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Language Link

March 2002


Previous issues

This publication was prepared with funding from the National Library of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of NLE, OERI, or ED.


Feature Article

Foreign Language Teaching Methods Online: ACTFL's New Course

Sally Morrison, ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics

Are you looking for a way to learn about the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning? Are you a student preparing to teach a language or an inservice teacher looking for a methods course for endorsement or licensure? Or would you like to update your knowledge of second language acquisition and instruction for academic credit toward re-licensing or for national board certification? An online foreign language teaching methods course recently developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and Weber State University could be the answer you're looking for.

With funding from a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Foreign Language Teaching Methods Online course at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, made its debut as a pilot course in 2001. Co-directed by Stephen Levy of ACTFL and June Phillips of Weber State University, the project to develop the course received help from methods teachers around the country. Eileen Glisan (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Mari Haas (Columbia University), JoAnn Hammadou (University of Rhode Island), Liz Hoffman (Nebraska Department of Education), Scott McGinnis (National Foreign Language Center), and Tony Spanos (Weber State University) all worked together to develop the course over a two-year period.

"The motivation for the course was to create a model foreign language methods course for prospective foreign language teachers that is firmly grounded in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning and immerses students in theory, practice, and the research," says Steve Levy. "It would also demonstrate the use of technology as a means of delivering the instruction as well as a means of enhancing instruction in the FL classroom."

According to Tony Spanos, "The reason for developing this course was to make available alternative ways for teachers to become certified or endorsed to teach foreign languages. Many, many language teachers don't have a university nearby where they can go to take a methods course, so this online course is another means and way to help them become certified or endorsed."

Development of the course took place between October 1999 and October 2001. After identifying the initial Program Development Team, the team met at Weber State University where the writing of the course modules was begun. Team members continued working at their home institutions and corresponded via e-mail. The team was also trained to use the WSU Online Program, the chosen course delivery method.

"Developing the course was a real treat for each one of us professionally given the make-up of our team. It was a real pleasure to rub shoulders with some of the best methods teachers in the country and to share and exchange important pedagogical and methodological information with each other," says Tony Spanos. "Having to learn all about online delivery and technology was a great learning experience in and of itself and often times we found ourselves completely baffled, confused by all of this, but at the same time we marveled and were amazed at how technology has developed to a point that the traditional 'grounded' courses are every bit as viable, engaging and interactive in cyberspace."

Description of Course

This course is intended for upper division undergraduates or graduate students and is organized around 12 modules. Each module includes an introduction, three to four themes, content (readings, video, or audio), assignments, and class discussions via technology. Modules included subjects such as Reflections and Goal Setting, Standards for Foreign Language Learning, Designing Curricula and Planning Lessons, and Assessing Performance in Language Classrooms.

The course revolves around the following six objectives for the students:

The course was developed with the help of Distance Learning and Online personnel at Weber State University. Students are given access to the course after they register for the WSU Online Program. The technology requirements needed for the course are outlined online.

The course will be offered again this summer and the following fall and spring semesters.

Assessment and Interaction

Students in the online course are assessed by way of exams, projects, and a final teaching portfolio. These portfolios consist of short responses to assigned readings, longer responses that require reflection and supporting material, and projects. Projects include the development of lessons plans and the creation of an instructional unit. Graduate students are required to complete two additional assignments.

Many people are concerned about the type and frequency of interaction with both the instructor and the other students when taking an online course. The ACTFL and WSU course created opportunities for both teacher-student interaction and student-student interaction in a number of ways.

Instructor-student interactions took place through online discussions and email. Students interacted with each other via online discussions and message board meetings that were required as a participation grade for the course. Voice chats with partners were also required during the development of projects. The course also included guest lecturers with whom the students were able to chat online.

Student Feedback

For the first year, the course has been offered on a pilot basis with an average of about 10 students enrolled. Tony Spanos says, "We will never offer the course to more than 15 students at a time because of the rigor and time commitment involved, and also because we really want to interact and insure that every student gets the attention and assistance that he or she needs. Bigger is not always better!"

Students who have taken the course are from all over the United States and from other countries. The accessibility of the course is particularly helpful for those students whose program of study does not include a foreign language methods course. According to Steve Levy, "One university paid WSU for a student who was unable to obtain a foreign language methods course at their university because of lack of enrollment. The student took the course and was able to transfer the credit from WSU to the home university."

The initial student feedback has been generally good. Tony Spanos says, "I can say that the majority of the students have been satisfied with the course. They are very happy with the timely feedback they get from the instructors. In most cases they feel the instructor's feedback was helpful and meaningful. Almost all of them agree that the course was clearly organized and easy to navigate and satisfied with the technology used in the course. Most agree that the lessons, assignments, and activities motivated them to learn the course material and increased their understanding of this material."

Steve Levy noted that, "Although the course does have a timeline prepared by the instructor, it is a self-directed type of instruction and some students had difficulty in keeping up with the others in the course."

Tony Spanos concurs. "Almost all of [the students] feel that too much was required, and that the course was much more rigorous than they expected. Almost all of them have expressed the importance of staying up to date by doing bits and pieces of the course every day and not leaving everything until the weekend."

To learn more about how to take this or other online courses from Weber State University, visit WSU Online. Find other online courses, distance education programs, and distance education resources through the Chronicle for Higher Education


ERIC/CLL gratefully acknowledges Steve Levy, Tony Spanos, and Scott McGinnis for their valuable assistance in writing this article.


Journal Review

In each issue of ERIC/CLL Language Link, we feature one or more of the journals that we abstract and index for Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE), the ERIC database's index to education-related journals. In this issue, we profile System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics.

System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics

System is an international journal devoted to the applications of educational technology and applied linguistics to problems of foreign language teaching and learning. Published quarterly, System includes articles about the teaching and learning of all languages as well as the study and teaching of English as a second or foreign language. The intended audience of System is researchers and practitioners in the fields of educational technology, applied linguistics, and language teaching and learning.

The latest issue of System (Vol. 30 No. 1) includes an article on an online bilingual corpus for the self-learning of legal English and another on Chinese students' perceptions of communicative and non-communicative activities in EFL classroom. Other recent issues include articles on computer-mediated communication and group journals (Vol. 29 No. 4), teachers' perceptions of on-line rater training and monitoring (Vol. 29 No. 4), and technology-enhanced learning environments (Vol. 29 No. 4).

System regularly publishes special theme issues on timely topics in the field of educational technology and applied linguistics. Recent special issues include Expanding Perspectives on Language Testing in the 21st Century (Vol. 28, No. 4, G. Fulcher, Ed.), Metacognitive Knowledge and Beliefs in Language Learning (Vol. 27, No. 4, A.L. Wenden, Ed.), and Language Teachers: New Roles, New Perspectives, (Vol. 26, No 1, R. Oxford, Ed.).

Each issue also includes a book review and a congress calendar; the calendar is also available online. Articles from System are available online, and it is possible to register for a free online sample copy of the journal.

You can search online for articles from this and other journals indexed in Current Index to Journals in Education.

You can recognize journal abstracts in the ERIC database by their "EJ" prefix followed by a six-digit number. ERIC abstracts can be read at ERIC centers in libraries in the United States and overseas, as well as on the Web.

Subscriptions to the journals indexed in ERIC can be obtained from the publishers. Individual articles from many journals are available from the article reproduction service ingenta: 800-296-2221;,


News Corner

News from ERIC/CLL

Immersion Directory Update

During the course of 2002, ERIC/CLL will be updating the Directory of Total and Partial Immersion Language Programs in U.S. Schools. We will be contacting all programs listed in the current directory to request updated information. Please do not send us updates at this time; we need to collect your information in a specific format so we ask that you wait until you hear from us.

However, if you know of a foreign language immersion program that is not listed in the current directory, we would love to hear about it. Please send contact information for the program (contact person, telephone number, email address, postal address) to:

Ms. Lisa Biggs
Immersion Directory Candidates, ERIC/CLL
4646 40th Street NW, Washington, DC 20016

Foreign Language Teaching: What the United States Can Learn From Other Countries

This new publication reports the findings of a three-month exploratory study that collected information about foreign language education in 19 countries. It includes a discussion of eight core methodologies, strategies, and policies that language educators in other countries consider essential to success and offers practical recommendations for how these findings can inform U.S. foreign language education policy and practice. To order, visit the CALstore.

New ERIC/CLL Digests

Digests are short reports that synthesize current research, review the literature, describe teaching methods and program models, and offer practical ideas for teachers and others. The following ERIC Digests have been added to our Web site:

To order free print copies of ERIC/CLL Digests by mail, enclose one self-addressed, stamped (57-cent) business-sized envelope for every five Digests ordered. Mail to:

User Services, ERIC/CLL
4646 40th Street NW
Washington, DC 20016-1859

New Resource Guides Online

Resource Guides Online provide descriptions of and links to resources on a variety of topics in language education. The following Resource Guides were recently added to our Web site.

News from the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE)

NCLE recently published the following new resources:

ERIC Q & A: "Issues in Accountability and Assessment for Adult ESL Instruction"

NCLE Fact Sheets: See the What's New section of the NCLE Web site for links to four fact sheets that overview important issues in adult ESL practice: assessment, family literacy, professional development, and uses of technology. Available in both HTML and pdf.

Civics Resource Collection: This annotated collection of civics education resources includes NCLE and ERIC publications, articles and books for teachers, a bibliography of learner textbooks, and information on Web sites, organizations, and policy topics. Teachers can use these resources as they plan for integrating civics into instruction for adult English language learners.

Online Resources to Promote Cultural Understanding: This resource collection includes information on topics such as intercultural communication, tolerance, and trauma that teachers can use as they work to promote cultural understanding in the adult ESL classroom.

News from ERIC and the U.S. Department of Education

Visit the U.S. Department of Education's Web site for links to Department initiatives and priorities, grant opportunities, publications, and research and statistics.

Weekly ERIC announcements are published in the New from ERIC section of the ERIC systemwide Web site.

New ERIC Document Reproduction Service Web Site

The ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), the document delivery component of ERIC, has released a new Web site to improve services for on-demand document delivery and E*Subscribe customers. Major features of the new site include improved navigation; enhanced search functions, including addition of ERIC descriptor searching; improved ordering functions for on-demand delivery; and the capability to limit searches to documents releasable in electronic format.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Act is the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since ESEA was enacted in 1965. It is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work. An executive summary and more detailed program summary information is now available on the Web in two formats: pdf and MS Word.

New Director Appointed to the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA)

Marina Tse was recently appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige to serve as Acting Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (formerly the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs). Tse received her Master's degree in 1974 and taught English as a second language for nearly 17 years to recently immigrated adults in Los Angeles. In 1996, Tse was named to the California State Board of Education and worked diligently as an advocate for students learning English, immigrant students, and children with special needs. Tse has also served as a member and program chair for the California State Special Education Advisory Commission. Tse immigrated to this country at the age of 20 from Taiwan.

News from Our Colleagues

The Center for Applied Linguistics

Second National Conference on Heritage Languages in America

The Second National Conference on Heritage Languages in America will be held October 18-20, 2002, at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia, close to Washington, DC. The conference is being organized by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) and the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) with support from the University of Maryland, College Park. This conference will seek to further the aims of the Heritage Languages Initiative, a national effort to develop the non-English-language resources that exist in our communities. It will bring together heritage language community and school leaders, representatives from pre-K–12 schools and colleges and universities, world-renowned researchers, and federal and state policymakers. In addition to attending general sessions and poster sessions, participants will have opportunities to meet with special interest constituencies, based on instructional settings, language, and other common concerns.

Information about the conference will be disseminated on a regular basis through the heritage languages listserv, heritage-list. To subscribe, contact Scott McGinnis at the National Foreign Language Center (; 301-403-1750 x18). To check for regular updates on conference registration and content, and to read about the Heritage Languages Initiative, visit the CAL Web site.

SIOP Training of Trainers Institute

The Center for Applied Linguistics and the California State University at Long Beach will conduct an intensive 3-day institute on the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model for teaching content to English language learners. Participants can become SIOP trainers for school districts and schools of education. The institute will be held at the Long Beach campus June 6-8, 2002. Visit the CAL Web site or email Justine Hudec ( to receive a registration brochure.

CAL Researchers to Present Symposium on Transfer of Reading Skills from Spanish to English

Researchers from the Center for Applied Linguistics will join colleagues from Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University to present a symposium entitled "Transfer of Reading Skills from Spanish to English: A Study of Elementary School English Language Learners" at the International Reading Association's 47th Annual Convention in San Francisco, CA, Thursday, May 2, from 9:00 to 11:45 AM. For more information, visit the conference Web site.

New Resources from CAL

This video helps teachers understand why reading words and text can be hard for many students, both native and nonnative speakers. Viewers will come away from the video better able to observe their students' reading and to choose appropriate instructional strategies. The viewers guide provides discussion questions and learning activities, outlines and supplementary materials for using the video with study groups and classes, the complete video transcript, a glossary, and a bibliography of resources for further study. Order from CALstore or Delta Systems Co., Inc. (800-323-8270).

CAL Online Store

On March 4, the Center for Applied Linguistics inaugurated its online store, CALstore. Through CALstore, customers can purchase CAL and ERIC/CLL publications and products securely online using a credit card. The store utilizes standard encryption to ensure the safety of your credit card information. Organizations that use purchase orders can submit their orders online as well and follow up by sending CAL a signed purchase order by fax or mail. CALstore offers clear navigation and several search features to make it easy to find just what you're looking for. You can visit the CALstore 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)

NABE Announces Title III Regional Workshops

NABE will sponsor four Regional Workshops on Title III of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act: The English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act, which replaces the former Bilingual Education Act (Title VII).

Attendees will learn about

Attendees will receive

The Regional Workshops will be held in

Dallas, TX - March 28, 2002
Hyatt Regency Dallas
300 Reunion Boulevard
Dallas, TX
(214) 651-1234

Chicago, IL - April 9, 2002
Hyatt Regency on Chicago's Riverwalk
151 East Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL
(312) 565-1234

Los Angeles, CA - April 11, 2002
Hyatt Regency Los Angeles
711 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 683-1234

The registration fee is $149. This includes admission to one full-day workshop, continental breakfast, lunch, and one Title III Resource Kit. Workshops run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except in Chicago, where the session will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.

For more information, go to the NABE Web site.

The Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE)

First National Conference for Educators of Newcomer Students

Washington, DC
September 2002
This conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA, formerly OBEMLA); the Center for Applied Linguistics; and CREDE.

Practitioner Brief #3, Some Program Alternatives for English Language Learners

CREDE's latest Practitioner Brief (#3) is Some Program Alternatives for English Language Learners (September 2001). To help practitioners determine which educational approaches meet their needs, fulfill their goals, and match their resources, this Practitioner Brief highlights specific features and conditions of four effective programs serving English language learners: 1) newcomer programs, 2) transitional bilingual education, 3) developmental bilingual education, and 4) two-way immersion. Some Program Alternatives for English Language Learners is available online.

The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC)

Electronic Newsletter

The NCLRC Language Resource is an electronic newsletter for foreign language teachers published by the NCLRC. It provides practical teaching strategies and lesson plans, articles on research and assessment, and announcements of professional development opportunities. To subscribe, submit lessons, or provide comments, send a message to Articles from previous issues can be read at the NCLRC Web site.

Russian for Russians

Developed by Dr. Richard Robin, this Web site provides Russian heritage speakers with materials and training to assist them in developing literacy in Russian. This site is of use to both language instructors and learners and is a model for the development of materials for other heritage language speakers.

Portfolio Assessment in the Foreign Language Classroom Online

This Web-based tutorial guides teachers in creating and implementing a standards-based, foreign language portfolio assessment system tied to their own curricula. It includes ready-to-use materials such as teacher and student questionnaires, checklists, planning worksheets, sample rating scales, and sample lessons.

Teaching & Learning Strategies, Arabic K–12

NFLRC is currently writing a descriptive report on the best teaching practices for teachers of Arabic K–12. Research is being carried out in the Washington, DC area. For more information or to submit ideas of best teaching and learning practices, please contact the NCLRC at

2002 Summer Institutes

This year's summer institutes include Foreign Language Teacher Education with Dr. Ron Leow, Teaching Learning Strategies in the Foreign Language Classroom with Dr. Anna U. Chamot, Oral Proficiency Assessment at the Center for Applied Linguistics, Teaching with Technology in the Foreign Language Classroom at Georgetown University, Communicative Literacy Development in Arabic K–12 with Ms. Wafa Hassan & Dr.Anna Chamot, and Mind and Language with Dr. Catharine Keatley.

Learning Strategies Resource Guides for FL Educators

The NCLRC is developing three guides for elementary immersion, secondary, and higher education foreign language instructors. These guides are designed to supplement existing foreign language curricula and will include lesson plans and guidelines for learning strategy instruction. We value all feedback from the foreign language teaching community and invite teachers and foreign language professionals to read and evaluate draft versions of the guides. Contact For sample lessons and excerpts from the guides, visit the NCLRC Web site.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

CARLA Summer Institutes

Linking research and theory with practical applications for the classroom, these interactive workshops from the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition include discussion, theory building, hands-on activities, and networking with colleagues. This summer's institutes include the following:

July 29 - August 2

Developing Classroom Materials for Less Commonly Taught Languages

Proficiency Oriented Language Instruction & Assessment (POLIA)

Focusing on Learner Language: Basics of Second Language Acquisition for Teachers

August 5 - 9

Meeting the Challenges of Immersion Education: Focus on Reading

Developing Assessments for the Second Language Classroom

A Practical Course in Styles and Strategies Based Instruction (SSBI)

August 12 - 16

Immersion 101: An Introduction to Immersion Teaching

Culture as the Core in the Second Language Classroom

Using Technology in the Second Language Classroom

Visit the CARLA Web site for registration information.

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