Module 3:
Language Program Evaluation and Improvement

Module Author: Cathy Barrette, Wayne State University

Overview: What are Language Program Evaluation and Improvement?

Language program directors (LPDs) are fundamentally responsible for the quality of their programs (see Module 1 for additional LPD roles and responsibilities). Central to demonstrating program quality is evidence of students’ learning outcomes – what they know and can do after participating in the program. Assessing learning outcomes is useful to LPDs because it can identify strengths and challenges in the program and also inform communication with colleagues about how lower-level courses articulate with the broader undergraduate program. Furthermore, learning outcomes help students coherently visualize what they are getting out of their courses and effectively communicate their learning in future educational or professional contexts.

As with many aspects of an LPD’s job, however, the picture is not so simple. Many factors contribute to learning outcomes, from students’ prior experience, motivation, and effort, to curricular design, teachers’ knowledge and skills, course materials, and program management. Program evaluation is a process that can provide LPDs and other stakeholders with data to help identify factors that positively or negatively contribute to program quality. As Davis (2018) explained, evaluation is “a mode of inquiry in which stakeholders within language programs collect, learn from, and use evidence toward programmatic actions and decisions” (p. 3). The end goal of such evidence is improving the program.

This module provides an overview of some primary areas in which LPDs commonly evaluate their programs, the program evaluation process, and strategies for prioritizing which factors to assess. It concludes with resources to help you build your capacity in each area. 

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

  • List common priorities in language program evaluation
  • Prioritize evaluation efforts in your program
  • Define key concepts underlying good assessment and evaluation practices
  • Describe the program evaluation process


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