Foreign language course grades as prerequisites and programmatic game keepers

Brown, Alan Victor
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Heinle Cengage Learning
Stakeholders within and beyond the academy are eager to know to what extent FL programs are responsible for producing valuable student-learning outcomes that reflect not only curriculum-specific achievement but also classroom-independent, real-world proficiency. At the heart of the issue resides the ambiguous, nondescript, and somewhat idiosyncratic nature of course grades. This chapter reports, first, on a descriptive analysis of grade-based prerequisites as they appear in electronic undergraduate Spanish program catalogues at all 73 research-intensive public institutions, as classified by the Carnegie Foundation. The quantitative analysis includes descriptive statistics on the use of grade-based metrics as prerequisites for undergraduate courses, that is, previous course grade and grade point average (GPA). The qualitative analysis examined the language and logic used in specifying these prerequisites. Following this analysis, a correlational study of one of the 73 programs is presented that explores the relationship between students’ grades from all sections of two mandatory pre-major courses and their performance on an external measure of reading, speaking, and writing proficiency. Within this program, students must earn an A or a B in both courses before continuing with the Spanish major, so grades carry high-stakes consequences and serve as programmatic gatekeepers. The chapter concludes with general recommendations on how to sensibly approach program articulation, course prerequisites, and the nature and composition of university-level FL course grades.
Brown, A.V. (2014). Foreign language course grades as prerequisites and programmatic game keepers. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 183-207.
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