Teaching and Learning to the Highest Levels of Language Proficiency - Sharings from the Journal of Distinguished Language Proficiency and More (abstracts)

   


Just out! Volume 8 of the Journal for Distinguished Language Studies. Read the abstracts. See something you like? Explore more! The JDLS is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, other online sellers, the MSI Press webstore -- and, in some (we hope, many) cases your local academic library. (If you want it at your local public library -- just ask the librarian to order it, or better, subscribe to it.)

Volume 8 Abstracts

Beyond the Language: Debating as High-Intensity Cultural Engagement & Leadership

Emilie Cleret (French War College)

This article discusses the use of debating in senior professional military education (PME) at the French War College in Paris to help officers reach native-like English language competence.

In France, senior Professional Military Education (PME) is delivered by two schools – Ecole de Guerre (French War College) and Centre des hautes ├ętudes militaires, (Centre for Higher Military Studies). The case this article explores is the use of debating by the English Studies Department to support the officers’ effort to achieve a native-like level of L2 competence during their one-year course in the French War College. The author’s perspective is that of a practitioner who heads this department, designs the courses, and manages the faculty that delivers them. All the members of the faculty are from English-speaking countries.

Keywords: Debating, Leadership, (French) Military Education, Culture, Argumentation, Public Speaking

Helping Learners Achieve the Distinguished Level of Proficiency

James E. Bernhardt, Ph.D. (Foreign Service Institute, emeritus)

The current article proposes that a task all learners who have attained superior levels of proficiency and who wish to achieve the distinguished level have in common is the need to double the size of their vocabulary. The article suggests that instructional designs for distinguished level training should include massive amounts of input: reading, listening and watching. It also proposes a number of ways, all vocabulary based, to evaluate whether materials are at-level for learners and advocates for materials that are appropriate to the individual learners needs, objectives and interests.

 The articles takes a close look at the goals of higher-level programs and notes that not all learners working towards distinguished levels of proficiency have the same end goals in mind. Their objectives, at this level, differ from learner to learner. Their objectives and the needs of the organizations that fund their training also surely differ from the characteristics of distinguished level proficiency implied by the ACTFL standards and the ILR skill level descriptions: eloquence, membership in the cloistered elect of the well-educated, and the ability to speak in ways that approximate written texts.

 The article asserts that students have a set of rights, which, when exercised, may change the trajectory of each course even midstream. It examines paths towards success, rejecting the use of Bloom’s taxonomy, and suggesting the use of design thinking approaches to creating an instructional program. Attention is paid to techniques for evaluating the appropriateness of materials for training, with a special focus on words, word families, and the importance of knowing the size of a learner’s word bank and speed at which the student reads.

 When instructors knows their learners well, they can, working with the learners and stakeholders, create a learning plan for each learner which meets their precise needs.

Key words: vocabulary, objectives, rights, Bloom’s taxonomy, text profiling

Roadmaps to Distinguished Speaking Proficiency

Jack Franke (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center)

Although study abroad is viewed in the United States as sine qua non, the study abroad experience is not a panacea to achieve distinguished foreign language speaking proficiency.  This study attempts to uncover how persistence, study abroad, motivation, and learner autonomy play into the pursuit of distinguished speaking proficiency.  Using the theoretical framework of complexity theory and phenomenological design, the study utilized interviews of four educators at an institute in the Western United States as the primary instrument of data collection.  This study investigated the roadmaps which successful foreign language educators have utilized to achieve distinguished speaking proficiency through interviews and documentary research. Data analysis of interviews with the participants revealed distinguished speaking proficiency was a highly personal pursuit, characterized by different motivations based on the choice of a foreign language, engagement in the target culture, grit, and time.  Overall, the participants were highly self-efficacious learners, many married to foreign-speaking spouses, and spent extended periods in the foreign culture and community.  The study provided possible roadmaps for students and educators who wish to achieve near-native speaking proficiency in a foreign language.

Keywords: persistence, study abroad, motivation, learner autonomy, distinguished speaking proficiency, motivation

Protocol-Based Formative Assessment: Evolution and Revolution at the Defense Language Institute

Andrew R. Corin, Ph. D. (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, emeritus) & Sergey Entis (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, retired)

Protocol-based formative assessment (PBFA) can be a powerful tool for enhancing learning and diagnosing learning challenges. Yet there is an inherent tension between effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of PBFA. This can be addressed through a variety of strategies: “rationing” PBFA to instances of individual learning difficulties; applying PBFA to all students but in fewer instances; or by engineering greater efficiency into the protocol. Regardless of the strategy adopted, it is taken for granted that PBFA should be maximally integrated with instruction-based formative assessment (IBFA) as an integral component of day-to-day classroom instruction. This article articulates the dilemma as it developed at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) between 1989 and 2015 and the path pursued to overcome it through re-design of PBFA.

Keywords: diagnostic assessment; formative assessment; dynamic assessment; zone of proximal development; learner variables; learning styles; text typology; language proficiency; world language education; foreign language learning; Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

On the Cusp: Grids to Guide Formative Assessment Incorporating Zone of Proximal Development Consideration

Betty Lou Leaver, Ph.D. (MSI Press LLC)

The chasm between the various proficiency levels (ILR -1, -2, -3, 4/ACTFL Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Distinguished) is large traversing the space between the levels can take many years—up to 17 years for some Level-4 language users. The Cusp Grids, developed under the guise of the National Foreign Language Center, with input from large numbers of Level-4 language users, focus on the proficiency elements critical from passing from one level to another and how to use this knowledge along with formative assessment to determine best next steps for individual learners, based on their zones od proximal development. The grids provided for English, French, Russian, and Spanish can be used to guide the development of similar grids for other languages.

Keywords: proficiency cusps, cusp grids, zone of proximal development, formative assessment, proficiency levels

 

Protocol-Based Formative Assessment: Evolution and Revolution at the Defense Language Institute

Andrew R. Corin, Ph. D. (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, emeritus) & Sergey Entis (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, retired)

Protocol-based formative assessment (PBFA) can be a powerful tool for enhancing learning and diagnosing learning challenges. Yet there is an inherent tension between effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of PBFA. This can be addressed through a variety of strategies: “rationing” PBFA to instances of individual learning difficulties; applying PBFA to all students but in fewer instances; or by engineering greater efficiency into the protocol. Regardless of the strategy adopted, it is taken for granted that PBFA should be maximally integrated with instruction-based formative assessment (IBFA) as an integral component of day-to-day classroom instruction. This article articulates the dilemma as it developed at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) between 1989 and 2015 and the path pursued to overcome it through re-design of PBFA.

Keywords: diagnostic assessment; formative assessment; dynamic assessment; zone of proximal development; learner variables; learning styles; text typology; language proficiency; world language education; foreign language learning; Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

 

The JDLS is published biennially and is accepting proposed articles for the 2023-2024 issue (release: December 31, 2024), as described in the current Call for Papers, the latest version of which is always available on the JDLS webpage at the MSI Press website, along with submission requirements information for both articles and book reviews.

The JDLS is shelved at the Library of Congress and can be ordered from Amazon, other booksellers, and the MSI Press webstore as single copies or on subscription. Contact us (editor@msipress.com) for review copies. 

Find the latest information on the JDLS webpage and follow our blog for additional information (we are looking into making digital versions available, sales of articles at minimal cost, and availability from indexers and will report any movement on those things in the Thursday posts), as well as dialogue on this important topic for language learners and teachers.

For more posts about the JDLS, click HERE.

If you have a post to contribute to the Thursday high-level-proficiency topic, we would love to see it. Please send it to editor@msipress.com.


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