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Models of Articulation: Struggles and Successes

Dale L. Lange

THE articulation of foreign language programs between and among institutional levels makes expectations understandable and makes instruction, curriculum, and assessment flow evenly. 1 Yet for more than thirty years articulation has remained an unresolved problem. Nelson Brooks signaled the importance of the concept and defined it as continuity in student learning and in curricular content throughout the total school program. The continuity of content throughout foreign language programs, from wherever students begin, seems to be Brooks's major concern, but he also notes that such programs need to be connected to other aspects of schooling as well (English, social studies, science, mathematics, etc.).

Other scholars of language education have enunciated their concern for articulation and have added to the definition. Robert Lafayette suggested that articulation is the specific linking of what has been learned previously with what is to be learned in the future (continuity). Lafayette also introduced the concepts of horizontal, vertical, and inter- or multidisciplinary articulation. Horizontal articulation is the connection of the curriculum of all sections of the same course at the same level (e.g., the first year of high school or the third semester of college); vertical articulation is the linkage of the curriculum from level to level within and across institutions (e.g., from the first through the fourth year of high school and from the fourth year of high school to the appropriate semester of college); inter- or multidisciplinary articulation carries the linkage to other areas of the curriculum, as in Brooks's definition. I believe that articulation is the interrelation and continuity of contents, curriculum, instruction, and evaluation, with the focus of all aspects on the progress of the learner toward comprehending and communicating in a second language (Lange, “Resolvable Problem”). Here, all aspects of the definition of articulation are directed to the learner, for it is the learner's progress that is most important. Heidi Byrnes provides a broader context for articulation (“Priority”). Not only should the curriculum be carefully designed, sequenced, and coordinated, it should be based on the educational development of learners. The educational-development framework to which Byrnes refers is that of Kieran Egan (Egan, Educational Development ; see table 1), in which the most important instructional vehicle is narrative (Egan, Teaching ). This concept is similar to an idea proposed by Jerome Bruner, who states that much of what we learn in our lives comes through listening to and telling narratives. These ideas are closely related to the concept of communicative ability that has influenced many foreign language programs in schools and colleges. Though Byrnes uses Egan's educational-development framework, other such frameworks could also apply (e.g., see Bloom; Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia; Piaget). Such frameworks suggest ways to link the stages of the learner's educational development to the language-learning curriculum and to the application of that curriculum in the classroom. The link between learner development and language learning allows teachers, curriculum developers, creators of materials, and testers to design learning activities that best suit the learner's development.

Reviewing these definitions, we understand articulation to involve the continuity of learning, the linkage of curriculum (goals, content, instruction, and assessment) within and across educational levels, and the integration of second languages and other academic contents; it also focuses on the progress of the individual learner within an educational-development framework. Obviously, the more the issue is studied, the more complex it seems to become. The most important key word related to this issue is linkage , because it represents the task of teachers, curriculum developers, and testing and assessment specialists—namely, linking what has been learned to what is to be learned, within and across educational contexts.

The Importance of Articulation

Among the most superficial arguments for articulation in second language programs is efficiency. If students expand their ability to use the language as they move from one level to another instead of starting all over again at each new level, not only will second language programs be more efficient, they will be more cost-effective. In an introduction to a set of papers that focus on the development of a national foreign language center, Lambert estimates that two billion dollars is spent annually on foreign language instruction in the United States. He believes that this expenditure makes few individuals truly proficient in a language other than English. It is certainly possible that the lack of articulation of language programs contributes significantly both to expenditures and to the lack of proficiency development. But there are deeper issues relating to the articulation of foreign language programs that affect learner development, learning contexts, curricular alignment, and interdisciplinary foci (see Brooks; Lafayette; Lange, “Resolvable Problem”; Byrnes, “Priority”).

First, all the works I cite mention in one form or another the primacy of the learner's development and of the continuance of that development, issues crucial to the acquisition of language competency. When the direction of learning has been agreed on across cooperating levels and institutions, the focus of articulation should be on the learner's development. Such linkage ensures that the learner is the true beneficiary of articulated programs.

A second major issue is the language-learning context, which should link learners' developmental characteristics to their learning. Articulation in a context where educational development is valued provides the learner with a comfortable, familiar framework. In such a context, expectations are gauged to the learner's physical, emotional, and psychological development. This approach avoids strictly imposing on the learner those aspects of language learning that the teacher, curriculum developer, and tester or assessor find important, such as language functions and language parts and pieces. In such a context, learner, teacher, curriculum developer, and tester or assessor jointly create instruction, curriculum, and assessment.

Third, a focus on the learner's development demonstrates the importance of aligning goals, content, instruction, and assessment toward building authentic ability to communicate in a language other than English and to function in another culture. This alignment makes articulation possible. Yet the lack of discussions between and among levels of instruction and institutions forces the learner to recommence language and culture learning again and again. Without appropriate linkage of these elements, language learning is a constantly remedial activity, analogous to the struggle of Sisyphus.

A fourth major issue pertains to the linkage of second language learning to other aspects of the curriculum. Because language is involved in any aspect of knowledge, communication, or human activity, its connection to other aspects of the school or college curriculum provides a variety of foci to be exploited in developing second language competence. This linkage extends the breadth of experience and motivational potential for learners as they proceed along the journey toward language competence.

These four issues, as well as Lambert's concern about high expenditures and poor results, show why articulation in foreign language programs cannot be ignored. They demonstrate that a variety of linkages are needed to provide effective, efficient, continuous, caring, relevant, and appropriate programs for second language learners.

A Look at Articulation Programs

Who is working on the articulation of foreign language learning? What models are being used? What are the results of this work? To answer these questions, I undertook a modest study in the fall of 1995.

The major source of information about ongoing articulation projects was a special issue of CAAP Update , a newsletter of the Ohio State University Foreign Language Center, 2 that focused on the articulation of foreign language programs. Four projects cited in the newsletter are funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). Sixteen projects funded by other sources (the Department of Education, NEH, and other, local sources) were also cited. To gather information for the newsletter, the Ohio State University Foreign Language Center sent a letter to all known projects requesting abstracts on articulation and articulation-related assessment. The projects fit into all the definitions of articulation described above; whether they were articulation projects or assessment projects, all had the same goal: a continuous, seamless articulation of second language programs from beginning to the student's departure.

I requested for analysis the original documents from which the newsletter summaries derived. I received documents on twelve programs. Added to the twelve responses were descriptions of an articulation activity in New York State (Taylor), of a standards-setting project in Texas (LaBouve), and of a Florida articulation project involving a community college and a school district (Powell). Thus fifteen projects served as the basis for answering the questions I have posed. Since I completed this study, several other articulation projects have been reported (Herbert). Abstracts of these additional projects are included in the appendix.

Who Is Working on the Articulation of Foreign Language Learning?

Articulation projects were found at all educational levels: national (2), regional (1), state (9), and local (3):

National Standards Project (K-12)
University of Maryland, Baltimore (FLES)

New England Network of Academic Alliances in Foreign Languages (secondary-postsecondary)

California (K-16)
Indiana (secondary)
Minnesota (secondary-postsecondary)
New York (secondary-postsecondary)
Ohio (secondary-postsecondary)
South Carolina (secondary-postsecondary)
Texas (secondary-postsecondary)
Wisconsin: French, German, Spanish (secondary-postsecondary)
Wisconsin: Japanese (K-12)

Columbus Public Schools (middle school)
University of Northern Colorado (K-16)
Polk Community College, FL (secondary-postsecondary)

Large regional and national projects are following the examples of the National Standards Project (undertaken by the American Association of Teachers of French, the American Association of Teachers of German, the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and supported by the United States Department of Education and NEH) and the New England Articulation and Achievement Project (undertaken by the New England Network of Academic Alliances in Foreign Languages and Literatures and supported by FIPSE, ACTFL, and the College Board). Another national project is a FLES institute offered through the University of Maryland, Baltimore, that includes a focus on articulation, among many other topics.

My survey includes nine states that offer articulation projects directed toward developing state standards, curriculum, and assessment in a variety of ways. Some of the projects are funded by FIPSE or NEH (Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio), while others are funded by the United States Department of Education, an individual state, or a combination of sources within a state.

Three of the survey projects are local. One, partially funded by the United States Department of Education (operating under the mandate of the Foreign Language Assistance Act), is a middle school institute sponsored by the Columbus Public Schools that focuses on articulation as curriculum development. Another, funded by FIPSE, is a collaboration of local public schools and the University of Northern Colorado to develop graduation outcomes in four arts and sciences departments (speech communication, Spanish, chemistry, and mathematics). The third, funded by NEH, enables thirty teachers of Spanish in Polk County, Florida, to engage in faculty development activities related to articulation through Polk Community College.

What Models Are Being Used?

The articulation projects analyzed in this study seem to correspond to well-known, accepted educational divisions: FLES, middle school, secondary, kindergarten-grade 12, kindergarten-grade 16, secondary-postsecondary. These divisions are based on general learner development (FLES, middle school, secondary), the range of learner development in schools (K-12), the range of learner development in schools and colleges or universities (K-16), and the crossover from secondary to postsecondary education (secondary-postsecondary). Each project was analyzed according to the following descriptive categories. It should be noted that information was not always available in all categories.

Focus . This category refers to the level (national, state, local school district, classroom, learner) at which projects are taking place.

Funding . Funding sources include FIPSE, NEH, the United States Department of Education (operating under the mandate of the Foreign Language Assistance Act), and various kinds of state and local assistance.

Networking . This category indicates whether the project is connected to other academic levels. For example, if teachers in secondary schools are working to articulate programs in grades 9–12 in a particular school district, they might include FLES teachers in the discussions so that programs in the entire district would connect to create a wholly articulated program. Likewise, colleges working to resolve the articulation problem in a state might include representatives from FLES and secondary programs in the dialogue so that realistic outcomes for students finishing secondary school could be considered in planning college programs.

Outreach . This category reports whether outreach is a basic activity. Outreach entails informing students, parents, administrators, the community (including business and industry, as well as government), and other educational units about articulation.

Standards . Projects may use the recently established national standards or may develop standards based on those standards or on state or local standards. The projects surveyed include the use and development of standards at national, state, and local levels. Standards describe what students should know and be able to do within a content or discipline. For example, “students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics.”

Goals . Goals provide an organizing framework for standards. For example, the standard quoted above is situated within the following goal: “[students] communicate in languages other than English” (National Standards 9).

Outcomes . Closely related to standards, outcomes in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural awareness indicate performance levels by which learners demonstrate what they know and are able to do.

Curriculum . The curricula of foreign language programs can be articulated in four ways. Are programs carefully related from year to year and across educational boundaries (vertical articulation)? Do courses at the same level work together (horizontal articulation)? Are there ways that foreign language learning interacts with other disciplines in the school or college (inter- or multidisciplinary articulation) (Lafayette; Lange, “Problem”)? The fourth way of articulating foreign language programs is to associate the foreign language curriculum with vocational programs in contexts such as importing and exporting, business translation, and the like (work-related articulation). This approach is highlighted in the “Statement on Articulation from the Coalition of Foreign Language Organizations.”

Assessments . If the standards, goals, and outcomes for foreign language programs lead to competence in listening, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural awareness, then the assessment of competency development usually focuses on those areas. This category explains what is being assessed in the projects.

Instruction . The terms in this category come from Claire Kramsch's discussion of instructional discourse (“Conflict”). Content-based instruction puts intellectual content “back into the language curriculum” (9). Task-based instruction “replaces methods…with learner-centered tasks” (9). Genre-based instruction focuses on written text and literary genres. Strategy-based instruction involves strategies for retrieving and processing information in language learning.

The following projects are included in the analysis:

University of Maryland, Baltimore . This program, entitled A Foreign Language Showcase for Articulation, is supported in part by federal funds (Lipton).

Columbus, OH, Public Schools . This summer institute for teachers, funded by the Foreign Language Assistance Act and supported by the Columbus Public Schools and Otterbein College, aims to develop lesson plans for content-based language instruction (Ayers et al.).

Indiana Department of Education . This project has developed assessments for levels 1 and 2 of French, German, and Spanish in connection with state standards (Indiana, “Assessment…1” and “Assessment…2”).

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project . This national collaborative project of several professional language teachers associations is sponsored by the United States Department of Education, NEH, D. C. Heath, and the EMC Publishing Company. The project has developed goals (in the areas of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities), supporting standards, and sample progress outcome indicators for grades 4, 8, and 12 and has shown how these goals and standards can be applied to state frameworks, district curricula, and individual lesson plans (National Standards).

Japanese for Communication . Supported by the Japan Foundation and carried out by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, this project provides a basis on which discussion with postsecondary institutions can take place (Sandrock and Yoshiki).

California Language Teachers Association . This project is designed to form regional collaboratives for the development of leadership on classroom articulation of foreign language acquisition ( Foreign Language Framework; Handbook; Model Curriculum Standards; Statement of Competencies ).

Project SPAN (Standards Performance-Based Academic Networking) . This FIPSE-supported project involves setting standards for graduation from the University of Northern Colorado through networking between college and K-12 educators in Spanish, mathematical sciences, history, speech communication, chemistry, and biology (Griffith).

Articulation and Achievement . This collaboration among the New England Network of Academic Alliances, the College Board, and ACTFL has developed a system of assessments, including project portfolios, to determine student competence at and within various stages, as well as across modalities. The model is quite complete and warrants study by anyone contemplating an articulation project (Jackson and Masters-Wicks).

University of Minnesota . This project of the Minnesota Coalition for the Articulation of Language Teaching is funded by FIPSE, NEH, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning. The project is aligned with the graduation rule being developed for all areas of K-12 schools in Minnesota. Predicated on the idea that ACTFL proficiency terms have helped set standards for students leaving secondary schools and finishing college graduation requirements, the project builds on and revises tests created at the University of Minnesota during the 1980s and has developed a simulated oral-proficiency interview. In its third year, the project is examining curricular principles and instructional practices that allow teachers a variety of avenues to reach the same point and is working on the complicated politics of bringing all systems (K-12 schools, community colleges, the state university system) to a shared awareness of articulation of foreign language programs within the state (Chalhoub-Deville; Metcalf).

State University of New York, Albany . A collaboration of a SUNY task force on college entry-level knowledge and skills and of the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers, this project developed a statement suggesting language and culture competencies that would facilitate a seamless transition from secondary school to college and recommending development of language tests to ensure a smooth transition. That statement was reviewed in a major teleconference with some three hundred participants, who also discussed future models of collaboration, changes in public school curricula, and the use of high school graduation portfolios as tools for college placement. Follow-up information from this conference was shared at different sites in May 1995 (Taylor).

Ohio Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project . Representatives from Ohio public schools; Columbus State Community College, OH; and Ohio State University worked to establish a climate for discussions of articulation. The project set standards for French, German, and Spanish based on proficiency measures in listening, reading, speaking, and writing for six levels (four high school years, two college years). It has established a project core: a set of “user-friendly” objectives in listening, speaking, reading, and writing that can be translated into an early assessment program of tests, self-assessments, and teacher assessments, all of which are intended to give students feedback on their progress in relation to the standards set (Birckbichler, “Ohio … Project” and “Ohio's Project”).

South Carolina Council on Foreign Language Placement and Curriculum . Organized in 1986, this project has produced a listing of foreign language placement and exit requirements for every college and university in the state. The list, which includes descriptions of the various placement tests, is available in high schools for use by teachers and guidance counselors. The report on this project suggests that speaking and culture are basically ignored in the placement tests. The project will next work on a single exit and diagnostic test that will be used for high school assessment and college placement (Mosher; South Carolina Council; Niesslein).

Project ExCELL (Excellence and Challenge: Expectations for Language Learners) . This collaborative project, involving the Texas Education Agency, the Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory, and various public and private institutions of high education and professional organization, develops foreign language content and performance standards for grades K-12, criteria for staff development programs, and guidelines for teacher education and certification (LaBouve).

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction . A task force of University of Wisconsin faculty members and administrators and of representatives from the Department of Public Instruction, from the Wisconsin technical college system, and from K-12 schools recommended adopting a competency-based system to determine whether restructured curricula would prepare students for college-level work. An alternative admissions process was developed and will be evaluated through pilot testing. Students will be admitted to the UW system on the basis of competency as defined by the UW system in consultation with the Department of Public Instruction, technical colleges, and K-12 schools. Responsibility for readiness rests with K-12 schools. UW system faculty members, in consultation with representatives from K-12 schools, will develop a standardized profile of student achievement to report competency attainment. Each UW system campus will specify an alternative performance standard, and the admission policy will be implemented and evaluated through pilot testing. Five levels of competence have been established for listening, speaking, reading, writing, culture, and transferable skills ( Competency-Based Admission Competencies ; Sandrock, “Admission”).

Polk Community College and Polk County School Board . This eighteen-month cooperative effort provides opportunities for thirty teachers and professors of Spanish to participate in workshops and training designed to allow a smoother transition for students moving from the secondary level to the postsecondary level. Workshops focus on articulation, educational technology, and the use of authentic materials in instruction and evaluation. Selected teachers will be trained in the ACTFL oral proficiency interview. A summer institute for Spanish teachers will focus on the ACTFL proficiency guidelines, contemporary methodology, use of Spanish texts at various levels, cooperative learning, and the development of instructional materials in Spanish (Powell).

What Are the Results of This Work?

Analysis based on the categories described above suggests the following conclusions:

Focus . The focus of these articulation projects demonstrates that educational levels are linked from nation to region to state to locality. Most state or local projects link national standards to their articulation efforts. National standards may be used as state standards, or state or local standards may draw heavily on national standards but not use them directly. Standards almost always center on the learner.

Funding . The funding for these programs includes national, state, and local support. Large contributions come from FIPSE, NEH, and the United States Department of Education. Projects at all levels receive funding from these sources: the National Standards Project, the New England Network, various state projects, and the Polk Community College project are examples. Most projects are funded by more than one source, even when one source is national.

Networking . The establishment of networks among different educational levels develops compatibility at all education levels and promotes cooperation for the good of the student. The connection of virtually all projects through networking indicates that attempts at articulation derive not from top-down maneuvering but from the desire of a variety of educators for a continual, efficient, and effective program for language learners. Networking is the most pervasive aspect of these projects.

Outreach . Activities that extend professional development into the lives of teachers, parents, administrators, and other members of the educational community are extremely limited in these projects. It would appear that the need for standards has been so immediate that outreach has hardly been considered. If outreach is not considered and carefully planned, efforts at articulation could be seriously compromised.

Standards . Another important aspect of these projects is the development of national, regional, state, or local standards. The National Standards Project provides an important model for regional, state, and local projects, yet these projects have modified or reoriented the national standards for their own contexts. Where standards are part of the project, the influence of the National Standards Project is evident.

Goals . Where goals have been stated, they provide the broad contexts in which standards are situated. The National Standards Project offers goals in the areas of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities, but both within and across the goals (and the standards), culture is the major theme. I found that in most other projects goals are oriented heavily toward communication, with some attention given to cultural awareness. Goals in the areas of comparisons, connections, and communities receive little attention. Thus in these projects, the heavy emphasis on culture is missing, and the classification of standards into the other four areas is virtually nonexistent. Most of these projects, except Project ExCELL, which has adopted the national standards, include the standard communication goal (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) but continue to separate them from cultural awareness.

Outcomes . These projects show that listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and some attention to cultural awareness dominate the understanding of language learning among most teachers and policy makers at regional, state, and local levels. Although its focus is on language and culture, the National Standards Project demonstrates that the use of language to engage another culture, connect with other disciplines, and function in other language communities is ultimately an important outcome.

Curriculum . From the documentation analyzed, it appears that the curricula being developed from these standards are both vertically and horizontally sequenced and coordinated. It is not at all clear that any of this curriculum work is interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary. And there was no evidence of work-related curriculum development or articulation with employment issues.

Assessments . Assessments, a driving force of accountability in the general move toward standard setting and school reform, are directed primarily by the outcomes of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in these projects. Although assessment is an important part of these projects, it is conducted with less intensity than networking and standard setting are. If these projects and others like them avoid the issue of assessment, large testing corporations may take this function away from these collaborative efforts. The National Standards Project points to interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of language use. No other projects examined here include assessment activities that consider these modes. Such uses of language should receive attention in assessments of language competency. Though cultural awareness is included as a goal, a standard, and an outcome, it is not included as an assessment activity. Further, there is no real indication of the use of any cultural-learning frameworks (see Crawford-Lange and Lange; Bennett; Kramsch, Context , esp. ch. 8). The work of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) Culture Commission (Singerman) was not available for others to use in preparing cultural-awareness standards until recently. This work needs to be considered cautiously and critically as national, regional, state, and local projects implement the recommendations on learning, teaching, curriculum, and assessment issues related to cultural awareness. The AATF standards are based on an overly intellectualized and elite conceptualization of culture. If other language teachers' associations develop cultural-awareness standards, they should proceed with great caution.

Instruction . As the issue of instruction was analyzed, it became evident that these projects pay little attention to instruction or to any of the discourse models Kramsch describes (“Conflict”). Although this finding is somewhat disappointing, it is understandable. The projects have been so exclusively focused on curriculum (standards, goals, outcomes, assessments) that the matter of instruction has not yet been addressed systematically. In the future it will be important for these projects and any others to confront the serious questions of instruction, which is the ultimate bearer of all curricular work.

Although the projects analyzed relate to the full range of education, from kindergarten through college, most articulation activity is at the secondary-postsecondary border. In other words, many projects are working on the most pervasive issue in the articulation of foreign language programs, the articulation between secondary school and college. The University of Minnesota project provides an excellent example of this generalization because it is working to articulate learning not only within secondary schools (public and private) but also among postsecondary institutions (community colleges, state universities, and private colleges).

The projects reviewed here do not link levels of educational development very well. In other words, projects are more isolated than related. The FLES and middle school projects are not linked to succeeding educational levels. Even though there are only two projects of this kind, this isolation represents a concern: continued isolation of FLES and middle school curricula from the rest of the foreign language curriculum. FLES and middle school programs cannot resolve the articulation problem by themselves. Further, the languages in these projects are primarily French, German, and Spanish. The less commonly taught languages (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian) receive almost no attention at all in these studies except in the Japanese for Communication project. However, since this study was completed, other projects involving less commonly taught languages have been identified (see the appendix).

Some of the projects considered here are just getting started and others are very mature. Project ExCELL is just getting under way, yet it already has a set of standards, since it has adopted those established by the National Standards Project. Its main purpose is to prepare professional development materials in accord with the standards and to influence teacher education and licensure. In contrast, the New England Network of Academic Alliances project has finished its work and has published its results (College Board). Other projects are still continuing. The University of Minnesota project is working on the politics of articulation with the education leadership in the state, as well as on curricular and instructional recommendations.

The work of these projects represents enormous strides over the past fifteen years. In 1982 I found almost no current projects in my analysis of articulation (Lange, “Problem”). Today, not only is articulation a major issue in discussions of foreign language education, projects are working actively to resolve the problem. And it appears that progress is being made.

Obstacles to Articulation

Despite enormous progress in the articulation of foreign language programs, primarily in the past five years, there are obstacles to this activity that cannot be ignored. Many problems and questions have yet to be resolved. Heidi Byrnes and Claire Kramsch have discussed this issue, presenting quite different views. Byrnes carefully describes a series of obstacles to articulation of foreign language programs, while Kramsch (“Conflict”) considers obstacles to consensus on articulation. I discuss Byrnes's and Kramsch's comments in the context of these projects, particularly the establishment of national goals, the alignment of the national goals with those of state and local schools, and the affiliation of assessments with goals and standards. 3

In a 1990 presentation at the ACTFL Priorities Conference in Boston, Byrnes argued that the most serious obstacle to articulation is the diversity of goals. To some degree, this diversity is caused by a movement away from “a language replication paradigm to a language creation paradigm” (283). Byrnes suggests that expected norms of language learning, particularly those associated with language structures, have been supplanted by more individual, learner-centered “approximations,” or interlanguage. Other concerns Byrnes outlines are perhaps not as critical as diversity of goals: a rapid expansion of foreign language requirements and programs; expectations that learners can achieve elevated language proficiencies; an expanding and diverse learner population in foreign language courses; a learning process that turns language learning from a materials- and teacher-determined, linear, fixed sequence into one that is recursive and learner-controlled; changed societal attitudes toward language and toward the ability to function in the global marketplace; the learning of more difficult foreign languages (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian); and demands for more rigorous and more frequent testing and measurement of abilities and achievement.

As I have noted, Byrnes proposes that Egan's educational-development framework be applied to language acquisition. This framework recognizes learning and motivation and suggests contents that are directly associated with the four stages of development: mythic, romantic, philosophic, and ironic. Such a proposition is a major departure from the ways in which curriculum has been defined above. It provides a developmental picture of the learner's organization of knowledge and of the learner's motivations that has not been part of any statement on articulation.

Although her article was written prior to the development of national standards, Byrnes's concern for agreement on goals and outcomes suggests a basis on which to build the articulation of foreign language programs. Without general agreement on appropriate goals and outcomes, articulation cannot take place. Such agreement is growing through the development of national, regional, state, and local standards for grades K-12. While the national standards have moved us closer to a more focused, more inclusive set of goals and standards for K-12 language learners, they have not provided any agreement on postsecondary education. Several of the articulation projects I discuss are working at the secondary-postsecondary border. These projects are a potential means of resolving the diversity-of-goals issue. Postsecondary language departments and programs must take the K-12 standards seriously, for if they do not, a tragic step will take place in the evolution of second language programs at all levels. As at the turn of the century with the Modern Language Association's Committee of Twelve, postsecondary education will again have required that only its own intellectual vision be accepted. Instead, postsecondary departments and programs, as well as elementary and secondary programs, need to expand collaboration beyond current projects. There is no agreement on standards for postsecondary education. Agreement on such standards needs to be developed.

For me, Byrnes's proposition for a different approach to articulation through the examination of one educational-development model is a captivating one. She could have used other models I have mentioned above. However, she has chosen to examine several topics—the learner's development, the means for choosing and organizing content, and the motivations for learning—through Egan's four stages of development. In directing our attention to educational development, Byrnes has opened our thinking beyond expectations of what should be learned and when and how it should be learned. The focus on the learner brings a fresh vision and presents a different set of issues for resolution. And yet Byrnes is fully aware of the unresolved problems of the vision she has announced: “entering the progression [of educational development] at different ages” and “testing learning outcomes” (289, 290). The former entails the problems of students who wish to enter language programs without having gone through the same developmental stages in the foreign language learning that other students have. The latter includes issues in the assessment of language competence within a developmental context, assessment that goes beyond the arbitrary set of linguistic performances that typically define language proficiency. None of the projects analyzed here have addressed this developmental perspective on articulation; however, this perspective deserves careful attention because it is centered on the learner, where learning takes place.

At the 1994 conference Achieving Consensus on Articulation in Foreign Language Education, organized by the MLA for the Coalition of Foreign Language Organizations, Kramsch presented a paper titled “Embracing Conflict versus Achieving Consensus in Foreign Language Education.” In her analysis, she finds two major categories of obstacles to consensus on articulation: historical axes of difference and differences among discourse communities. The localized nature of education in this country creates a diversity in education that cannot be ignored. Geography, social class, and political contexts have exercised an important role in the creation of such diversity. One of the major differences occurs between the traditions of education in schools (more focus on vocational aspects than on intellectual ones) and in colleges. There are also different intellectual traditions within postsecondary education: research may be empirical or text-based, intellectual styles may relate to doing or to contemplation, and literacies may be text-based or derived from an oral tradition. Kramsch also describes differences among discourse communities. Taxpayers, parents, local employers, foreign language educators, methodologists, teacher trainers, and various categories of scholars speak differently about foreign language learning. As I have noted, there is also a variety of discourses associated with language learning: content-based instruction, task-based instruction, genre-based instruction, and strategy-based instruction.

Kramsch's discussion of the two categories of obstacles to consensus on articulation, which exposes a variety of differing voices and discourses, leaves me with the impression that articulation of foreign language programs is hardly a realizable ideal. Although Kramsch argues that articulation can be addressed through dialogue, through a struggle to understand differing historical and discourse traditions, the argument provides only a theoretical hope that consensus can be reached. I do not disagree that dialogue is important, but dialogue without action is meaningless contemplation. I find that Byrnes's and Elizabeth Bernhardt's responses to Kramsch's paper echo my sentiments. In considerations of the obstacles to consensus on articulation, there seems to be a willingness to display hindrances but almost no desire to work toward solutions. The admonition that any course of action is one of personal judgment leads to chaos in the educational community, particularly when it is applied to the articulation of foreign language learning.

However, in the projects analyzed here, instead of a contemplative stance, I find dialogue, action, compromise, and collaboration. The projects have proceeded well beyond the dialogue stage. They are finding common ground on which to articulate foreign language programs. They are demonstrating that differences can be understood and put aside. How? It seems that these projects are focusing on the student, not on the individualistic needs of various groups. They are teaching us that K-12 educators, with the help of representatives from the business community, from postsecondary education, from school administrations, and so on, can respond positively and act wisely to resolve this aggressive problem. What is missing is more participation by colleagues from postsecondary education, although some universities' linguists, language coordinators, and even some professors are associated with articulation projects, a fact I find heartening. If such collaboration continues, it may demonstrate a broadening concern for students and for the continuance of their progression in using language and developing cultural sensitivity. It is for the student that articulation is important. It is our moral obligation to provide a program that allows for continual progress in language learning. Nothing less is acceptable. The projects analyzed here demonstrate how this goal can be accomplished. Are others ready to follow?

This discussion should furnish an understanding of the successes and the struggles that have taken place and that are yet to take place in solving the problem of articulation in foreign language learning. The projects reviewed here are certainly the beginning of what we all hope will be continuing progress in the articulation of language learning. Some twenty-four states now have proficiency standards (Sandrock, Standards Projects,“Appendix”). Progress has been made; much more is required. But it is not just progress that is important. Our attitude is also crucial. Bernhardt has eloquently expressed concern for our attitude and for our moral perspective on language learning and teaching:

We are considered to be a profession of the elite, a profession that does not care about students outside the traditional college-bound group. We have historically accepted only those most like ourselves. We must finally acknowledge the lack of morality behind this elitism. We must acknowledge that all students deserve a sequence of language study that makes sense, not just one that happens to be convenient. Articulation in such a sequence is important, students are important, coalitions are important. We must insist that all in the language-teaching endeavor take the cause of students as their own. Otherwise, we cannot dare to claim the moral imperative. (17)

It is this moral imperative that will determine how successfully we address the articulation of foreign language learning.

The author is Professor of Education Policy and Administration at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.


This article is based on a presentation given at the annual meeting of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 18 November 1995 in Anaheim, California.

1 I am referring to the transitions from elementary school to junior high school, from junior high school to senior high school, from senior high school to college, and from college entrance to the completion of a language requirement.

2 Special issues, providing information on a variety of articulation projects in the United States, are available from CAAP Update , 276 Cunz Hall, 1841 Millikin Road, Columbus, OH 43210.

3 I urge the reader to pursue the work of both Byrnes and Kramsch for a complete picture of their concerns.

Works Cited

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Bernhardt, Elizabeth B.“Response to Claire Kramsch.” ADFL Bulletin 26.3 (1995): 15–17. [Show Article]

Birckbichler, Diane W.“Ohio Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project.” Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project (CAAP) Update 3.1 (1995): 1+.

———.“Ohio's Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project.” ADFL Bulletin 26.3 (1995): 44–45. [Show Article]

Bloom, Benjamin S., ed. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook I: Cognitive Domain . New York: McKay, 1956.

Brooks, Nelson. Language and Language Learning: Theory and Practice . 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt, 1964.

Bruner, Jerome. Acts of Meaning . Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990.

Byrnes, Heidi.“Priority: Curriculum Articulation: Addressing Curriculum Articulation in the Nineties: A Proposal.” Foreign Language Annals 23 (1990): 281–92.

———.“Response to Claire Kramsch.” ADFL Bulletin 26.3 (1995): 13–15. [Show Article]

CAAP Update 3.1 (1995): 1–8.

California Language Teachers Association. Articulation of Language Programs: Recommendations for Implementation within and among California's Elementary, Secondary, and Postsecondary Educational Institutions . San Diego: California Lang. Teachers Assn., 1995.

Chalhoub-Deville, Micheline. Results of Entrance-Level Language Proficiency Pilot Testing . Minneapolis: Center for Advanced Research on Lang. Acquisition, 1995.

College Board, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and New England Network of Academic Alliances in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Articulation and Achievement: Connecting Standards, Performance, and Assessment . New York: College Board, 1995.

Competency-Based Admission Competencies: Admission Competencies: Competencies, Standardized Reporting Profile, and Rating Scale for Competency-Based Admission Pilot Project . Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin, 1995.

Crawford-Large, Linda, and Dale L. Lange.“Doing the Impossible in the Second Language Classroom: A Process for the Integration of Language and Culture.” Teaching for Proficiency, the Organizing Principle . ACTFL Foreign Lang. Educ. Series. Ed. Theodore V. Higgs. Lincolnwood: Natl. Textbook, 1984. 139–77.

Egan, Kieran. Educational Development . New York: Oxford UP, 1979.

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Foreign Language Framework for California Public Schools—Kindergarten through Grade Twelve . Sacramento: California Dept. of Educ., 1989.

Griffith, Francis A. Project Span: Standards Performance-Based Academic Networking . Greeley: U of Northern Colorado, 1995.

Handbook for Planning Effective Programs . Sacramento: California Dept. of Educ., 1985.

Herbert, James. Foreign Language Education: Funded Projects, FY91 to FY95 . Washington: NEH Div. of Educ. Programs, 1995.

Hill, David, and Arthur Mosher.“The Articulation of Curriculum through a Standardized Proficiency-Based Diagnostic/Placement Test: The USC Experience.” Dimension: Languages '88. Reports of Southern Conference on Lang. Teaching. Valdosta: Southern Conference on Lang. Teaching, 1988. 101–11.

Indiana Department of Education. Assessment Tasks for Spanish Level 1 . Indianapolis: Office of Program Development Center for School Improvement and Performance, 1993.

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Jackson, Claire, and Karen Masters-Wicks.“Articulation and Achievement: The Challenge of the 1990s in Foreign Language Education.” ADFL Bulletin 26.3 (1995): 46–51. [Show Article]

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Lafayette, Robert.“Toward an Articulated Curriculum.” Our Profession: Present Status and Future Directions . Reports of Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Langs. Ed. Thomas Geno. Middlebury: Northeast Conf. on the Teaching of Foreign Langs., 1980. 61–76.

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Lipton, Gladys. Description of the National FLES Institute at U.M.B.C. Baltimore: U of Maryland, 1995.

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Sandrock, Paul.“Appendix: State Foreign Language Standards Projects—A Sampling.” Foreign Languages for All: Challenges and Choices . Reports of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Langs. Ed. Barbara H. Wing. Lincolnwood: Natl. Textbook, 1996. 221–27.

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Descriptions of Additional Projects

1. Designing, Teaching, Training, and Retraining: A Model Curriculum in German from Zero Knowledge of the Language to Phd Orals. Hunter College, City University of New York. Project director: Dorothy James.

A three-year project to articulate an eight-year sequence of study in German from beginning undergraduate levels through graduate training. Faculty members from two four-year colleges, a two-year college, and a graduate school will recast undergraduate and graduate programs to lead the student through levels of linguistic skill. A second task to be undertaken by the participants is to reeducate themselves to teach an integrated language, literature, and culture curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level. The third task will be to develop a program of teacher training for graduate students that includes fully developed mentoring,

2. Building Support for Chinese Language Instruction in the U.S. The College Board. Project director: Gretchen W. Rigol.

A two-year project to synthesize curricular guidelines and to develop a College Board achievement test in Chinese. The lack of agreement on curricular standards impairs the teaching of Chinese. Developing curricular standards and instruments of assessment is intended to help establish a basis for training teachers, producing adequate pedagogical materials, and designing successful teaching approaches.

3. Development of Guidelines for the Teaching of Japanese in U.S. High Schools and a Japanese Language Achievement Test. The College Board and the National Foreign Language Center. Project director: Gretchen W. Rigol.

A three-year project to develop national curricular guidelines for the teaching of Japanese in United States secondary schools and to design a related College Board Achievement test. The project will describe teaching methods that current research has found effective in teaching Japanese to English-speaking students. It will also provide an assessment instrument that will be used for college admission and course placement. Leading professors in the fields of Japanese and foreign language pedagogy will constitute a four-member curricular guidelines task force and a twelve-member advisory board. A six-member test development committee will work with specialists at the Educational Testing Service to create an effective assessment of reading and listening in Japanese. The resulting publication, to be titled A Framework for Introductory Japanese Language Curricula in American High Schools and Colleges , will be disseminated nationally.

Source: Herbert

Table 1
Egan's Stages of Educational Development
Mythic (approximate ages: 4–5 to 9–10 years)
  Mythic thinking provides absolute accounts of why things are as they are and fixes the meaning of events to sacred models. Children lack a sense of otherness; their myth stories do not include concepts such as historical time, physical regularities, logical relationships, causality, and geographical space. Mythic thinking lacks a clear sense of the world as autonomous and objective. The child's world is filled with meaning by those things the child knows best: love, hate, joy, fear, goodness, badness. Myth is articulated through binary oppositions such as big/little, love/hate, security/fear, and so on.
Romantic (approximate ages: 8–9 to 14–15 years)
  The move from the mythic to the romantic stage is evident in the development of otherness and an understanding of historical time, geographical space, physical regularities, logical relationships, and causality. These changes come from experience of the outside world. It is in this phase that children develop their sense of distinct identity.
Philosophic (approximate ages: 14–15 to 19–20 years)
  The move from the romantic to the philosophic stage strengthens the realization that all important bits and pieces of experience and knowledge are interconnected. The major defining characteristic, then, is the search for the truth about human psychology, for the laws about historical development, for the truth about how societies function—the general laws whereby the world works.
Ironic (approximate ages: 19–20 through adulthood)
  The transition from the philosophic to the ironic stage is marked by learner appreciation that general schemes cannot fully accommodate all particulars and that no general scheme can adequately reflect the richness and complexity of reality. General schemes are seen as useful but not true. There is reference and recognition of the other in this stage.
Source: Egan, Educational Development .

Table 2
Analysis of Fifteen Articulation Projects
Project Focus Funding Networking or Collaboration Outreach Standards Goals Outcomes Assessments Curriculum Instruction
University of Maryland, Baltimore national, local Dept. of Education, local included language camp, immersion days, career days, FLES institute, teacher methodology not part of project different for each outreach program listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness not indicated vertical, horizontal, inter- or multidisciplinary task-based strategy-based
Middle School
Columbus, OH, Public Schools local, classroom Dept. of Education, local included not included local materials development listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness not indicated horizontal, inter- or multidisciplinary content-based
Indiana Department of Education state, local, classroom, learner state included not included state curriculum development listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness focused on speaking and listening vertical, horizontal task-based
Kindergarten-Grade 12
National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project national, classroom, learner national not a clear aspect not included national included listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness (for grades 4, 8, 12) suggested vertical, horizontal, inter- or multidisciplinary not part of project
Japanese for Communication local, classroom, learner national not included not included state included listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness suggested spiral, based on cultural themes content-based
Kindergarten-Grade 16
California Language Teachers Association state, local, classroom, learner state, local a basic activity a basic activity state leadership development around the articulation of language learning leadership development around the articulation of language learning not part of project not part of project not part of project
University of Northern Colorado state FIPSE one of three components not included for college graduation (at ACTFL advanced level) listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness suggested suggested not part of project
Articulation and Achievement national, state, local, classroom, learner FIPSE, ACTFL, College Board included not included national, regional (in five stages) listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness vertical, horizontal, inter- or multidisciplinary not part of project
University of Minnesota national, state, local, classroom FIPSE, NEH an important aspect included national, state included listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness listening, speaking, reading, writing mostly vertical task-based strategy-based
State University of New York, Albany state, local state, local the purpose of project indicated state included listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness indicated vertical not part of project
Ohio Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project national, state, local, classroom, learner state, local the purpose of project not included national, state, local included listening, speaking, reading, writing listening, speaking, reading, writing vertical, horizontal content-based strategy-based
South Carolina Council on Foreign Language Placement and Curriculum state, local local the focus of project not included local testing for college placement listening, reading, writing listening, reading, writing vertical not part of project
Project ExCELL national, state, local, classroom, learner regional, state, local included not included national, state included communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, communities indicated vertical, horizontal, inter- or multidisciplinary not part of project
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction national, state, local, classroom, learner regional, state, local included not included state, local included listening, speaking, reading, writing, cultural awareness transferable skills indicated vertical not part of project
Polk Community College and Polk County School Board local, classroom, learner national, local an important aspect to other teachers in the district local professional development of teachers no clear focus speaking vertical, horizontal not clearly part of project

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