Examining the cohesion of a four-year German language program : a case study of the University of Texas at Austin



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This study focuses on articulation in a four-year college German program. Previous research has centered on articulation between high-school and college foreign language classrooms. While educators have considered the content of foreign language programs, they have often done so without examining the current state of the curriculum. In addition, many researchers acknowledge that there is a divide between the lower-division and upper-division faculties but continue to promote this separation by suggesting that one level must change in order to serve the entire program better (i.e., the other level). The present research expands on previous work by studying instructors at both the lower- and the upper-division. This study describes an investigation of how instructors plan their courses within the entire four-year program. In order to examine program cohesion, the instructors in this study provided written documents about their courses (course descriptions, syllabi, and student work) and took part in interviews, in which they were asked about their own and other instructors' courses, as well as about the objectives of the entire program. The data allowed for intra-personal, interpersonal, inter-level (lower- and upper-division) and curricular comparisons. The data suggested that this foreign language program can be divided into the basic language (typically the first four semesters) and the upper-division curriculum. Many scholars (Byrnes, 1990; Guthrie, 2001) have stated that this division is related to the "gap" in pedagogical focus, language abilities and content emphasis that separates intermediate-level courses (the last year in the basic language program) from the advanced upper-division courses. Not only are the courses separated into these two categories, but in this program, at least, the instructors themselves are often restricted to one group or the other because of their fields of specialty. The results also revealed a lack of communication between the two "camps" concerning the goals and objectives of their program as well as those of the entire program. The result of this research was a detailed description of the beliefs and practices of teachers and provided an overview of one program to demonstrate how cohesion within a foreign language program can be assessed.