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Language Center Events in September

Students interested in pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish are invited to attend one of two orientation sessions to learn more about this certificate and and ask questions.

  • Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in Jones 15
  • Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in Jones 15

The events will begin with general information about the Certificate program from Spanish Advising representatives. They will summarize the six Required Steps for the Certificate, including the ACTFL exam of advanced-level proficiency, which is the capstone of the certificate program, and discuss how the PACE program will provide an opportunity for Certificate students to take the ACTFL exam at a significantly reduced rate.

Next, Language Testing staff will help students take the self-assessment and interpret their results. Students will also have the opportunity to demo the speaking section of the ACTFL exam.

Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the Certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

Language Center to Administer Language Flagship PACE Project

The Language Center is pleased to announce that the University of Minnesota has been awarded a federal grant from the Language Flagship. The Proficiency Assessment for Curricular Enhancement (PACE) project will provide an integrated program of language assessment and continual curricular improvement for students of French, German, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish with a goal of helping move all students to higher stages of language proficiency.

The PACE project has three components: assessment, professional development and sustainability. A cross-section of students will be assessed at various stages of language development from first year to upper-division courses and study abroad. A systematic professional development program will provide opportunities for language program instructors to work with national and international experts in workshops and to collaborate with one another to improve curricular and extracurricular opportunities available for students. A sustainable self-assessment program will help students understand and articulate their own competence and will empower them to be responsible for their own second language learning.

PACE is funded through a federal Language Flagship grant and administered by the Language Center with the support of CARLA and the six CLA language programs. It began August 1, 2014, and will run for two years with a goal of sustaining a culture of student-centered assessment, self assessment, and curricular improvement long into the future.

Other recipients of the Language Flagship Proficiency Initiative awards are the University of Utah and Michigan State University.

March IALLT Webinar - Language Assessment at Brigham Young University

Friday, March 28, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. in Jones 117

Russell Hansen and Harold H. Hendricks, from Brigham Young University, will present a Webinar describing the evolution of placement and diagnostic language assessment into online tools. Please register for this event.

Description: Language assessment has a long history at Brigham Young University where large numbers of students require language assessment at many levels. This webinar will describe how BYU has created facilities, procedures and assessments to address these needs for both students and faculty. We will briefly describe how placement and diagnostic testing is provided online, then describe the evolution of the College of Humanities Testing Center, its function, procedures, and operation. We will also describe how large numbers of OPI and OPIc tests are administered daily and report on the migration of the Foreign Language Achievement Testing service to an online system available to the world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. in Jones 10
Presenter: Dr. Karin Wilking from Northwest Vista College

This webinar is a good follow-up to the February 28 "Yes They Can" workshop. Everyone is invited to attend even if they did not attend the workshop. Registration is not required.

Important Events for Language Students This Week

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. in Jones 10

Presenter: Dr. Karin Wilking from Northwest Vista College

This webinar is a good follow-up to the February 28 "Yes They Can" workshop. Everyone is invited to attend even if they did not attend the workshop. Registration is not required.

The Language Center and CARLA co-sponsored ACTFL Winter 2014 Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level concludes this Thursday at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Jones 117. You may bring a bagged lunch.

March 6, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Advanced into Superior

What are the key characteristics of Superior level proficiency? What should I be working on with my language learners to help them move out of the Advanced level and into the Superior level? Understand how the interpretive and presentational modes provide invaluable opportunities to develop advanced skills and learn specific strategies for developing, practicing, and assessing communication to guide learners into the Superior range of performance.

Presenter: Fernando Rubio

Summary of March Language Center Events

Spanish Advanced-Level Certificate: Second Orientation and Workshop

Students interested in pursuing the Spanish Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency are invited to attend an orientation session on Friday, March 14, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 15 to learn more about this Certificate and and ask questions.

This is the final Certificate event of Spring 2014. Graduating seniors interested in completing the certificate this academic year are strongly encouraged to attend.

The event will begin with general information about the Certificate program from Spanish Advising representatives. They will summarize the six Required Steps for the Certificate, including the ACTFL exam of advanced-level proficiency, which is the capstone of the program.

Next, Language Testing staff will help students take the Self-Assessment and interpret their results. Attendees should be aware that, rather than being a practice session for the ACTFL exam, the Self-Assessment is an opportunity for students to actively reflect on their ability to use Spanish. This can help them determine if they are ready to succeed on all the four sections of the ACTFL exam. It is also one of the six Required Steps necessary to complete the Certificate, and is essential for writing a successful Critical Reflection Essay.

Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the Certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

The Language Center and CARLA co-sponsored ACTFL Winter 2014 Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level on Thursdays at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Jones 117. You may bring a bagged lunch.

February 27, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Intermediate into Advanced

What are the key characteristics of Advanced level proficiency? What should I be working on with my language learners to help them move out of the Intermediate level and into the Advanced level? Learn how to expand and extend language learners' interpersonal and presentational performance while also considering the importance of developing advanced interpretive skills. This webinar examines strategies to develop, practice, and assess communication to guide learners into the Advanced range of performance.

Presenter: Stephanie Dhonau

  • March 6, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Advanced into Superior

The Language Center and CARLA co-sponsored ACTFL Winter 2014 Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level on Thursdays at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Jones 117. You may bring a bagged lunch.

February 20, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Novice into Intermediate

What are the key characteristics of Intermediate level proficiency? What should I be working on with my language learners to help them move out of the Novice level and into the Intermediate level? Learn specific strategies for developing, practicing, and assessing communication to guide learners from Novice into the Intermediate range of performance. Focusing on what a student "can do", this webinar will include practical applications to help you guide students into the Intermediate range.

Presenter: Arnold Bleicher

  • February 27, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Intermediate into Advanced
  • March 6, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Advanced into Superior

ACTFL Webinar Series Begins: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level

The Language Center and CARLA co-sponsored ACTFL Winter 2014 Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level begins this Thursday: February 13, 2014 at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Jones 117. You may bring a bagged lunch.

How does Performance point toward Proficiency? Instruction is always looking ahead to the targeted proficiency level, while supporting and developing learners' performance through a controlled context. Presenters will provide an overview to the proficiency levels of Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior and will explore the implied instructional emphases that will help language learners move from one level to the next.

Presenters: Arnold Bleicher, Stephanie Donau, Fernando Rubio

  • February 13, 3014: Overview: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level
  • February 20, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Novice into Intermediate
  • February 27, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Intermediate into Advanced
  • March 6, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Advanced into Superior

Spanish Advanced-Level Certificate: March Orientation and Workshop

Students interested in pursuing the Spanish Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency are invited to attend an orientation session on Friday, March 14, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 15 to learn more about this certificate and and ask questions. There will also be an opportunity to take the self-assessment instrument. Testing and Advising staff will be on hand to help students interpret their results.
Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

Language Center Services Tuesday Morning

On Tuesday, January 28, 2014 The Language Center Jones Classrooms and Multimedia Lab will open at 12:00 p.m. due to morning class cancellations. The Main Office will open at 7:45 a.m. as usual. Please email elsie@umn.edu if you have general questions and langtest@umn.edu if you have testing-related questions.

ACTFL Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level

The Language Center and CARLA are co-sponsoring the ACTFL Winter 2014 Webinar Series: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level. Please join us on Thursdays beginning February 13, 2014 at 12:20-1:20 p.m. in Jones 117. You may bring a bagged lunch.

How does Performance point toward Proficiency? Instruction is always looking ahead to the targeted proficiency level, while supporting and developing learners' performance through a controlled context. Presenters will provide an overview to the proficiency levels of Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior and will explore the implied instructional emphases that will help language learners move from one level to the next.

Presenters: Arnold Bleicher, Stephanie Donau, Fernando Rubio

  • February 13, 3014: Overview: Guiding Language Performance to the Next Level
  • February 20, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Novice into Intermediate
  • February 27, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Intermediate into Advanced
  • March 6, 2014: Guiding Language Performance through Advanced into Superior

Until recently, the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) was the only central tool available for language students to evaluate their language skills at the intermediate level, and there were no options for students who had surpassed that level. Today though, the Language Testing Program is working with language program developers to diversify the tools available to students, and to reach students whose language is not taught at the University, and those who have achieved higher levels of proficiency.

The LPE remains the most important tool available. In addition to tests already in place for Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and a second version of the Spanish LPE Reading and Listening sections, other new assessments are in progress. Development is underway for Finnish, Korean, Somali, and Swahili LPE's this semester. A new form of the German Reading LPE will be piloted in November.

Beyond the LPE, the following new assessments have been piloted, will be piloted or are now actively administered to students: the Spanish Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI), the Individual Language Assessment (ILA) and several Self-Assessment instruments.

The Spanish SOPI

A SOPI is a computerized version of an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered in a Digital Language Lab (DiLL) to a class of students simultaneously. The primary advantage of a SOPI over a traditional OPI is that the time required to administer the test is significantly reduced. It would take at least six hours to administer OPIs to a class of 24 students; with a SOPI, this can be done in less than one class period. Of course, all of those exams still need to be rated!

"In delivering an interview via computer, the SOPI may shift the center of power more toward the students; they may feel more ownership of their half of the (simulated) interaction, and thus feel more confident about speaking."     -Gabriela Sweet, assessment developer and lead trainer

Students are provided with a real-life context to speak in Spanish, recording their responses in the lab using DiLL. Student feedback was generally positive after the February pre-pilot. Students commented that the SOPI is more efficient and less stressful and that they enjoyed using the SOPI in lieu of the traditional face-to-face format.

The SOPI's delivery, in capturing extended student speech, reduces the possibility of a difficult-to-rate interview, which can occur in face-to-face interviews when learners may not get the opportunities they need to demonstrate the full range of their language abilities. Developers hope to use the SOPI assessment with College in the Schools (CiS) students in the future, and it is possible to adapt this assessment for other languages as the prompts are in English.

As with the OPI, SOPI tasks are designed to target a wide range of linguistic functions and real-world topics at the student's target level of proficiency. The SOPI is also more standardized compared to the OPI because it systematically facilitates a ratable sample of student speech. Students naturally tend to speak in complete sentences in the SOPI, which may not happen during the live interview when they can appropriately respond in sentence fragments. Since the SOPI response is at sentence-level, it may be easier for raters to analyze.

A six-person team carried out the SOPI pilot. This team included Spanish 1004 coordinator Sara Mack, Spanish 1004 instructors Marilena Mattos and Stephanie Hernández, Spanish Testing Coordinator Joanne Peltonen, Language Center Testing Development Coordinator Gabriela Sweet and Language Center Technical Coordinator Diane Rackowski. Additional input and support was provided by Language Center Director Dan Soneson.

The ILA

Did you know the Testing Program now provides assessment in languages from Amharic to Zulu?

CLA students who have achieved proficiency in a language not offered at the University of Minnesota have a new way to demonstrate their proficiency and complete the second language requirement. The ILA is a writing and speaking test that is adaptable for any modern language. It tests to the intermediate level, which is the level expected after two years of university language study. The test is rated by native or near-native speakers of the particular language who are trained and guided by Language Testing Program staff.

Since January 2013, a total of 32 students have been approved to take ILAs in 16 languages from around the world, including major languages spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, but rare on our campus, and dialects specific to a particular village. The most common languages assessed are Vietnamese and Oromo.

For many languages, it can be challenging to find a qualified rater. Most raters are affiliated with the University as faculty, staff, graduate students, or former students. They are almost always native speakers with some prior linguistic or educational experience. Some of the raters have few other opportunities to use their language skills professionally, although they may use the language in their daily life.

Stephanie Treat, who has assisted with the hiring of most raters, said:

"We often get requests to rate languages that I've never heard of or know little about. We've had fun researching languages and scouring campus and beyond to find potential raters. The University of Minnesota is a global community, and with persistence, we can usually find someone currently connected to campus who is pleased to share his or her expertise."

In order to conform to the CLA mandate for proficiency in a second language, ILA raters are trained using guidelines that align with those used to evaluate student performance in languages that are taught at the University of Minnesota and that have an LPE. Before ILA raters begin the evaluation process, they are made familiar with both the instrument and the target level for production. The rater-training process is very hands-on; criteria are analyzed and then applied. The rater works closely with the rater trainer. Raters are guided through the process using a rater-training module.

The Language Testing Program plans to create a video to facilitate rater training, as well as refresher training, for raters who have completed evaluations at an earlier date but would need a quick refamiliarization to ensure that they apply the criteria in the same way to a new student's ILA. "We've been fortunate to work with some very talented people," assessment developer and lead trainer Gabriela Sweet said.

"It's fascinating to work with someone on a language with which you, the trainer, have very little experience, to see them point out clearly how students demonstrate the target levels. It has been a wonderful experience for us, in the Testing Program, to see how students in a variety of languages are able to show their proficiency in alignment with the College of Liberal Arts student learning objectives. I think it's also a privilege to be able to learn from colleagues in diverse languages; in hearing what students say and reading what they write in the ILAs we begin to see that the world is, in some ways, quite small... we're all working toward many of the same goals."     - Gabriela Sweet

Students interested in completing the CLA second language requirement via ILA exam should begin by contacting their advisor. CLA Student Services approves requests first, and then students contact the Language Testing Program to schedule an exam. There is a $30.00 fee assessed to assist with the cost of rater compensation. Students who pass both sections of the exam complete the CLA second language requirement.

Self-Assessment Instruments

Self-Assessment instruments help students become more aware of their own language development and describe their level of proficiency. This type of instrument requires little time to administer and students can take it from home at their convenience. Students can take the same assessment more than once and track their language development over time.

Two Self-Assessments for Spanish are currently in development: one intended for Spanish 1004 students and another which assesses higher-level proficiency for students pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency. Developers are also creating new self-assessments for German, Italian, and French.

Students can use these self-assessments for feedback on performance in a language and to better prepare themselves before taking the LPE or other exam. In a pilot study in Fall 2013, many students found the self-assessments helpful and noted that routine self-assessment would be helpful in the future. The test developers will be very pleased to share more information about these instruments once they have been piloted and results have been analyzed.

SOPI, ILA, Self-Assessments

Developers in the Language Testing Program and the academic departments have been hard at work developing and improving language assessment instruments to create a more personalized, modern, and enjoyable testing experience for students. Undergraduate students themselves have played an important role by piloting these assessments and providing valuable feedback to developers. These new tests are designed to accurately reflect students' abilities and to provide them with information they can use as they continue to develop their proficiency.

Type of Assessment Benefits / Improvements Development Timeframe
New Language Proficiency Exams (LPE's) Korean and Somali were added as new LPE exam options. Adding these languages provides students with more possibilities in assessing language proficiency. Korean: Will pilot Reading in Spring. Listening & Writing are ready to go!
Somali: Will pilot Reading, Listening, and likely Writing this Spring
New German Reading Test Developed another form in addition to Form A. Form B is up-to-date; the readings from Form A were 20 years old. Better quality photos were also added. The Reading test will be piloted this Fall semester
Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI) Spanish 1004: Extended time limit for thinking and speaking. Bigger, better resolution photos. Piloted in Spring 2013
Individualized Language Assessment (ILA) One format for all languages as a test of Speaking and Writing. Allows students flexibility in composing responses about real-world situations. The test has been administered to 16 students with many more expected in the future. The long-term goal is to develop multiple versions of the test.
Self-Assessment Instruments Spanish 1004: Students can demonstrate their second language proficiency before taking final proficiency tests
Spanish Advanced Level: To help students determine their proficiency level. Intended for students pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency.
Spanish 1004: Pilot was completed in Fall 2013
Spanish Advanced Level: Piloted with Spanish students December 11, 2013
German: Pilot 5 sections in Spring 2014
Italian: Pilot in two section Spring 2014
French: Pilot in eight sections Spring 2014

Spanish Advanced-Level Certificate Orientation and Workshop

Students interested in pursuing the Spanish Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency are invited to come to an orientation session on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 35 to learn more about this certificate and and ask questions. There will also be an opportunity to take the self-assessment instrument. Testing and Advising staff will be on hand to help students interpret their results.

Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

A second Orientation and Workshop will be held on March 14, 2014, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones Hall room 10.

Advanced-Level Spanish Certificate Option Approved for Students

adv_cert.gif

The Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish program was recently approved as an option for students to have their language proficiency formally recognized beyond the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE). This is a great option for students of Spanish whose abilities extend beyond the intermediate level and who want to have their advanced-level proficiency formally recognized.

The Advanced-Level Certificate option is open to all undergraduate University of Minnesota students, regardless of their major or college. The certificate program will be administered jointly by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the CLA Language Center.

The LPE can assess language proficiency skills up to the intermediate level. The Advanced-Level Spanish Certificate program will be able to assess skills up to the advanced level. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) guidelines determine advanced-level proficiency. According to these guidelines, students with advanced-level proficiency do not necessarily perform like native speakers. However, they have reading, writing, listening and speaking skills sufficient enough to navigate daily situations, such as routine school and work requirements and can be generally understood by native speakers.

One of the goals of the Certificate Program is to provide students with an internationally-recognized marker of proficiency once they achieve advanced-level proficiency. Another goal is: "To encourage the integration of language and culture learning across students' academic and professional lives, and empower students to be responsible for their own second language acquisition."1

There are several steps required for completing the Advanced-Level certificate, including: passing the Spanish LPE, passing two approved upper-level courses taught in Spanish, completing an intensive Spanish language immersion experience, taking a self-assessment, completing a critical reflection essay, and passing the ACTFL advanced-level exam. Please see the Advanced-Level Certificate informational website for a full list of requirements.

Students interested in learning more about the certificate are encouraged to attend a Certificate Orientation and Self-Assessment Workshop on January 22, 2014 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 35. Information about the certificate is also available at http://z.umn.edu/spancert.

Language Center Services Today

On Monday, January 6, 2014 the Language Center will be very marginally staffed in Jones Hall today. However, all teams will be pleased to provide service remotely. Please email elsie@umn.edu for general requests and information, and langtest@umn.edu for anything related to language testing, and someone will respond to you promptly.

December 11, 2013, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Jones 35

The Spanish and Portuguese Studies department and the Language Testing Program are collaborating on a new resource to help students assess their own Spanish language abilities, called an Advanced-Level Self-Assessment Instrument. It is intended for Spanish majors and other students in higher-level courses to help them understand and describe their own abilities.

The Advanced-Level Self-Assessment Instrument will be piloted for the first time on December 11, 2013. We are looking for Spanish students to help us improve the instrument by coming to a workshop, completing the assessment, and providing feedback to the developers. We are particularly interested in receiving feedback from Senior Spanish major students.

All students who help pilot the assessment will receive a $20 gift certificate to their choice of the University Bookstore or Bordertown Coffee as a thank you for their participation.

Registration of interest is required. Space is limited, and priority will be given to Senior Spanish major students. If you are interested, please submit this interest form by Friday, December 7, 2013. You will be informed the following Monday if we are able to accommodate you at the event. If we are not able to accommodate you at this first pilot, don't worry, there will be additional opportunities to take the self-assessment during Spring 2014.

Please keep in mind that this is a pilot of the assessment instrument. Your participation will help us to refine the instrument and make it even more useful to advanced-level Spanish students.

CLA-OIT System Maintenance Window on Saturday: Websites Unavailable

Saturday, October 19, 2013 8:00 AM - 2:00 p.m

Due to the CLA-OIT maintenance window, some web sites and services will be unavailable Saturday morning and afternoon, including the following:

If you have questions about CLA-OIT's maintenance work and website availability, please contact the department directly 612-624-4357 or 4help@umn.edu.

Testing Staff Changes

The Testing Program is pleased to welcome Mary Norman back full time as the Coordinator for French & Italian, German, Scandinavian & Dutch, and Russian. She has been on partial leave for the past two years.

Sherry Scarborough, who has most recently been filling 75% of Mary's position, is leaving the Testing Program to move to Chile with her husband, Dennis. Sherry will teach English online and work as an English-language consultant while continuing her research in Chilean phonology. As Dennis is from Chile, the couple looks forward to being reunited with family and friends, as well as enjoying summer twice this year!

Sherry started at the Language Center as an undergraduate in the TandemPlus Program. She eventually moved to the Testing Program, and continued as a Testing Coordinator after her graduation. We wish her and her family the best as they embark on this new phase of their lives!

The Language Testing Program Welcomes Anna Olivero-Agney

Please welcome Anna Olivero-Agney to the Testing development team. Anna has been an Italian instructor at the French and Italian Department for the past seven years teaching Italian at beginning, intermediate and upper levels. She holds a Laurea in Modern Foreign Languages from the University of Turin, Italy and a MA in Education, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota. She is a native of Italy and prior to her move to the US, Anna lived in Germany for four years refining her skills in the German language.

In addition to teaching, Anna co-created the Italian LPE reading section and revised the listening section of the Italian Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) gaining familiarity with test item development. In her new position, she will be assisting Gabriela Sweet in the completion of the German LPE revisions, the piloting of Somali and Korean LPE, and the Self-Assessment project.

Language Center Staff Updates

Please welcome Caroline Vang back to the Language Center. She has rejoined the department in the position of Classroom Support / Professional Development Specialist. Caroline assisted with classroom support coordination during Spring 2013. Since then, she has completed her MA in the ESL program, with a research topic related to Japanese heritage learners. She taught ESL full-time this summer, and plans to combine her work at the Language Center with teaching Fall 2013.

We also have a new Assistant Office Coordinator: Rachel Sherman Johnson. Rachel is new to the Language Center, but not to the university. Rachel just returned from South Korea, where she has been working as an EFL instructor. She is a PhD student in CIDE. She previously worked at this university's Learning Abroad Center, and also served as the Coordinator of Asian Studies for the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.

We also wish congratulations and farewell to Jenny Boe and Meghan McFadden, who have completed their degree or program and are moving on to teaching Fall 2013. Jenny received her MA in ESL, and Meghan completed the SLC M.Ed initial licensure program for teaching K-12 French and ESL. Both Jenny and Meghan have been with the Language Center since they were undergraduates, and we are fortunate to have had them in our department for so long, and in so many roles. Jenny has served as an undergraduate Office Assistant, a clerical employee, and both an Assistant Office Coordinator and a Classroom Support Coordinator. Meghan started out as a Classroom Support Assistant, and has provided leadership in almost every area at the Language Center since, serving as a Classroom Support Coordinator, interim Lab Coordinator and part of the Testing development team.

Congratulations to the 2013 SELP Winners

Did you know that the Language Center employs approximately twice as many undergraduate student staff as continuing non-student staff? Our undergraduate student staff provide primary assistance to students and instructors in public areas like the Main Office and Multimedia Lab, and also provide support to smaller teams like the Dev Studio and TandemPlus. The Language Center could not run without our dedicated and skilled undergraduate team members.

The Student Employee Leadership Program (SELP) provides an opportunity to recognize student employees who go above and beyond expectations in their work at the university through the annual SELPie awards for Outstanding Student Employees. The 2013 winners from the Language Center are:

  • Abdulkarim Maalin: Testing Assistant and Somali LPE Developer
  • Francisco Salinas Vega: World Language Day Assistant
  • Jessica Troyan: Classroom Support Lead Student
  • Henry Wahl: Main Office Lead Student
  • Alaina Witt: Dev Studio Assistant and AV Developer

Testing Staff Changes

The Language Testing Program will have several staff changes for spring semester. We are very pleased that Mary Norman is returning part-time from leave and will resume her role as Testing Coordinator for French & Italian, German, Scandinavian & Dutch, and the less commonly taught languages. Sherry Scarborough will fill the remainder of Mary's position. Sherry has worked with the Testing Program for the past two years in other roles.

Gabriela Sweet, who filled Mary's position last fall, will return to her regular position as Test Development Coordinator. We are very grateful to Gabriela for her dedication and willingness to take on different roles.

Spanish 1004 LPE: Reading, Listening and Writing Now Completely Online

The Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) is integrated into the fourth-semester courses of many languages. Students in fourth-semester Spanish take the reading, listening and writing portions of the LPE during regular class periods, and beginning Fall 2012, they are the first language classes to take the three parts of the LPE online. Until now, the LPE reading and listening have been taken online as the final exam. However, the LPE writing test was still on paper in the students' classroom. The writing section is rated by instructors, whereas the the reading and listening sections are computer-graded.

Last week all students in Spanish 1004, 1014, and 1044 came to Jones Hall during a regular class period to take the LPE writing test online in one of the computer labs. This change is possible due to upgrades to the online LPE delivery system that allow students' exams to be linked to a specific course section. This means for example, that all exams taken by Spanish 1004-006 students can be linked for grading purposes. When the new system is fully implemented, instructors will be able pull up student exams by section through the grader interface and evaluate the individual tests.

The LPE Changes with the Times

The Language Testing Program now offers computerized Language Proficiency Exams (LPEs) in more languages than ever before. Tests currently in development feature culturally-rich authentic source material such as clips from modern Korean film, a look at the Somali-speaking community in the Twin Cities, and much more!

scene from Korean film
Example of culturally authentic material that could be used in LPE

Computerized LPEs were established in 2001. Hundreds of language students take them each semester to fulfill the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) language requirement and as a gateway to advanced language study. The mission of the Language Testing Program has remained constant: to accurately assess students' ability to listen, read, write and speak in the target language.

However, the program has changed and grown since 2001. The LPE is constantly being improved and the pace of modernization and innovation has picked up in the last few years. The Language Testing Program has focused on two new goals since 2010:  to serve as many language students as possible and to improve the students' exam experience by including contemporary and diverse media from the target language culture.

Before 2010, a computerized test was available only for students of French, German and Spanish and a few related languages. Students of Asian and other less commonly taught languages were limited to paper-based tests, or had no exam options at all.

Tests are now in place for Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Italian, Japanese and Russian, and there is a second version of the Spanish LPE. In addition, development is underway for Finnish, Korean, Somali, and Swahili. All of these tests were made possible through an influx of funding from Title VI and other sources, along with a committed effort on the part of the Language Testing Program and the individual language programs to work together tirelessly and collaboratively. Once all of the newer exams are completed, the LPE will be available for almost all non-Classical languages offered in CLA and will reflect the diversity of languages available at the University of Minnesota.

As new tests are created, the Language Testing Program and the developers aim to bring new depth to the student experience and to conform more closely to current trends in second language pedagogy with increased emphasis on culturally-rich contexts. The new exams retain the original LPE goal of validating the work of students in their four semesters at the university by providing an opportunity to show what they can do with the target language in a communicative context.

However, they are not just tests - they are also learning opportunities for students, highlighting something new about the culture, history, or people of the target language through the use of authentic materials. Students may learn, for example, how traditional holiday celebrations have changed over time as societies become increasingly multicultural. There are also explorations of how gender roles have shifted and how these shifts impact language as well as cultural practice. One exam features an innovative, and perhaps surprising, environmental initiative. Another explores the lyrics of a popular song from a YouTube video.

The piloting process for new LPEs often includes a survey of student opinions about the test. Reactions to the new authentic content have been overwhelmingly positive. Test-takers have said that they were surprised and pleased to see that they had no difficulty reading texts that they might encounter on a daily basis in the target culture.

Here are some sample student reactions:

It made me realize the potential of a real-life usage for the language I've been studying.

I liked that the readings were all things I'd have to figure out in real life. It was a very pleasant experience to read articles from Japan.

The Korean LPE also offers a significant technological innovation: the incorporation of authentic video segments into the listening section. The test includes five diverse clips from modern Korean film showing natural and interesting interactions between native speakers. The use of authentic video is an excellent platform from which to assess listening proficiency, since it ties closely to the construct of listening in a communicative context, where meaning is negotiated based on a variety of input sources. The Korean listening exam has already been piloted once, and the response to the test was enthusiastically positive. Students reported that they especially enjoyed the video segments and felt confident that they could understand content overall, even though there may have been a few words unfamiliar to them.

The Somali listening section will include some authentic video segments as well. This exam stands out because it is set locally and explores the lives of immigrants integrating with the larger community as they share their language and culture - a reflection of the changing face of the Twin Cities.

Since 2010, new LPE creation has been led by Gabriela Sweet, who has worked tirelessly to organize a rotating team of developers, coordinate with multiple departments and stakeholders, and keep all projects on time and moving forward. The Korean, Somali, and Swahili development teams also include Language Center AV Developer Alaina Witt, Item Reviewers Xinyi Wu and Meghan McFadden, and LC Technical Coordinator Diane Rackowski.

The current language-specific developers are:

Finnish: Dan Karvonen, Jaana Viljakainen
Korean: Hangtae Cho, Yunseong Cheong
Somali: Said Ahmed, Abdulkarim Maalin
Swahili: Angaluki Muaka

Much of the funding for Korean development has been provided by a CLA InfoTech Tools for Discovery Grant. Title VI funding managed by the Institute for Global Studies has provided some travel and development grants for Somali and Swahili.

The Language Testing Program and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures plan to present the new Korean listening section featuring authentic video later this winter. The U of M language community will have an opportunity to see how the classic LPE format can be modernized with technology to provide students with an educational, culturally-rich, and even enjoyable testing experience.

Congratulations to the Language Testing Team!

The Language Testing Program team of Monica Frahm, Mary Norman, Joanne Peltonen, Gabriela Sweet and Sondes Wooldridge has won a 2012 CLA Outstanding Service Award. The work group was recognized for supporting the testing needs of over 7200 students each year, as well as for its role in the development of new computerized Language Proficiency Exams (LPEs) for critical and high-enrollment languages.

Thanks to the Testing Program staff, the full LPE development team, and the support of language instructors and departments, CLA students of Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Russian now have access to the same computerized proficiency exams as students of French, German and Spanish. In addition, there is a second version of the Spanish test available, and development is underway for computerized tests in Hmong, Finnish and Korean.

You can read more about the new LPEs at Elsie Speaks. The Outstanding Service Awards will be presented at the CLA Staff Appreciation Ceremony on January 24.

CLA Language Center Open House

Tuesday, September 27mmlab.jpg
1:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Jones 110

SPY on your students' on-line, in-class work!
GATHER up to 30 students in one high-tech classroom!
SPRAWL OUT on our brand-new comfy lounge furniture!

Come see the newly renovated walk-in Multimedia Lab and digital language labs, and learn more about Language Center services and facilities. Beverages and desserts will be served. Optional tech training and tours will be available.

While you enjoy coffee, cider and cookies, learn more about the following:

  • Our completely renovated walk-in Multimedia Lab, Jones 135
  • Our renovated classrooms, Jones 10 and 30
  • New LPEs for critical and popular less commonly taught languages
  • And more!

New Computerized LPEs for Critical and High-Enrollment Languages

This year, hundreds of students of critical and popular less commonly taught languages will have access to the same computerized proficiency exams as students of French, German and Spanish. Exams for the following languages have recently been developed: Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and a second version of Spanish.

In late summer 2010, Monica Frahm, Testing Director, received an initial Title VI grant from the Institute for Global Studies (IGS) to begin development of new computerized Language Proficiency Exams (LPEs) for critical and high-enrollment languages. Prior to this major development project, computerized tests were only available to students of Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish. Since summer 2010, additional Title VI grant funding has been received, as well as funding from other sources, to continue development in multiple languages.

The LPE is one method that students can use to complete their second language requirement, and this test has several other purposes as well. It can be used to place students into upper division courses, and some language programs integrate the test into their curriculum and use it as their class final exam. Students who pass the LPE receive a text line on their transcript endorsing their language proficiency, and they can receive other documentation of language proficiency upon request.

There are four sections of the LPE: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. The LPE Development Team has created tests for the first three sections. The Speaking section for all languages is generally administered as a one-on-one Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), and it was not revised through this project. In most cases, development of the Writing and Listening sections went faster, and they were ready for piloting first. The Reading was generally completed last, as it is the most time-intensive section to develop.

In the past, LPEs were developed over the course of years and were often the product of a single, deeply committed instructor. The current project was different, because it formed a development team of instructors working on multiple languages simultaneously, under the direction of a single coordinator. The team, called the LPE Development Team, was able to collaborate and share resources. They also worked on a similar development schedule and with the same level of technical assistance and resources. This process allowed development to progress very quickly, while maintaining a high level of supervision and quality control.

Development has not always been easy, and with different schedules and the requirements of different funding sources, few developers have been able to stay with the project from start to end. However, the contributions of developers from different backgrounds, and with different skill sets, may have resulted in better tests for students.

All of the LPEs feature authentic materials, such as culturally-appropriate readings and audio recorded by native speakers, often in multiple dialects. The tests target the appropriate language level, and the test items cover a range of tasks, topics, and linguistic functions. The teams created the tests using a common test blueprint and are consistent with the programming used by other LPEs.

In addition to tests developed for languages listed above, the paper-based Hmong LPE has been incorporated into a computerized format for two modalities, and the third is under development this semester. There is also a new Finnish LPE in progress.

The LPE Development Team has been led by Coordinator Gabriela Sweet, who for over a year has corralled a rotating team of developers and juggled multiple languages, cultures, schedules, and deadlines. In addition to managing the development team and keeping the entire project on target, she has conducted stakeholder sessions with departments, taken advantage of any opportunity for piloting, managed to be friendly and cheerful, and amazingly enough, consistently greeted everyone in their native language.

The other core team member has been Lindsey Lahr, AV Tech, who has recorded and edited the listening sections, as well as completed all the multimedia work. Lindsey has been invaluable to the project in providing additional reviews and keeping teams on track and on schedule. Her creativity has given the new Reading exams, in particular, a very professional look.

Diane Rackowski, Technical Coordinator, has made an important contribution to the team's work by providing data after each piloting session, sometimes as quickly as twenty minutes after the session finished! Having these data enabled developers to analyze the performance of individual items and the test as a whole, and to then make informed decisions toward revision.

This project has been possible because of a large team of developers and instructors willing to review tests and contribute to piloting. A full list of developers is included at the bottom of this article.

As part of the piloting process, the team has surveyed students on their reactions to the tests. Students have reported that they enjoy taking the tests on the computer. From a survey after one of the new Reading tests: "I really like the way this test was set up and, in general, I feel the vocabulary was that which we had exposure to." And another comment: "I like the variety: some of the readings are articles, and some are actual pieces of literature."

Language instructors will have an opportunity to learn more about the the new tests at the upcoming Language Center Fall Open House, scheduled for Tuesday, September 27 at 1:30 PM.

LPE Development Team

Core Team:
Gabriela Sweet, Coordinator
Monica Frahm, Principle Investigator
Lindsey Lahr, AV Tech
Diane Rackowski, Technical Assistance

Language Developers:
Arabic: Hisham Khalek, Sondes Wooldridge
Chinese: Ka Po Chow, Hao Ji, Liu Ya, Quan Jiahong, Andie Fang Wang, Zhen Zou
Finnish: Dan Karvonen, Jaana Viljakainen
Hmong: Maxwell LeYang
Italian: Cristina Cocchi, Anna Olivero-Agney
Japanese: Hiroe Akimoto, Michiko Buchanan, Sachiko Horii, Liu Ya
Russian: Sachiko Horii, Kateryna Kent, Marina Posse, Maria Schweikert
Spanish: Adriana Gordillo, Joanne Peltonen, Gabriela Sweet, Naomi Wood
Cross-language validation team: Kateryna Kent, Xinyi Wu, Xi Yu

Special Thanks to:
Instructors from the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures; Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch; Department of French and Italian; Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Department of Spanish and Portuguese

The Language Center and CARLA are sponsoring two spring 2011 ACTFL webinar series. These six webinars will be presented in Jones 35. All U of M language instructors and instructors in training are welcome to attend. Registration is not required. A discussion may follow some webinars, and this will be scheduled later. The schedule may need to be adjusted based on the availability of content.

Series One: Learner Progress on the ACTFL Proficiency Continuum
Presenter: Chantal P. Thompson, Professor of French at Brigham Young University (Utah)

Determining Where Our Students are on the ACTFL Proficiency Scale
Friday, April 1: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
How can we gauge more accurately where our students are on the ACTFL scale? What matters is not what they know about the language, but what they can actually DO with it! How do we pinpoint their level within the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced ranges? This webinar will familiarize teachers with the assessment criteria of the ACTFL scale, and enable them to analyze and rate excerpts from actual Oral Proficiency Interviews. Instructional implications and insights will also be addressed.

Moving Students from Novice to Intermediate
Friday, April 8: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
This webinar will address various strategies to help students move along the proficiency spectrum in more efficient ways. Among those strategies: integration of functions, content, accuracy and text type in course design and lesson planning; immersion in the target language; a higher-order learning approach to all elements of the language; a proper balance between structured and creative practice, and empowering students through pre-speaking activities.

Moving Students from Intermediate to Advanced
Friday, April 29: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
How do we get students to go beyond the minimal answers they typically give? Using observable performance as our gauge, we will explore strategies and activities that enable students to cross more effectively the critical border from Intermediate to Advanced. The strategies introduced in Webinar 2 will take on a new dimension when applied to the difficult transition toward Advanced-level proficiency, where elaborations are paramount.


Series Two: Assessments to Measure and Build Language Performance
Presenter: Paul Sandrock, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Creating Interpretive Tasks Targeting Language Levels
Friday, April 15: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
Interpretive communication is not an exercise in translation, but rather a focus on understanding the main idea and subsequent layers of details. Examine how to set up tasks in which students demonstrate how well they understand what they read, hear, or view. Expand your repertoire of how students can demonstrate their understanding without relying on production of the target language.

Designing Presentational Performance Tasks and Their Rubrics
Friday, May 6: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
Presentational communication occurs in many ways, formal and informal. Get practical tips for designing assessments of presentational skills targeted at different levels of proficiency. Then experience a process for designing rubrics that provide students with feedback outlining how they can improve their performance.

Developing Communication Skills Through Interpersonal Performance Tasks
Wednesday, May 11: 12:20 - 1:20, Jones 35
Interpersonal communication involves an exchange of information or ideas with both partners actively negotiating meaning. Discover effective ways to set up tasks so that students focus on getting their message across and are motivated to give their strongest performance. Learn to design feedback mechanisms that reward what really counts in developing interpersonal communication skills.

ACTFL proficiency assessment workshop held over Spring Break

The Language Center sponsored a three-day workshop on language proficiency assessment over Spring Break led by Dr. Robert Vicars, an ACTFL certified trainer. The first two days focused on oral proficiency, and third day on writing. This professional development opportunity was offered primarily to support instructors of languages for which a new LPE is in development. A total of 33 instructors attended the workshop, representing the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. The workshop was very well received, and some attendees expressed interest in discussing implications for the instruction and assessment of language classes. Anyone interested in participating in a follow-up event should contact Stephanie at treat002@umn.edu.

From the Director, Fall 2010

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As students repopulate our campus with the onset of a new semester, the Language Center continues to evolve to support the teaching and learning of languages at the University. As you walk through Jones Hall, you will notice quite a bit of activity and some significant changes this semester.


A New Classroom

In response to increasing class sizes we have remodeled Jones 15. We have replaced the rows of booths with a more open floor plan, placing tables along the perimeter of the room and two islands of tables in the center. We have effectively divided the space into quadrants. This way, we can accommodate up to 28 students simultaneously, working individually on brand new iMac computers, or convening either in small groups or four medium groups to work collaboratively on tasks. In addition to the new floor plan, we have also installed a new instructor desk that includes the standard equipment - iMac computer with MacDiLL software, video and audio players, as well as a document camera. In design, the remodeled classroom resembles our most popular classroom, Jones 30, with its open and accessible floor plan. Please come by to take a look and book your class in the new space. Let us know what you think!

TandemPlus / Multimedia Lab Coordinator

We also welcome a new staff member this semester. Kate Clements has joined us to serve as both the Coordinator for the Multimedia Lab (Jones 135) as well as the Coordinator for the TandemPlus program. Kate is no stranger to the technology available at the University and in the Language Center. While earning an MA in the ESL program here at the University, she served as the IT Fellow for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. In addition to assisting individual instructors, she spearheaded the transition of Spanish language courses from WebCT Vista to the Moodle course management system. Since receiving her degree, she has taught in the Minnesota English Language Program, often meeting with her classes in the computer classrooms in Jones Hall. She has shared some of her experiences with technology by presenting several workshops in the Language Center's iTeach workshop series. Her involvement with the TandemPlus program includes participating as a student with a native Spanish speaker in the Face-to-Face program, as well as recommending her students in the MELP program to participate in order to develop their English conversational skills. We are delighted to have Kate with us. Please welcome her to the Language Center.

Testing Program Grant

Our Testing program has received funding as a part of the Title VI grant administered by the Institute for Global Studies to develop new Language Proficiency Tests. Overseen by Monica Frahm, the project is directed by Gabriela Sweet who brings many years of test development and administration to the task. Their group is in the process of developing test items for Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and a second exam in Spanish. Temporarily located in Jones 110F, they are working at a fever pitch to produce these materials by the middle of November.

CLA-OIT Support

The CLA IT Fellows program has also undergone changes this fall. While previously the program provided up to 20 graduate fellows who were assigned to specific departments to help instructors with technology issues, the program will now rely on 15 undergraduate students to perform work such as developing Moodle sites for courses and working with multimedia. Instructors will work directly with 5 graduate students to develop concepts, who will then pass on the construction responsibilities to the undergraduate students. All language departments and the Language Center will be served by one person now, and we are extremely fortunate that the program has hired Lindsey Lahr to be the contact person for our area. Lindsey has been the IT Fellow for the Language Center and the Department of Asian Languages and Literature for the past two years. She has been working in our Development Studio in Jones 127 and helping instructors to digitize a variety of media as well as to make and edit professional level audio recordings. She will now work through the CLA-OIT office. If you have a request for Lindsey, the best way to contact her is through the CLA Help Desk. You can send an email to help@cla.umn.edu or call 4-HELP.


As the relatively new Director of the Language Center I am delighted to be working here at the University of Minnesota with such a dedicated staff and with such excellent facilities and support. Our mission is to promote and support the teaching and learning of world languages. Technology is an excellent tool to accomplish this mission. Our state-of-the-art facilities and equipment provide both access to information as well as tools to help students complete interesting and engaging multimedia projects. Our staff is extremely knowledgable about the possibilities of technology and continues to explore a wide variety of emerging technological applications that connect students with authentic materials and cultures, and with speakers of the languages that students are learning. We support students and instructors with technology assistance, and we also serve as a place for exploring the nature of language and second language acquisition itself. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that the Language Center offers.

Wishing you all the best for a successful and productive fall semester,

Dan Soneson

Staffing changes in the Testing Office

We are pleased to announce some staffing changes and additions in the
Testing Program for fall semester. Joanne Peltonen, the Spanish Testing
Coordinator, will reduce her appointment to 75% through December 18 so
that she is available to conduct proficiency evaluations for Spanish-immersion students in the public school system. To fill this void,
Gabriela Sweet will join the Testing Program staff part-time for fall
semester. Gabriela has taught Spanish at U of M and has worked for CARLA
as an assessment coordinator. Welcome, Gabriela!

by Monica Eden, Director of Testing


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