ERIC Identifier: ED321586
Publication Date: 1990-07-00
Author: Byrnes, Heidi
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington
Foreign Language Program Articulation from High School
to the University. ERIC Digest.
Although by no means a new issue, the articulation of foreign language
programs has recently received particular attention. Broadly interpreted,
articulation refers to the well motivated and well designed sequencing
and coordination of instruction toward certain goals. Thus, the concept
of articulation recognizes that educational programs must attain their
goals in the most effective way given the educational setting within which
students learn a certain subject.
WHAT ARE URGENT REASONS FOR BETTER PROGRAM ARTICULATION?
The greater demand for better articulated foreign language programs
is related to pervasive social, public policy, and professional considerations:
- the need for high levels of language competency in an increasingly competitive
global marketplace; - America's expanding involvement with speakers of
major, yet traditionally less commonly taught languages (e.g., Chinese,
Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Korean), whose rules of instruction are less
developed and that are particularly difficult for native speakers of English;
- accountability in public education; - diverse goals in language instruction
that must be accommodated seamlessly; - language instruction reaching a
diversity of students for whom instruction must be optimized.
WHAT FORMS DOES ARTICULATION TAKE?
A well-designed curriculum is articulated along three axes: vertical
articulation refers to the continuity of a program throughout the length
of the program; horizontal articulation targets the coordination of any
curriculum across the many or several classes that are simultaneously attempting
to accomplish the same objectives; and interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary
articulation address the capability of a second language as a school subject
to associate with other disciplines in the curriculum (Lange, 1982).
Vertical articulation, the core of the issue, refers to how specific
learning goals, however determined, can be attained. The first task is
to assure that specific goals have been stated in ways that translate into
realistic curricular and performance objectives. Horizontal articulation
is primarily a matter of supervision and coordination within a given program.
Finally, interdisciplinary articulation is the principal means of mainstreaming
foreign languages into American public education, and accepting the instruction
of these languages as a necessity rather than a luxury.
WHAT ASPECTS OF THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS DOES ARTICULATION ADDRESS?
The articulation of foreign language programs between high schools and
universities must consider the major perspectives of educational administration
and practice at each of these distinct educational levels, and must ease
the transition between these levels in order to achieve positive outcomes.
Goals. What are the goals of instruction in terms of performance objectives?
One of the important outcomes of the American Council on the Teaching of
Foreign Languages' (ACTFL) work with proficiency testing has been a better
understanding of realistic expectations regarding learners' functional
language ability, particularly in the area of speaking (ACTFL Proficiency
Guidelines, 1986). The current interest in communicative language teaching,
however, does not amount to an exclusionary focus on oral language. Both
the short-term and the long-term goals of a well-articulated curriculum
must seek a balance among all four modes of language use. Short-term goals
must respect the fact that comprehension (reading and listening) precedes
production (writing and speaking) and that there is no skills parity. Long-term
goals must acknowledge that literacy, the ability to deal extensively with
literate language, is, as in native language instruction, the ultimate
goal of foreign language instruction.
Length of Study. Length of study may be the single most important factor
in the ultimate attainment of language proficiency. This realization has
led to multi-year language requirements at the secondary level and previous
language instruction in elementary and middle schools. However, improved
language capability is not guaranteed by learning language at an earlier
age. It can only be obtained with uninterrupted, well-sequenced, long-term
The Learners. Articulation is not merely an issue of length, or of adding
new instructional materials to those traditionally taught. Program articulation
requires rethinking the entire instructional sequence, in terms of the
different learners engaged in language learning at various stages of educational
and second language development. For the instructional levels in question,
styles and strategies for learning are likely to shift from holistic, meaning-driven,
uniquely situated ways of comprehending a language to analytical, function
and form-connecting, differentiated approaches for comprehending and using
Syllabus and Curriculum Design. These shifts in learning strategies
and learner styles must be reflected in curriculum and syllabus design.
Overall language proficiency is not acquired linearly, but in a cyclical
fashion, with global, meaning-driven stages alternating and interacting
with analytical, form-driven stages. Similarly, though speaking remains
a valid curricular goal, it cannot receive primary emphasis. Evidence from
educational and second language acquisition research, and the legitimate
academic goals of universities, require an integration of all modes in
a differentiated fashion right from the start (Swaffar et al., 1990).
Materials Development. Because materials are often the backbone of a
curriculum, materials for the articulated curriculum should reflect insights
from second language acquisition research, as well as the need for longer
instructional sequences. In that regard, change is particularly called
for at the post-secondary level where sequentially arranged materials are
Outcomes Assessment. Articulation is inherently tied to assessing the
attainment of goals, in summative testing as well as at different stages
of the curriculum. Such assessment will reflect a delicate balance between
national norms and valid local considerations. In any case, though testing
is likely to continue as group testing using standardized tests, tests
must reflect the new functional goals in all modes of language use (e.g.,
previous knowledge vs. no previous knowledge for reading and listening
comprehension tasks), and the insights from adaptive testing using computers
that calibrate learners' abilities as they perform language tasks.
ARE THERE EXAMPLES OF EFFECTIVE ARTICULATION BETWEEN SECONDARY AND
South Carolina presents a grass-roots model of curriculum articulation
that arose under the pressure and challenge of newly imposed admissions
requirements to state-supported colleges and universities (Mosher, 1989).
In 1985, state college admission requirements in South Carolina were revised
to include two years of foreign language study at the secondary level.
In response to the new requirement, the South Carolina Council on Foreign
Language Placement and Curriculum (SCCFLPAC) was organized to coordinate
secondary and postsecondary efforts to address the requirement, and to
provide a means for cooperation and discussion among secondary and postsecondary
foreign language departments and teachers. The council set the following
goals: 1) the establishment of a bilateral statement of recommended measurable
student outcomes for each of four years of foreign language instruction
at the secondary level; 2) the establishment of a rationale for a continuous
foreign language program in secondary schools through a minimum of four
years of study; 3) the preparation of groundwork toward the establishment
of a common format for placement procedures at secondary institutions;
4) and the establishment of a mechanism for communication with high schools
concerning the fulfillment of expectations.
Despite certain limitations (financial, lack of interest by some institutions),
great progress has been made in providing a means of communication between
secondary and postsecondary teachers. The sharing of ideas and plans, and
the willingness to allow constructive criticism by other colleagues has
lead to the transplanting and adapting of ideas (Mosher, 1989).
WHAT ADMINISTRATIVE AND PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?
Class Size and Tracking. Among the biggest challenges for an articulated
curriculum is the need for separate tracks and for less rigid standards
for class size. As learners enter foreign language instruction at different
stages and, consequently, attain different levels of language proficiency,
high schools and universities will have to establish different tracks.
Otherwise, the gains to be obtained from extended sequences cannot be realized.
The frequent practice of placing students with extensive previous instruction
into beginners' classes is not only educationally unsound, it is also fiscally
irresponsible. It is the fiscal connection of not providing tracked sequences
that should be raised vigorously when smaller classes are denied because
of alleged fiscal responsibility toward an educational program.
Even without tracking, upper levels of instruction are likely to attract
fewer students. Therefore, the justifications for minimum enrollment must
be altered in light of the expanded sequence of instruction: Articulation
necessitates overarching considerations rather than isolated solutions.
Assessment. Articulated instruction is directly tied to assessment.
The most noticeable discontinuity has traditionally occurred between secondary
and post-secondary levels. Whether implemented as summative testing at
the end of secondary foreign language instruction, which is likely to be
the more manageable solution, or as mandatory placement testing at the
point of entry into post-secondary schooling, assessment is crucial for
an articulated curriculum that seeks instructional gains. Extensive professional
discussion involving all levels of instruction, and leading to broad consensus
on learning outcomes and their most appropriate assessment, remains to
be accomplished, although noteworthy efforts are beginning to appear (Mosher,
1989). Ultimately, new national tests should be devised.
Teacher Training and Staffing. With longer instructional sequences,
teacher training and staffing decisions become more differentiated, in
terms of pedagogical expertise as well as language proficiency standards.
The need for foreign language educators with different kinds of certification
inherently points to restructured undergraduate and graduate programs in
colleges and universities.
Collaboration. Program articulation acknowledges that high school graduates
continue their education in their home states as well as elsewhere. Collaboration
and cooperation are most likely to be achieved within a state educational
system. Such efforts can provide important examples for solutions. In addition,
national professional organizations must work at the general framework
within which articulated curricula are to be implemented, for the sake
of students who attend colleges outside their home state and, more importantly,
for the sake of an American society that counts competency in a foreign
language as part of any general education.
"American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (1986). ACTFL
Proficiency Guidelines." Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.
Lange, D. (1982). "The problem of articulation. In Higgs, T.V. (Ed.).
Curriculum, competence, and the foreign language teacher. ACTFL Foreign
Language Education Series, 13." Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 210 908)
Mosher, A.D. (1989). The South Carolina plan for improved curriculum
articulation between high schools and colleges. "Foreign Language Annals
Swaffar, J., Arens, K., & Byrnes, H. (1990). "Reading for meaning:
An integrated approach to language learning." Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice
FOR FURTHER READING
Byrnes, H. (1990). Issues in foreign language program articulation.
In Silber, E.S. (Ed.). "Critical issues in foreign language education."
New York: Garland Publishing.
Muyskens , J.A., & Berger, P. "University and secondary school articulation:
Four steps for creating a resource network." (ERIC Document Reproduction
Service No. ED 222 071)
Wilson, J.A. (1988). "Foreign language program articulation: Building
bridges from elementary to secondary school. ERIC Digest." ERIC Clearinghouse
on Languages and Linguistics. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED
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