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The University of Alabama

Course Title: Introductory Spanish I, Introductory Spanish II, and Intensive Review of Elementary Spanish
Contact: Alicia Cipria

Status: This project originated as part of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) program, 2003 – 2006, and was successfully completed.

Descriptive Materials: In addition to the project description below, links for this project include a final project report, which describes the impact of the redesign on student learning and student retention; final cost savings achieved; techniques that most contributed to improved learning and reduced costs; and, an assessment of future sustainability.

Project Plan:
University of Alabama plans to redesign three courses that are part of its Introductory Spanish Program: Introductory Spanish I, Introductory Spanish II, and the Intensive Review of Elementary Spanish. During the 2003-2004 academic year, these courses served a total of 1046 students in 45 sections. Each course meets five hours per week. The courses are taught primarily by graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), who are supervised by a Spanish Language Coordinator. Instructional technology assistance is provided by a Language Resource Center.

The university faces an immediate and acute need for more seats in the Introductory Spanish Program; large numbers of students have been unable to enroll in the traditional format. Additionally, the Department of Modern Languages and Classics wishes to continue an enthusiastic shift away from more traditional language teaching and learning to more fully communicative and innovative methodologies. At the same time, the department wants to employ cost-effective strategies to meet increased demand for Spanish instruction.

The redesign of the Introductory Spanish Program will use the Replacement Model to substitute a portion of class time with pedagogically tested and sound instructional technology components. The quality of teaching and learning will improve significantly due to a variety of factors, including adaptation and implementation of materials and ideas already used successfully by the core Spanish associates. Better technology tools will release teachers from mundane tasks both in and outside of the classroom, thereby freeing up valuable time for them to be more creative and effective teachers. Shifting learning responsibilities toward students will enable students to be more active and engaged. Finally, more thorough and consistent feedback to students will enhance their experience by targeting and solving both real and potential problems in a timelier manner.

Consistent, thorough and meaningful assessment of student learning will be accomplished through various methods. Automated feedback and computer grading of vocabulary and grammar exercises, as well as self-tests will show students their progress on a continuing basis. The introduction of standardized oral proficiency testing three times per semester will measure increases in learning achieved through individual practice and one-on-one work with Spanish tutors. All results of student assessment will be compiled and analyzed throughout the implementation process for comparison with traditional learning outcomes. Since full implementation is not scheduled until the fall 2005 semester, the university will have both the time and means to conduct assessments of traditional course learning outcomes for such comparison.

As a result of the replacement of one class hour per week for Introductory Spanish I and II, and of two hours per week for the Intensive Review of Elementary Spanish, the university will be able to accommodate 349 more students in Spanish courses each year without increasing spending, a 33% enrollment increase. These changes, which will significantly reduce the cost-per-student for each course from $245 to $183, are made possible by increasing the student load for a GTA from three to four sections per academic year. Due to the replacement of a portion of class meeting time with online components, the teaching load will increase but the amount of time GTAs must spend on the courses will remain the same. The redesign will enable the university to offer 60 sections of Introductory Spanish courses, an increase of 15 sections over current offerings. The resulting additional sections will meet more of the actual demand. Moreover, the department will be better prepared to accommodate further increases in demand due to the projected increase in the overall student population of 6% per year.

 

 

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