Home Official News Releases Scholars Visit Drake to Study Innovative Language Learning

Scholars Visit Drake to Study Innovative Language Learning

News PhotoCONTACT: Jan Marston, 515-271-3814, jan.marston@drake.edu;

Lisa Lacher, 515-271-3119, lisa.lacher@drake.edu

Thirty-two educators from colleges and universities across the country will gather at Drake University next week to explore innovative approaches to teaching and learning foreign languages, such as the Drake University Language Acquisition Program (DULAP).  

The five-day program, which begins Monday, July 9, is part of the new Network for Effective Language Learning (NELL) established by the Council of Independent Colleges to assist small and midsize colleges and universities in transforming their language instruction to meet the needs of 21st century students. The W.M. Keck Foundation has provided a grant of $360,000 to the Council of Independent Colleges to implement NELL in cooperation with Drake.  

“There is a real crisis of modern foreign language teaching and learning on today’s campuses,” said Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges. “Language study is a much less common requirement on college campuses than it once was, few students attain fluency in a foreign language and the variety of languages offered in most institutions is very small.”

Drake students are developing functional communicative competency in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Hindi, Japanese, Russian and Spanish through the DULAP program, which will provide NELL with one model for new approaches to language learning.

“The DULAP approach would give most colleges the opportunity to offer critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Japanese,” said Jan Marston, director of DULAP and project director for NELL. “We are not intending for each college to swallow this whole. They can evaluate what to do for their campuses based on the core features of DULAP. ”

DULAP brings together professional linguists and learning specialists, experts in the target language and civilization, and native-speaker tutors. Using Internet-based resources and tools, DULAP students connect with real-life native speakers and writers while learning to use target-language materials that have been written by and for native speakers. In addition, each DULAP student creates an online-portfolio that documents his or her progress and external examiners provide an independent evaluation of each student’s work. The program also emphasizes intercultural competence and encourages all students who study a language to use it in an intensive immersion experience abroad.

During their week at Drake, educators will experience part of the DULAP program by participating in language lessons in Russian. The objective is not to see how much Russian they can learn, but rather to introduce them in a practical way to typical elements of an integrated language curriculum. “Grades will not be assigned and transcripts will not be sent to home institutions,” Marston said.

The participating institutions are Bethany College, Bethany, W.VA.; Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn.; Colleges of the Fenway, Boston; St. Joseph College, West Hartford, Conn.; Salve Regina University, Newport, R.I.; St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas; and Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Miss.

After the session, the participants will stay connected through an online community Web site that will create a permanent alliance and the institutions will be able to share their best practices and materials. In addition, consultants will visit each campus and provide additional guidance.

Twenty-four liberal arts colleges will be selected to participate in NELL over three years. Subsequent workshops will be offered in the summers of 2008 and 2009.