Project Proposal to Split Foreign Language Program

Request for Approval

Addressed to: Prince of Peace School Improvement Steering Committee

 

I believe the foreign language program at Prince of Peace can be improved by creating a blended learning Spanish course and integrating more language choices for middle school students, essentially splitting the foreign language program into two distinct courses: Track A and Track B. I request the approval of the School Steering Committee to pursue the following proposed plan.

Submitted by: Judy Cornelius, Technology Director

Issue

Learning to recognize, read, speak and understand (especially the culture) of another language has been a necessary part of society as long as America has existed. We are a country of immigrants and regardless of one’s opinion about which language should be paramount in the US, it is clear that our students need to learn the basics of a second language while in our school as preparation for the foreign language requirements in high school and in life.

If no students were failing or at risk of failing, or if a larger percentage of scores in the Spanish classes occurred within the normal bell curve I would not suggest trying other methods for learning, as those results would suggests the current structure of the course is working. This is not the case. During the past few years, middle school students have demonstrated less interest and lower grades in the Spanish program. Students have outwardly complained about learning Spanish and have developed a poor attitude.

During 2014-2015, parents also expressed their concerns that the course (in 6th grade) should be changed to a pass/fail course, and the content be generalized. The change was implemented in 2015-2016. Current results from 2015-2016 suggest that even with the change, some students still struggle to maintain average grades. These are signs of a class design that needs some attention. Mounting evidence suggests an interjection of the right technology can boost students’ excitement about what they are learning. It also suggests integrating certain technology will give them a sense of ownership and provide the ability to do more on their own, in a way they enjoy. We already have a wonderful, fun, and experienced teacher with strong technology knowledge and skill. She believes in the value of including technology alone with face to face teaching.  Research supports that model, especially in foreign language courses. We need to give her more tools to connect with her students, nurture relationships with those who struggle, and offer an alternative path for students who need more options.

Solution

This proposal offers explanations and solutions to improve student attitudes and learning outcomes in the foreign language program by including disruptive technologies with other teaching strategies. It also suggests Prince of Peace offer more choice of languages, and new ways in which to learn them.

We expect the use of the suggested innovations will improve overall student learning and engagement and most important, change their attitudes about learning foreign languages and their cultures.

Assumptions

We assume:

  • The current teaching methods are sound and successful for most students
  • Our foreign language teacher agrees that an unacceptable number of students struggle to succeed (maintain consistent grades at C or better) in the current course
  • Technology is not currently a regular resource used in the Spanish class
  • Technology will be available for use during these courses
  • A combination of face-to-face instruction AND learning through technology is an effective model and should be well planned and piloted at Prince of Peace
  • A minimum cost for programs and training will be covered by the school to implement the proposed changes for redesigning the course

The following summary provides a glimpse at how blended learning and an additional online learning environment will be used to teach the introduction to foreign languages in our middle school.

Proposed Evaluation Process

Prerequisites:

  1. Form a leadership team:
  • A Language Learning committee will be formed to analyze and develop new strategies for using technology as a regular component in the Spanish classes. Their role will include assessing how, when, and what will be used to create a blended learning environment (teacher and electronic instruction).
  • The team will consist of foreign language teachers, English teachers, and members from the administration and technology departments.
  1. Verify standards and expected outcomes:
  • State, Diocesan, and local school standards will be met.
  • Student performance outcomes will be an combination of assessments gaging Spanish knowledge and assessing the format from which it was presented.
  1. Begin Implementation Plan: Phase 1

Phase 1: Evaluate Current Course

  • In this phase, the leadership team will consider what factors can be changed to make the course better for the teacher and students. A great deal of analysis will be done. This phase will take one semester.

Phase 2: Design and Implement New Strategies

  • After determining how the course will look following Phase 1, more research will be conducted by the technology department and language teachers to determine which technologies can be implemented in our school. A course of action will be created. Phase two should take 8 weeks.

Phase 3: Pilot New Program

  • During the last 8 weeks, the program will be implemented as a pilot with the resources available.

Phase 4: Gather Feedback and Make Adjustments

  • The team will review the outcomes, comparing them against the same factors from Phase 1. Adjustments and final changes to the program will be drafted in preparation for the newly designed foreign language course to be used the following school year.

Proposed Split Foreign Language Classroom Model

Students in 6th through 8th grade will enroll in one of two language learning tracks for the duration of their middle school years. This proposal addresses changes in the current Spanish course (Track A) only. Track B is described later in this proposal.

Track A: Blended learning in the classroom

Track B: Online learning as independent study

Track A: Blended learning in the classroom

New Strategies

The current Spanish curriculum will be used for daily teaching. The Spanish teacher will establish a Classroom in Google for Education from which to communicate with students. The LMS will be the primary platform for providing learning materials, including Flipped lessons made by the teacher. The flipped lesson model will be a primary part of student engagement. In response, student will be encouraged to create “flipped learnings” using video and audio recordings to demonstrate their practice. Students will be expected to provide video and audio responses to lessons using online collaborative products like Voice Thread, or another programs chosen by the teacher.

Students will continue to rely on Renweb, for a schedule of assignments and to keep up with their grades.

The Spanish teacher will choose other online resources that allow students to create personal study materials such as Google docs and Quizlet, She will assist students in their use of free online apps that support class content and grow their language skills, allowing students to incorporate what they are learning through these apps as graded assignments in the form of self-created quizzes.

Campus Location for Administering the Course

All students will gather in the Middle School classrooms as assigned.  Regardless of the language content a student has chosen, each student will be accountable for completing all coursework by the end of each quarter, but may work at their own pace to do so. As with all courses at Prince of Peace, students’ success is monitored weekly through their progress.

Student in Track B will work with a learning coach. The learning coach is responsible for grading the completion of student work that is assigned outside of the online course content as determined by the syllabus. Assignments will not contain language specific grading criteria and will be assessed on completion criteria specific to each assignment. Each language program will include regular assessments that will be recorded by the learning coach and subsequently entered into Renweb. Students will be offered the opportunity to submit assignments for grading that are self-designed as evidence of learning. Students using online Spanish programs will have the opportunity to provide “flipped learnings” either video or audio recordings for review by the Track A teacher.

Timeline

The new program will take two years to fully design, implement and evaluate.

Measurement  of Success

Following each completed year students and staff will assess the program on specific criteria developed by the school’s leadership team, which is listed as Phase 4 of the Implementation Plan. The evaluation will include input from teachers, students, technology staff, and parents. The results will determine if the program should continue as planned, be modified, or be canceled.

Criteria categories will include:

  • reaching learning objectives
  • course content
  • delivery system
  • cost
  • ease of use
  • perceived student engagement
  • student opinions

Track B –  Online learning as Independent Study

Three scenarios will determine the eligibility of students wanting to choose Track B for language learning at Prince of Peace.

  1. Incoming students entering the 6th grade
  2. Students entering middle school in either 7th or 8th grade with no prior Spanish experience
  3. Students in either 7th or 8th grades struggling to succeed in Track A

The parents of students electing Track B beginning in 6th grade will submit an independent learning application to administration. The application will assess the student’s academic and behavioral history.  With approval the student and their parents will choose from the online language choices provided – including Spanish.

Parents will be responsible for the cost of obtaining the online product license and the school will provide the necessary technology devices. Parents will also be responsible for providing access to the program from outside of school. All programs will be for online learning only; no software downloads will be allowed.

A program syllabus will be provided so Track B students can participate in language learning events with the Track A class. These events include, for example, projects, field trips, guest speakers, and performances. The syllabus will be used by both Track A and B students as a general guide for extraneous activities that include learning about culture, faiths, tradition, and the economy.

Barriers to Success

Several barriers exist that could immediately derail this disruptive innovation project. Many factors and conditions must be present to ensure success or they will become barriers. First, a reason must exist for changing the current foreign language program. All decision makers must recognize that change is necessary, and be open minded to a new learning format.

Next, those involved must be willing to accept a different role for the teacher; this includes the teacher. The learning coach must understand their role to support the pace and means by which students learn. Parent, too must be willing to see the role of the teacher as neutral, rather than one who has influence over their child’s learning in the classroom. Student will also have to recognize their success is not the result of good or bad instruction, but their ability to learn as the materials are presented. They must choose to stay on task, strive to achieve learning objectives and goals, and take responsibility for their learning habits.

Finally, the technology must be stable and the curriculum must be cost effective to support the course format. Devices must be available, and infrastructure must be in place to support the online course and supplemental online engagement tools at any location on campus.

Next Steps Upon Approval

  1. Create a team and meeting schedule
  2. Begin Phase 1: Evaluate Current Course Overview can be viewed at https://reallearning4kids.com/portfolio/stage-1-improving-foreign-language-course-outcomes/
  • Identify the overall achievements of students in the Spanish course during the past three years to determine the need for a change using disruptive innovation.
  • Research trends in education that express best practices for teaching languages in middle school, that include surveys about student interest and motivation to learn the language.
  • Research alternative foreign language teaching methods and their outcomes in middle school as well as in high school.
  • Conduct a feasibility study and cost analysis for the proposed disruptive innovation chosen.
  • Survey current and past stakeholders to determine interest in language choice and type of delivery system.

 

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