Academic Affairs Committee
April 9, 2007
is a bulletin from the Academic Affairs Committee concerning proposed
curricular actions. Please forward any comments or concerns in the
next 10 days to the AAC chair, Teri
Doerksen, G04C Belknap Hall, ext. 4588.
Action Notice: English and Modern Languages Gen Ed Proposal
GENERAL EDUCATION PROPOSAL
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND MODERN LANGUAGUES
Among the changes made to the previous General Education requirements
was to merge English and Modern Languages into one block. Students
who opted to take two language courses to fulfill the newly approved
languages and literature requirement were allowed to take these
courses in two different languages.
The Department of English and Modern Languages proposes that students
who opt to fulfill their language and literature requirement with
modern languages be required to take two consecutive courses of
the same language. It also proposes that students who have studied
a language in high school be strongly encouraged, if not required,
to begin with the second or the third semester of the language,
not with the first.
The present system serves nobody well.
The large majority of students who take one semester of a language
have already had two or more years of study in that language in
high school. They make an easy “A” but learn little,
if anything, because they have already mastered what must be taught
in the first semester. They complain of being bored.
Students who have not studied the language in high school, “true
beginners,” are frustrated to be mixed in with experienced
students who do not need to work to learn what is being taught.
They complain that the system is unfair to them.
Neither the experienced students nor the true beginners learn
enough in one semester to even approach being functional in the
language. And since they know they will not be continuing with
another semester, many of them do not work hard to learn the language,
especially toward the end of the term.
First-semester language courses have huge enrollments, so students
do not receive the degree of individual attention the language
faculty yearns to give them, is trained to give them. Second-
and third-semester classes are much smaller. Experienced students
would learn more in these more advanced classes and true beginners
would learn more in the resulting smaller beginning classes. All
students would be better off.
If after a few weeks a professor discovers that an experienced
student in a second- or third-year language class is genuinely
not able to cope with the level of language being taught, it is
comparatively easy to switch that student to a lower-level class,
because the student can probably pick up the easier material that
had been taught in the first weeks. But it is difficult to move
a bored experienced student into a higher-level class after the
semester is underway because the student will then have missed
the review of concepts usually done at the start of each semester.
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