Oral Proficiency Learning Outcomes and Curricular Design


  • Benjamin Rifkin PhD

    1. University of Wisconsin-Madison
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      Benjamin Rifkin (PhD, University of Michigan) is Professor of Slavic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.


Abstract: In this article, the author describes the place of the oral proficiency guidelines as the only nationally recognized criteria for the assessment of communicative competence in speaking across languages and discusses learning outcomes studies based on the proficiency guidelines. The guidelines are now 20 years old, but learning outcomes are not significantly better than they were before the guidelines were published—suggesting that two decades of guideline-influenced instruction have failed to have an impact on student learning. However, data suggest that students need more hours of language exposure and instruction than a college curriculum can provide in order to attain advanced-level oral proficiency. Nonetheless, the guidelines are a curricular framework that helps teachers prepare students to break through to advanced level performance, even if this occurs after completing the college-level curriculum.