Using a Department-wide Rubric to Assess KU Core Goal 4.2—Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies, Christine Bourgeois, Antje Ziethen, Patrizio Ceccagnoli, and Paul Scott (2020)
A department institutes a rubric to assess student progress across all classes in KU Core Goal 4.2 on intercultural competence, with individual faculty members applying the rubric to assignments in their courses and taking on the challenge of operationalizing 4.2 in the context of classes conducted in a language other than English. This portfolio documents the application of the rubric and the pursuit of 4.2 teaching and learning in three upper-division courses in the Department of French, Francophone and Italian Studies.
As a department of foreign languages, literatures, and cultures, our classes focus almost exclusively on the cultural output of the French- and Italian-speaking worlds. Consequently, a majority of our upper-level course offerings, as well as a significant number of our lower-level sections, have an attached element of meeting Core Goal 4.2. With the daunting process of the six-year recertification looming for well over 50 course sections, it was with some urgency that we undertook the process of devising a uniform system which would allow faculty across the department to assess the effectiveness of their teaching in preparing students for global citizenship.
The basis of this system was a rubric, roughly modeled on the suggested rubric for course development provided on the KU Core website. All faculty members in the department were asked to upload our rubric to their Blackboard sites and, selecting a particular assignment or final exam question tailored to the aims of Core Goal 4.2, to evaluate each student’s success in the area of global learning. This was done for every section of all courses bearing Core Goal 4.2 since the institution of the KU Core. The rubric report produced by Blackboard then became the numerical basis for analysis of both student and teacher performance in meeting the learning objectives of Core Goal 4.2, with the significant advantage of producing comparable results across the department.
FREN 430: La France d'aujourd'hui [France of Today] (Christine Bourgeois)
In FREN 430, a course devoted to studying the cultural context of contemporary France, Christine Bourgeois makes use of a variety of primary cultural documents such as news articles, films, and literary texts, in order to provide students with as immersive an experience of another culture (that of modern day France) as can realistically be had inside the classroom. To assess Core Goal 4.2, Bourgeois re-graded students’ final exam questions using the departmental rubric.
FREN 431: The French-Speaking World Outside France (Antje Ziethen)
FREN 431, taught by Antje Ziethen, is a course taught entirely in French and is devoted to studying the history and culture of a number of countries or regions where French is an official language. In 2018, the 4.2 rubric was used to score a newly devised digital humanities project that replaced the traditional final presentation in the class.
ITAL 301: Introduction to Italian Literature and Textual Analysis (Patrizio Ceccagnoli)
Patrizio Ceccagnoli’s introductory course (ITAL 301) on Italian literature and textual analysis is conducted in Italian and aims to develop students’ abilities as critical readers of other-culture texts and also to heighten their understanding of social beliefs, norms, regional differences, socio-economic tensions, and gender issues in different periods of Italian history. In this course, the 4.2 rubric was used to assess students’ responses to final exam essay questions that require textual analysis and comparison.
The recertification process detailed in this portfolio has led to several important realizations about our teaching, prompting dialogue among the four members of the Core Goal 4.2 Working Group in our department, as well as concrete changes to how we teach both those courses with an attached Core Goal 4.2 and those without. This holistic reevaluation of our teaching process is supported by what we feel to be one of the strong points of our rubric – the fact that it asks us to think about learning as a process of acquiring content knowledge and building it into transferable cognitive skills of progressively higher order, culminating in the metacognitive application of course material to previously existing value assumptions. While our teaching, broadly conceived, may focus to a greater or lesser extent on cultural competency, it is always our ultimate goal to provide students with the necessary critical thinking skills to develop authentic and informed opinions on the information they encounter and to apply these judgments sensitively and compassionately both inside and outside of the classroom. As such, our work in the last year has prompted us to think seriously about ways to do this better and more creatively in all our courses.
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In the fall of 2017 as we looked ahead to the recertification of Core Goal 4.2, the faculty of the Department of French, Francophone and Italian Studies faced a significant challenge. Advanced Education Goal 4, Learning Outcome 2 of the KU Core curriculum aims to teach students to respect human diversity while expanding cultural understanding and global awareness through the study of a culture other than their own. As a department of foreign languages, literatures, and cultures, our classes focus almost exclusively on the cultural output of the French- and Italian-speaking worlds, and, consequently, a majority of our upper-level course offerings as well as a significant number of our lower-level sections have an attached element of Core Goal 4.2. With the daunting process of the six-year recertification cycle looming for well over 50 course sections, it was with some urgency that we undertook the process of devising a uniform system which would allow faculty across the department to assess the effectiveness of their teaching in preparing students for global citizenship.
The basis of this system was a rubric, roughly modeled on the suggested rubric for course development provided on the Core website. We did, however, make some significant changes to this instrument in view of what we imagined to be the optimally measurable outcomes of student work in our department. Specifically, our categories of assessment are organized in ascending order of difficulty, starting with understanding of pedagogical content knowledge and ability to analyze and reflect on this content, then moving on to two of the most important transferable skills we would like our courses to foster: the awareness of different cultural belief patterns and the ability to form new and informed opinions relating other-culture material to students’ own value assumptions. This was a format that we hoped would allow faculty not only to reflect critically on how course content addresses the overall aims of Core Goal 4.2 but also to take a snapshot of our students’ performance with the goal of pinpointing changes in student success over time. The aim is to recognize successful adaptations of content and to target points of breakdown in the process of encouraging students to build new factual knowledge into the ability for successful critical thought.
All faculty members in the department were asked to upload our rubric to their Blackboard sites and, selecting a particular assignment or final exam question tailored to the aims of Core Goal 4.2, to evaluate each student’s success in the area of global learning. This has been done for every iteration of all courses bearing Core Goal 4.2 since the institution of the KU Core. The rubric report produced by Blackboard then became the numerical basis for analysis of both student and teacher performance in meeting the learning objectives of Core Goal 4.2, with the significant advantage of producing comparable results across the department.
In an effort to translate the recertification process into meaningful adaptation of the French and Italian curricula, I (Christine Bourgeois) along with three of my colleagues, Antje Ziethen, Paul Scott, and Patrizio Ceccagnoli, participated in the Core Goal 4.2 Working Group with the aim of opening communication on the challenges and successes of the process. Since its first meeting in December of 2017, we have fostered and maintained dialogue within the department both on our individual courses and on the assessment process itself. This portfolio represents the preliminary findings of this collaboration. With a section detailing each of our individual work on the assessment structure of a particular course, we conclude with an appreciation of the collective lessons we have taken away from the recertification process, as well as the goals it has allowed us to set for future success.
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FREN 430: La France d’aujourd’hui (Christine Bourgeois)
FREN 430, La France d’aujourd’hui (France of Today) is a course devoted to studying the cultural context of contemporary France. Conducted in French and making use of a variety of primary cultural documents such as news articles, films, and literary texts, FREN 430 seeks to provide students with as immersive an experience of another culture (that of modern day France) as can realistically be had inside the classroom. Students are typically undergraduate majors or minors in French.
For a typical class meeting, students arrived having completed a homework assignment consisting of a reading (short story, excerpt from a novel, news article, opinion piece) or the viewing of a film in French, as well as a written reading or viewing guide consisting of a vocabulary list and a series of questions designed to aid comprehension and stimulate the beginning of analytical thought on the topic. This typically included at least one question asking students to compare the French cultural phenomenon studied to its American homologue. During the second half of the semester, we would sometimes open with a ten-minute student presentation on an aspect of the day’s lesson not covered in readings or by me. For example, in the Fall of 2017when we studied the city of Paris, one student presented on the political and aesthetic role of graffiti in the Paris cityscape as well as its reception by Parisians as compared to the reception of graffiti by American city-dwellers. After presentations, or if there were none scheduled for that day, I would typically give a mini-lecture designed to enrich the assigned reading with some additional contextual information (e.g., historical photographs of a particular event, images of artwork or propaganda produced to a specific end, graphs illustrating a particular demographic phenomenon, etc.) and, where appropriate, sound or video clips of music, historical speeches, or archival news footage. Finally, the class would move on to a discussion, starting usually in small groups and expanding out to general discussion.
In order to assess this course for Core Goal 4.2, I re-graded the final examination using the departmental rubric. The final examination typically includes a multiple-choice section designed to test students’ retention of content knowledge; a series of short answer questions designed to stimulate basic analysis of cultural phenomena studied over the course of the semester; and an essay section designed to elicit critical thought on French culture, as well as meaningful comparison with students’ own cultures of origin.
I was heartened to see that the average overall score according to this rubric has risen over the three semesters this course has been offered since the implementation of the KU Core. While I expect that differences between individual students partially account for this, I also suspect that three particular changes to my course design had an impact on this successful result:
- The explicit introduction of “culture” as a concept worth examining starting as soon as the first course meeting. As of the first class, we begin to ask questions of the etymology and history of this word, as well as where culture comes from.
- The adaptation of the syllabus to favor a final exam over a final research paper. This is, for many students, the first 400-level course taken in French. It is also a course which moves very quickly from one topic to the next, leaving me little time to model in-depth research methods, and almost none to visit, in the necessary detail, the complex writing strategies required to produce a successful paper. As such, assigning a final exam allowed students to remain engaged with material in the manner it was presented and to expand upon it appropriately within the context of course-design.
- Building more small-group discussion activities into the classroom. I discovered quickly that students will not enter the classroom with their opinions instantly formed. As such, I have found that the opportunity for intersubjective verification in small groups provides the necessary bridge between the information provided in reading and lecture and the analysis of this information all together. Given the often-sensitive nature of much of the material discussed in class, the esprit de corps this builds often empowers students to trust one another and to open up more voluntarily to share opinions which may touch on controversial issues.
Cultural competency is measured in three ways in this course:
- Students’ ability to repeat factual information about French historical and cultural phenomena. For example, they should be able to describe the French school system and the various educational paths open to French students with some regard for the historical foundations of the free public education system in France.
- Students’ ability to make critical assessments about French culture and to compare it meaningfully to their own. For example, they should be able to formulate an opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of the early streaming (or tracking) promoted by the French educational system and compare these advantages and disadvantages meaningfully to the American system, which streams students significantly later.
- Students’ ability to use precise and correct language (both grammar and vocabulary) to describe what they have learned. For example, a student should know how lycée (high school), collège (middle school) and enseignement supérieur (higher education) differ from one another and be able to use these terms accurately in complex sentences.
While I am heartened to see that averages in all categories of assessment have increased over time, as I adapt the class from year to year, I notice that consistently, if not the lowest, at least the second lowest class average is obtained in the “Shows awareness of different cultural beliefs and patterns” category of the grading rubric. My feeling at the end of the assessment process was that this might be linked to an insufficient amount of practice in writing skills. As I reviewed final examinations for the purposes of recertification, I noticed most especially that students were not differentiating with optimal reliability between fact and emotion as they formulated opinions on course material. Since clear writing and clear thought are indelibly linked, I have provisionally diagnosed the issue as a gap between the literary and/or cultural content of this course and methods of assessment, which did not focus sufficiently on the process of argument formation.
This prompted a slight redesign of my course structure in Fall 2018 to include short but frequent writing assignments designed to guide students through the steps of constructing a cogent argument. It is my hope that students will be more naturally inclined not only to support their arguments with evidence on their final examination but also to make a more lasting link between critical thinking and opinion-formation as they move forward in their studies and careers.
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FREN 431: The French-Speaking World Outside France (Antje Ziethen)
FREN 431, The French-Speaking World Outside France, is a course entirely taught in French and is devoted to studying the history and culture of a number of countries or regions where French is an official language (Canada, Haiti, Martinique, Mauritius, Algeria, Senegal, Congo, Vietnam). The course makes use of a variety of primary cultural documents such as literary texts and theoretical essays, film, artwork, music, and documentaries. It includes out-of-class activities, guest speakers, and since Fall 2018, a digital humanities research project.
For a typical class meeting, students arrive having completed a homework assignment consisting of a reading or the viewing of a narrative or documentary film in French. The assignment is accompanied by a guide that contains a series of questions designed to aid comprehension and stimulate the beginning of analytical thought on the topic. At the beginning of class, I would typically give a mini-lecture to enrich the assigned reading with some additional contextual information (e.g. historical documents, maps, images of artwork, particular places, people, etc.), and where appropriate, sound or video clips of music, or archival footage. Finally, the class would move on to a discussion. Every two or three weeks, I invite guest speakers, either faculty or students, who are from, or doing research on, the region discussed in class. The course also includes out-of-class activities, such as a visit to the Spencer Museum of Art and the Tunnel of Oppression, which is organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and exposes students to different types of oppression experienced in society.
This course also specifically asks students to explore cultural differences between Francophone societies and the United States and to comment on them using not personal opinions but rather opinions methodically supported by specific evidence drawn from readings. Practically this is frequently accomplished through a series of in-class tests based predominantly on open-ended short answer and essay questions, as well as a presentation and a final exam. For instance, the focus on the consequences of 19th-century French imperialism in the Francophone world encourages students to evaluate critically the history of the US as a 20th century imperial force present in several parts of the world (Asia, Africa, South America, etc.). Students are often surprised to learn about aspects of American history that they were unaware of or perhaps to encounter different perspectives on the events they are familiar with, such as the Vietnam War. Furthermore, the study of Haitian history allows students to learn about the impact of the Haitian Revolution on American politics at that particular time, the American occupation of Haiti in the early 20th century, and the US’s involvement in the much-debated human aid efforts after the devastating earthquake in 2010. In general, students are able to become aware of the mechanics of their own value systems and to consider the relativity of their own culturally programmed belief systems by comparing the pros and cons of American understandings of freedom and democracy with those held elsewhere.
In Fall 2018, there were five changes that I made to the course design to help student outcomes connected to Core Goal 4.2 categories. The most substantial change came in the form of the introduction of a scaffolded digital humanities group project that culminated in a 30-minute group presentation using the digital tool Story Maps. This assignment replaced the ten-minute individual presentation that was part of the course before. I was underwhelmed by the outcome of these presentations in the past and did not feel that they added a particular value to the students’ learning experience, as students usually prepared them at the last minute. In contrast, the digital humanities projects were developed over the course of seven weeks and included an individual visit with an area studies librarian, a digital humanities training session, several meetings with the instructor, and in-class group work
Each group’s project had an overarching general topic such as “Independence Movements,” “Important Historical Figures in the Fight for Freedom,” or “Art and Colonial History.” Each student then explored the topic from the perspective of a particular French-speaking region/country. The group then had to present its findings and analyze similarities and differences between the regions. For some students, the project included interviews with artists or researchers from the region (Senegal, Haiti, etc.). My hope was that the time spent on the project, as well as the exchange between group members and with the instructor, would help students deepen their understanding of a particular culture and compare it to their own, as well as to those cultures discussed by their fellow group members.
The other changes made to the course to enhance 4.2 learning were:
- Reduction of the number of Francophone regions in order to allow more time for discussion and detailed study.
- Introduction of journal entries on Blackboard for each homework assignment in which students write down two key arguments, one problem/critique, and one question (which I then address in class if time permits). The objective is to make sure that students actually read/view the material at home and reflect on it before class.
- Inclusion of the KU Common Book Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat and the KU Common Work of Art by Ulrick Jean-Pierre. The objective is to include the course in an ongoing university-wide discussion and the many activities related to it.
- Invitation of guest speakers who work in the Digital Humanities and on research related to the KU Common Book and the KU Common Work of Art.
“Cultural competency” is measured in three ways in this course:
- Students’ ability to repeat factual information about historical and cultural phenomena. For example, they should be able to explain, historically, Quebec’s quest for independence and the impact of the French Revolution on the Haitian Revolution, as well as the emergence of the Chiac language in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
- Students should be able to make critical assessments about these cultures and compare them meaningfully to their own. For example, students are asked to apply Edward Saïd’s seminal essay on “Orientalism” not only to the way colonial France viewed North Africans, but also how Western societies, such as the US, perceive the Arab World today in the 21st century.
- Students should demonstrate an ability to use precise and correct language (both grammar and vocabulary) to describe what they have learned. For example, they should know that Canadian and Quebecois governments opened pensionnats (boarding schools) to assimilate the indigenous population into European settler society, what the role of the harkis were in the context of the Algerian War of Independence, and that marrons is a term for fugitive slaves.
To assess this course for Core Goal 4.2, in Fall 2016 – my first semester teaching this course – I re-graded the final examination using the departmental rubric. The final exam consists of three parts: ten ID’s, six short answer questions, and two essay questions. I have taught this class myself only twice in its entirety (Fall 2016 and 2018) and cannot compare it to any previous semesters, because the previous instructor of the course is no longer available. The second time I taught the course in Fall 2018, I instead used the 4.2 rubric for the digital humanities Story Map project. As the graph illustrates, student scores increased in all four categories, though the small numbers in all iterations of the class and measurement of different assignments make definitive conclusions difficult to make. Nonetheless, in the 2018 iteration of the course, all eight students in the class were rated as met or exceeded expectations in all four categories, a feat not accomplished in any category in previous years.
While definitive conclusions regarding what caused the increase in 4.2 scores cannot be made, I suspect it was a result of heightened student engagement through the digital humanities project. As students were allowed to choose the topics they studied, they were genuinely interested and invested in what they were doing. Most students exceeded project requirements, doing more readings than required, attending events and exhibitions on campus, and conducting interviews. The extended timeframe with scaffolding allowed for individual and collective reflection on topics that build class cohesion, and they produced creative, original, and insightful work using Story Maps, as evidenced by the examples below.
Project by Claire Wakefield on Haitian paintings
Claire participated in extracurricular activities beyond project requirements to do research including:
- Attending KU’s “Unexpected Caribbean” Symposium
- Visiting the exhibition “Ties that Bind: Haiti, the United States and the Art of Ulrick Jean-Pierre” at the Spencer Museum of Art.
Project by Tom deZutter on political figure Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
- Tom did archival research and read more sources than were required, even finding original letters online.
- He was able to use Story Maps to document Ho Chi Minh’s many movements between Vietnam, France, China, the US, UK, and the Soviet Union.
- For this particular project, Story Maps worked really well, as the other students noted.
Project by Alex Cateforis on the Senegalese movie “Touki Bouki”
Alex participated in extracurricular activities to do research, including:
- Attending the “Unexpected Caribbean” Symposium at KU.
- Going to a film screening of a Senegalese movie organized by the Department of African and African American Studies.
- Interviewing Mamadou Dia, a Senegalese filmmaker who was the inaugural Hall Center Interdisciplinary Scholar in Fall 2018.
Overall, the digital humanities project appeared to have had the effect desired, particularly due to student engagement and interest in the assignment. While there are some aspects of the project that I would change in future iterations of the course (making group work optional, allowing for the use of platforms other than Story Maps, revising the rubric, etc.), the project as a whole was successful in engaging student interest in the course material and developing their critical thinking skills as they researched their topics and made comparisons across contexts in their groups. The project allowed for the development of a deeper level of knowledge and understanding about students’ topics and course content than had previously been the case for the final presentation in the class, and creating an assignment that engaged their interest yielded dividends in students pursuing extracurricular opportunities beyond what was required to learn about their topics.
While there are a number of factors that could have resulted in the increased 4.2 scores among the Fall 2018 group, my suspicion is that the depth of knowledge and insight they gained doing the project was reflected in their final products and therefore resulted in higher ratings against the departmental rubric. I plan to keep the project in future iterations of the course, with some adjustments. One concern that may be addressed in the future is the reason for the lower score on the fourth element of the rubric, which assesses students’ ability to engage with and assess other cultural materials and be able to relate it to their own value assumptions and beliefs. Admittedly, in a class conducted in French and entirely on francophone countries, there is no intentional direct teaching on most students’ home country of the U.S. Nonetheless, more could be done to encourage reflectivity on this front, just as students are prompted to consider similarities or differences on their topic in relation to the geographic contexts of their group members.
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All of the content in this introductory course (ITAL 301) on Italian literature and textual analysis (readings, assignments, tests, etc.) is linked to the study of other-cultural material. Conducted in Italian and generally consisting of about a dozen Italian majors/minors, this course prioritizes the analysis of literary texts of different genres (short stories, a novel, poems, and a graphic novel), as well as film and film reviews. The course aims to develop students’ abilities as critical readers of other-culture texts and also to heighten their understanding of social beliefs, norms, regional differences, socio-economic tensions, and gender issues in different periods of Italian history. ITAL 301 is intended to function as a bridge course for more specialized work on Italian literature and cinema; it takes students beyond the reading of simple and short texts, and it fosters a better understanding of different genres and writing styles. In other words, it provides students with the tools to approach a variety of texts.
In class meetings, students are often asked to identify cultural differences when learning about Italian culture. For example, in Fall 2016, students analyzed Natalia Ginzburg’s epistolary novel The City and the House (1984), set in both Italy and the United States, and they investigated gender issues, friendships, relationships, and family dynamics in both countries. The following year, the main module focused on the coming-of-age novel by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (2007). In that work, students explored issues of class diversity, as well as the social and economic situation of the city of Naples. Following the female protagonists, class discussions also focused on gender roles in 20th-century Italy, framing this analysis in the context of the students’ value assumptions.
Written assignments include essay questions on exams, which require the analysis of characters, language (word choice, tone, register), settings, and themes in the selected works. Such close readings promote a better understanding of the richness of language, subtleties and nuances of expression, and certain values that are embodied in characters’ actions and words.
In Fall 2018, we adopted different reading materials that seemed to work even better than in the past. The main module of the class focused on a classic novel of 20th-century Italian literature, Beppe Fenoglio’s Una questione privata (A Private Affair, 1963), set during WWII and the anti-fascist partisan war, also known as the Italian Resistance (1943-45). The popular novel L’amica geniale, adopted in 2017, proved to be too long for an adequate close reading, while a more defined historical focus helps students to contextualize the literary works studied and to develop a continuous discussion around the same events. Reading guides as well as in-class and out-of-class assignments focus on the defining moment in Italian history embodied by the Resistance, also regarded as the birth of the Republic after a 20-year-long Fascist regime.
While students are more familiar with American participation in World War II, they seem to know very little about the Italian Civil War which started in the summer of 1943. Thanks to the adoption of new reading material, thematically related to the anti-fascist war, students are now developing a higher degree of cultural awareness by examining literary works that provide different and at times opposing views on those dramatic years in the nation’s history. By comparing disparate points of view from within the Italian context as well as appraising differences between Italian and American experiences of the Second World War, we are able to investigate the notion of historical memory while relating it to the ways in which literature can be used to promote national identity.
In the past two semesters, we have evaluated students’ achievement of Core Goal 4.2 by using the departmental 4.2 rubric to assess their responses to final exam essay questions that require textual analysis. For instance, in Fall 2017, a portion of the final exam required students to speak comparatively about a poem by Kansas-born Edgar Lee Masters titled “Dr. Siegfried Iseman” and the lyrics of the song “Un medico” by celebrated Italian songwriter Fabrizio De André, which is a free literary adaptation of the same American poem. Students were asked to describe the main themes of the texts and how they were developed differently. In 2018, a portion of the final exam was devoted to a comparative discussion of the representation of WWII. Students were asked to explain how the course changed their perspective on Fascism and their knowledge of this time period. In their answers, students consistently confirmed the novelty of this angle about a war that redefined the world as we know it.
The 4.2 rubric category that students have consistently scored lowest in is their ability to demonstrate understanding about the topic, followed by their ability to reflect on and analyze material from outside the U.S. One complexity of this course context that may contribute to students’ lower scores in the first category in particular is that they have the added challenge of receiving the cultural knowledge in a language that they have not yet mastered; then students must attempt to encode their understanding of that cultural knowledge again into a language that they have a limited proficiency in.
One challenge that has consistently arisen in ITAL 301 is that there is a very broad range of proficiency levels represented in the class. While students are constantly immersed in Italian language and culture, it may be the case that not all students have yet developed the language skills necessary to fully access the cultural knowledge that the texts and course content impart. Conversely, some students may be understanding the material and developing in other-culture knowledge and yet not be able to express that level of nuanced understanding, given the limited range of their ability to write in Italian.
The accomplishment of Goal 4.2 presents unique challenges in the context of a language course. On the one hand, the learning of another cultural perspective is implicit in the task of language learning, and all of the texts students encounter in this course further their understanding of Italian perspectives. Yet the task of 4.2 requires that we explicitly assess students’ learning in this area, which can present a challenge given the language-related goals of the course. The class is conducted in Italian, with the focus on the close reading and discussion of Italian literature. If students’ productive language skills are not developed enough to express the cultural content of the course (or possibly their receptive skills not developed enough to even access it), the question becomes how to accomplish and assess 4.2 in a way that is compatible with the other goals of the class, linguistic or otherwise.
At the heart of this issue is the question of how Goal 4.2 is being operationalized, or should be operationalized, in a course such as this conducted in a language other than English. That students are gaining some level of cultural knowledge in their study of Italian language and literature is a given. The greater challenge is understanding the expectation of Core Goal 4.2, particularly its comparative component, and knowing how to meaningfully teach for and then assess it. While the departmental rubric is used in the course and has provided some insight into student learning, students’ true understanding of cultural knowledge is more than likely obscured by their language proficiency. While I hesitate to create an assessment in English for 4.2 given that the class is intended to advance Italian proficiency, this may be one way to more accurately assess the development of students’ cultural knowledge.
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The recertification process detailed in this portfolio has led to several important realizations about our teaching. In the last year, this has prompted dialogue among the four members of the Core Goal 4.2 Working Group in our department, as well as concrete changes to how we teach both those courses with an attached Core Goal 4.2 and those without. This holistic reevaluation of our teaching process is supported by what we feel to be one of the strong points of our rubric – the fact that it asks us to think about learning as a process of acquiring content knowledge and building it into transferable cognitive skills of progressively higher order, culminating in the metacognitive application of course material to previously existing value assumptions. While our teaching, broadly conceived, may focus to a greater or lesser extent on cultural competency, it is always our ultimate goal to provide students with the necessary critical thinking skills to develop authentic and informed opinions on the information they encounter and to apply these judgements sensitively and compassionately both inside and outside of the classroom. As such, our work in the last year has prompted us to think seriously about ways to do this better and more creatively in all our courses.
In the spring of 2018, Professor Ziethen, Professor Ceccagnoli and I (Christine Bourgeois) participated in CTE’s Best Practices Institute (BPI) with the goal of refining specific elements of some of our most frequently offered courses in the hopes of helping students better meet the final and most difficult component of the rubric. Professor Ziethen is working to deepen engagement with course material through the creation of a digital humanities project integrated into FREN 431. Professor Ceccagnoli is addressing the obstacles to critical analysis posed to students as they make the transition from language learning to literary study in his ITAL 301 course by exploring new and creative methods to engage students in discussion both in class and online. For my part, I am in the process of integrating structured journaling assignments into my FREN 430 course with the goal of promoting more regular individualized exchange between instructor and student while also linking the process of disciplinary writing with the formation of personal opinions.
Contact CTE with comments on this portfolio: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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