What have you learned from your project about the principles and practices of good teaching that you would like to share with your colleagues?
Thanks to the ACTFL OPI workshop, I have learned how to administer and rate official Oral Proficiency Interviews, and to accurately assess my students’ proficiency in Spanish. The OPI does not evaluate the production of specific grammatical structures, but rather it looks at what the students can do with the language. It focuses on the tasks that they can perform (ask questions, tell a story, describe, etc.), and the context and content of their language production (formal or informal settings, daily life, special fields of expertise, etc.).
To me, the workshop served as a refresher/reinforcement of the pedagogical principles governing second language acquisition today, which are based on communicative proficiency, rather than on grammatical accuracy. Finally, since the student learning outcomes for all the language courses taught at my department are written according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, attending this workshop helped to further understand the expectations that we have of our students at the end of each course.
In what way(s) did this project help your students gain new knowledge or skills?
Being able to administer and rate Oral Proficiency Interviews will considerably improve the reliability of the assessment of the Spanish program. Students take an OPI when they declare a major, and they take a second one during their graduation semester. Having an ACTFL certified person administer the interviews will make our assessment more consistent, and therefore more valid and reliable. Furthermore, thanks to the pre and post-test design, we will be able to give our incoming students constructive feedback regarding what they need to work on during their time with us so that they reach the desired level of proficiency. Finally, since this project is closely tied to our assessment practices, the results of the assessment process will inform us of how to improve our program and our teaching practices, which will lead to students reaching a higher level of proficiency.
In what way(s) has your grant-funded project changed the way that you teach?
I have already seen the effects of this project in my teaching practice. I have included three OPIs in my Spanish 202 (Intermediate) class. The first two are volunteer and not graded; they are only used to provide students with feedback regarding their level of proficiency at the start and middle of the semester. In this way, I can track their progress, and they can work on those aspects in which they are weaker. In the last OPI, students must demonstrate the level of proficiency (intermediate-mid) that is specified in the student learning outcomes section of the syllabus.
During the first round of OPIs, I found that students have a genuine interest not only in finding out what their level is, but also in learning how to improve that level. This personalized feedback has been, without a doubt, the greatest asset of integrating this activity in the course. ?In addition, each 20-minute interview is a learning opportunity in itself and it helps students to improve the most anxiety-provoking of the four skills in a language, speaking.
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