central for departmental practice regarding the development of our students’ writing ability in German. There is also a published account (Heidi Byrnes, “The role of task and task-based assessment in a content-oriented collegiate foreign language curriculum,” Language Testing 19,2 (2002):419-437) that reflects an earlier phase of the department’s engagement with student writing.
December 7, 2002 (updated November 15, 2003); revised May 2011
As a result of the department’s shift to a literacy- and genre-oriented and task-based curriculum and to pedagogical practices that reflect that orientation, the departmental teaching staff has also thoroughly reconsidered its assessment policies and practices. Like the curriculum renewal project itself this, too, was a gradual process, with focused attention being devoted at various times to aspects of assessment at the macro- (policy) level as well as the micro- (course) level, at the beginning of the program (e.g., placement testing) and also at the end of curricular levels through so-called prototypical performances, particularly in assessing students’ developing writing abilities. Finally, we also sought to ascertain learning outcomes independent of the curriculum. This was done through SOPI testing according to the ACTFL scale of assessing oral proficiency.
This extensive work has resulted in a considerable number of documents, many of them internal to the teaching and assessment work of the department because of their intimate relationship to the curriculum, but a number also of a kind that might be useful to visitors to this site in their respective contexts.
We invite you to explore the site for these materials. From this page you have access to key documents. They have been arranged from more general to more specific issues in order to provide visitors to the site a flavor of the direction assessment has taken in the GUGD curriculum. Beyond that, aspects of assessment occur in conjunction with many other topics presented on this site, a reflection of the central role assessment has in decision-making for appropriate curriculum development as well as suitable pedagogical approaches, its so-called wash-back effect.
Finally, in this extensive work to rethink all of our assessment practices we have continuously been guided by John Norris, a specialist in program evaluation, educational research, and educational assessment, with a particular focus on foreign language curriculum and instruction, the role of assessment in higher education, measurement design in research on second language acquisition, and validity evaluation of educational assessments. His expertise, extensive knowledge of adult second language acquisition, and willingness to work with us in various capacities and at various levels of intensity over extended periods of time (starting with the spring of 1999 to the present) were decisive for our ability to come to see assessment practices not as ancillary or even counterproductive to what we wanted to accomplish as a collegiate German department at a highly selective institution but as a critically important way to continue to enhance all of our work in support of student learning, both undergraduate and graduate.
- “Validity Evaluation in Foreign Language Assessment: Understanding and improving test use in the Georgetown University German Department.” A powerpoint presentation by John Norris to the German Department’s Research Seminar Series, October 16, 2003.
- Abstract of the presentation
- Handout accompanying the presentation
- Placement testing
- Program evaluation, including results of SOPI testing
- Assessment use specifications by level: Level I, Level II, Level III, Level IV
- Prepared by the teaching staff, faculty and graduate students, of the respective curricular levels, these documents provide a close-up look at the nature of the deliberations as the department was shifting to an “intended use” view of assessment
- Assessment of writing development
- Chronology of early assessment efforts (1997-spring 2000); we provide this somewhat detailed listing to enable site visitors to observe assessment development within a departmental context “on the ground.”
October 19, 2003; revised July 2011
In order to educate graduate students as teachers, alongside educating them as scholars and researchers, the Department provides a carefully designed program of teacher development that extends throughout students’ graduate studies. It offers teaching opportunities at all levels of the undergraduate program in a selective institution with small classes and highly motivated students. This mentored program within the Department’s nationally recognized content-oriented and task-based curriculum “Developing Multiple Literacies” enables graduate students to become familiar with, participate in, and contribute to the Department’s unique educational approach. Its defining characteristic is that students acquire literary-cultural knowledge alongside acquiring the German language to academic levels of ability. The graduate students’ central engagement in this educational project is further spelled out in the document “Curriculum Enhancement.” While the Department’s curricular and pedagogical approach presents a unique focus, the Department’s program has the more comprehensive aim of developing classroom teachers as independent and thoughtful decision-makers who can succeed in a range of teaching and supervisory roles in various institutional contexts.
The typical progression in the TA Development program can be found on our Graduate Program TA Development website.
* Graduate student develop as teachers in a program that engages all faculty.
The Curriculum Coordinator bears overall responsibility for the preparation of graduate students as teachers. The Coordinator is responsible for teaching the introductory course on second language instruction and supervises all graduate students throughout their studies, working with them on pedagogies, materials preparation, assessment, curriculum development and administration, and the incorporation of technology into language instruction. The Curriculum Coordinator is supported in this effort by the entire faculty who take on diverse facets of graduate student teacher development. This approach reflects the Department’s understanding that graduate students’ socialization into the profession, as teachers and as scholars, is facilitated when they become familiar with various ways of being an FL professional.
At the advisory level, faculty work closely with their advisees to develop their abilities as researchers and teachers. In particular, the faculty advisor guides the development of the graduate student’s portfolio. At the instructional level, faculty serve as Level Coordinators who supervise all instruction at a particular instructional level; they also serve as mentor teachers to help graduate students gain insights into teaching particular courses, especially at curricular Levels III-V.
* Graduate student teachers are educated in a mentored program that provides guidance and support throughout their graduate studies.
Beginning graduate student teachers have the opportunity to work with a mentor teacher for one semester. In this arrangement, a faculty member or an experienced graduate student teacher and a beginning graduate student teacher jointly attend to all aspects of syllabus development, materials selection, lesson planning, and assessment. The mentor and graduate student teacher meet regularly to make and discuss various pedagogical choices on the basis of careful and knowledgeable observation of student learning. More advanced graduate student teachers may participate in this mentoring program in order to gain experience teaching core courses in the Humanities in English. When not participating in a specific mentored program, graduate student teachers work closely with the faculty-level coordinator and the Curriculum Coordinator to ensure effective instructional practice. As already stated, the graduate student teachers’ faculty advisor plays a central role in guiding and supporting this developmental process.
* Graduate students take two required courses on second language learning and teaching during the first two years of graduate study.
The first course, GERM-545, is offered every fall semester and enables graduate students to develop requisite foundational knowledge and critical awareness of practical approaches to German language instruction in the American educational context. Designed to further develop the graduate student teachers’ awareness about issues in teaching and learning German at the college level, the second course rotates and varies topically, (e.g., issues in curriculum development, advanced language teaching and learning, the teaching of literature).
* Graduate student teachers become familiar with, participate in, and contribute to the Department’s content-oriented, task-based curriculum.
They first experience how the curriculum overcomes the traditional split between language and content courses and effectively integrates content acquisition and second language learning at all levels of instruction by conducting extensive class observations of all instructional levels as part of GERM-545, the Fundamentals class. Once graduate students begin teaching, they are solely responsible for the daily lesson planning, teaching and grading of one Level I, II, or III course. However, each course, its content, materials, and assessment procedures, is framed by the integrated curriculum and teachers can draw on significant amounts of shared pedagogical and assessment materials and practices. Typically, graduate student teachers begin by teaching a non-intensive section and then proceed to teaching an intensive section at the same curricular level in a subsequent semester. The Curriculum Coordinator and/or the Level Coordinator will provide oral and written feedback in conjunction with regular class observations of the graduate student teacher’s performance. Graduate student teachers also participate in and contribute to level coordination meetings throughout the semester.
* Graduate student teachers gain expertise in task-based assessment, particularly in writing and speaking.
At all instructional levels, students’ language abilities are assessed according to their performance on specifically designed tasks. These tasks are coordinated to reflect the curricular goals of each level as well as the curricular progression across levels. For details, see the documents Assessment Policy, Developing Writing, and Assessment and Grading of Writing Performance.
* Graduate student teachers also have the opportunity to develop materials for the integrated curriculum.
Since its inception in 1997, graduate students have contributed extensively to developing materials for all instructional levels of the Developing Multiple Literacies curricula. Such work is usually conducted during the summer and supported with a summer stipend.
* Once graduate student teachers have the requisite background in teaching at Levels I – IV, they may create a Level V course.
Usually, a graduate student works with a faculty member to create a course proposal that clearly indicates course objectives, materials, and assessment procedures. As with all departmental course proposals, this proposal is submitted to the faculty for approval. Actual teaching assignments are made in response to the Department’s curricular needs.
* Senior graduate students preparing for careers in higher education can serve as Level Coordinators.
In this role the graduate student teaches one section of a course in Levels I ? III and, under the supervision of the Curriculum Coordinator, takes responsibility for coordinating all work pertaining to courses at that level, intensive and non-intensive. Specifically, this involves calling and leading level meetings during the semester, coordinating all assessment procedures for all sections, ensuring consistency across all sections of the course, observing and providing feedback to the other sections, and suggesting improvements to the level for subsequent semesters.
* Through various departmental and faculty projects, graduate student teachers have the opportunity to participate in curriculum-based research.
In recent years, graduate student teachers have drawn from their own teaching experiences to contribute to research projects and have investigated and made workshop and conference presentations on such issues as the role of genre in second language acquisition, the linking of literature and language teaching, and definitions of the advanced language learner. Research assistantships with faculty members often provide the framework for conducting such research.
* Graduate student-teacher development enhances non-native speakers’ abilities in academic-level use of German.
In addition, both non-native speakers and native speakers acquire sophisticated levels of awareness of the relation between language meaning and form in adult second language development to high levels of literacy.
* Throughout their graduate studies, graduate student teachers work with their faculty advisor and the Curriculum Coordinator to document their development as teachers in their online portfolio.
Containing such information as teaching philosophy, teaching experience, course, and materials development, and student evaluations, this portfolio provides a thorough overview of the process and progress that each graduate student teacher has undergone in the graduate program.
January 2, 2003; revised July 2011