Proficiency-oriented instruction is the framework through which language instruction, curriculum, and assessment is organized in the German curriculum. From the first day of instruction on, language learners practice the four modalities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in order to communicate meaningfully, effectively, and creatively for real-life purposes.
A proficiency orientation promotes intercultural communication by exploring the interconnectedness of language and culture, so that students can communicate appropriately and accurately in authentic contexts.
Instruction is thus student- and not teacher-centered and builds upon what students need, already know, and can do. It respects diverse learning styles, while encouraging the development of a wide range of skills and learning strategies.
This approach necessitates that instructors speak in the target language from the first day of instruction on, but also avoids lecturing to students. If the students do not hear German in class, where else will they hear it? And, since one of the German section’s goals is to enable students to study abroad with the New England Consortium’s Study Abroad Program in Salzburg, Austria (administered through UM) or the Business School’s affiliation through the Fachhochschule Aalen in Germany, appropriate linguistic and cultural preparation is of ultimate importance.
The German curriculum therefore aims to accomplish the following:
Instruction is designed specifically for proficiency outcomes and balances the three components of proficiency: content (i.e. topics of communication), function (the task or purpose of communication), and accuracy (correctness or appropriateness). The activities employed by instructors allow learners to practice single as well as linked modalities. Classes are structured in such a way that they incorporate both achievement-oriented tasks and proficiency-oriented/communicative tasks.
Thus, learners develop a certain level of grammatical control to communicate. Authentic materials as well as oral, aural and written practice in meaningful contexts also ensures that students develop cultural awareness alongside their linguistic ability and assessment is related to the tasks posed (both achievement- and proficiency-oriented tasks).
In order to achieve its goals, and allow students to integrate a successful study abroad component, the German section adheres to a strict course rotation:
Fall semesters: The German section offers one 300-level writing-intensive course, which allows students coming from high school, those who have completed intermediate language study at the university level, and those who are returning from a year or semester abroad to hone their composition and conversation skills.
Either 305 or 307 is a graduation requirement for the major and are offered in alternate fall semesters. Of the additional two 400-level courses one is usually language- or culture-oriented and requires 204, 223 or an equivalent as pre-requisite, the second one is a literature course, which requires 306 as a prerequisite.
Spring semesters: The introductory literature course, 306, which is a graduation requirement for the major and the pre-requisite for all 400-level literature courses is offered every spring. In addition, two 400-level courses are offered every spring, one literature or film course and one advanced culture or language course.