Module 1:
Understanding the Roles and Work of Language Program Directors

Module Author: Kate Paesani, University of Minnesota

Overview: What is a Language Program Director?

What is a language program director (LPD)? The answer to this question is complex, but the most basic definition of an LPD is an academic who oversees lower-level undergraduate language courses. This definition becomes more complex when we consider the various titles, positions, and disciplinary expertise LPDs can have. For instance, LPDs go by many titles: director, supervisor, coordinator, or course chair, to name a few. In this module series, we choose to use the term LPD because it captures the complexity of the job and its importance within the overall structure and functioning of postsecondary language departments. LPDs are most often specialists in applied linguistics (i.e., second language acquisition and/or pedagogy), yet some also have expertise in formal linguistics or in literary, film, or cultural studies. Many LPDs hold tenure-track jobs, but an increasingly large number of LPDs are hired into non-tenure-track positions. Some LPDs oversee an entire lower-level language program and others just one course within that program, but all of these courses typically have multiple sections and are taught by various configurations of novice and experienced graduate students, part-time faculty, and full-time faculty.

Regardless of title, position, or disciplinary expertise, LPDs wear many hats--teacher, scholar, administrator, mentor, manager, counselor--and carry out “a significant amount of invisible labor that often goes unrecognized or perceived as service” (AAUSC, 2017). Certainly, LPDs are responsible for creating curriculum, assessments, and instructional materials and for providing teacher professional development to support their implementation, primarily in the context of lower-level language courses. Yet LPDs are often also charged with various other duties not typically assigned to other faculty members, such as handling student questions and complaints, hiring and firing instructors, counseling members of the instructional team, and evaluating program success. 

This module provides you with an overview of the roles and work of the LPD, including video testimonials from novice and experienced LPDs, tips and strategies for working effectively, practical activities to hone your knowledge and skills, and resources to support you in your career as an LPD. 

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Summarize the range of LPD duties and match your qualifications to these duties
  • Identify and evaluate practices and experiences in language program direction
  • Select scholarly and practical resources to deepen your understanding of language program direction


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