Instructors gain assessment tool

Dr. Tatiana Karmanova, Director of Foreign Language Lab

Dr. Tatiana Karmanova, Director of Foreign Language Lab

Nate Billings

Studying is not limited to students.

From Feb. 4-7, foreign language instructors took an intensive training course in language assessment.

The course started at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. each day.

Dr. Tatiana Karmanova, associate professor of Spanish and Russian, organized the sessions.

“We learned a standardized way to judge oral proficiency,” Karmanova said.

She said the event had been in the planning for four months because the University hired an outside expert in the process. The trainer was Dr. Robert Vicars, a professional training-session conductor with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

ACTFL developed the technique of interviewing students as a means of assessing foreign language skills.

“It helps us know where our students stand,” Karmanova said.

She said the interviewing techniques will be used during senior assessment day as part of foreign language majors’ language skills competency tests.

All foreign language instructors were required to attend. The training allows each instructor the possibility of getting certified in the interviewing technique. With the certification, instructors can see how students do compared to a national level of language ability.

“This assessment you can use globally,” Karmanova said. “It tests how well (a student) can function in the language.”

She said she is going for her own certification to be better prepared in her classroom.

“We are going to adopt similar techniques in our own classroom setting,” she said.

Other instructors agree.

Eugene Chang, assistant professor of French and German, said the technique is a better tool for use as a proficient oral assessment.

“People assume it will be subjective, but it is very objective,” Chang said.

Chang said the technique gave him more objective means of assessing a student’s conversation than he thought the training would.

“It is fairly specific in what it is looking for,” he said.

Dr. Cristbal Sartori, associate professor of Spanish, agrees with Chang.

Sartori said the technique is looking for four main areas: knowing words in the language, coming up with simple sentences and questions, using simple conversations and making hypothesises.

“It’s a uniform way of testing,” said Dr. Maria Mejia, assistant professor of Spanish.

Mejia said the workshop allowed instructors a background knowledge in a technique that takes nine months to attain certification.

“The amount of information we received was considerable,” she said.

Sartori said the technique allows instructors a way to begin a structured dialog with students as a means to see how well a student can process the language.

“It has made me aware of a deficiency,” Sartori said.

The workshop required instructors to interview international “test” students from around the area as a means to understand how the technique works.

Instructors took turns practicing the interviews in front of the other instructors. They took notes on how the interviews went. After the workshop, all instructors received a paper stating they had completed the first step of the certification training.

“It is only the beginning of the process,” Mejia said. “It would be very nice if we could all do it.”