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Spanish & Portuguese: Undergraduate Programs


The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is constantly revising assessment mechanisms based on faculty-driven conversations about what students should know, when they should know it, how this would articulate with course offerings, and how we would ascertain whether or not students knew what we said they did. Outcomes are vital to skill based disciplines such as Spanish and Portuguese where students take all of their major work in the target language. Since our students are always perfecting their skills in the target language, the ability to assure that the department's course sequences help students advance in their language study is vital, and this is what the department's assessment documents are designed to do. The final goal of the assessment plan is to find ways to evaluate both the assessment instruments already in place and what changes should be made in specific courses as a result of the information received.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 


Learning Outcomes plus Assessment Activities



Learning Outcomes


Proposed Assessment Methods




Elaborate complex sentences with varied structures and adequate vocabulary in most types of oral and written communication;

Rubric evaluation of essay Span 325




Demonstrate the necessary communication skills (writing/speaking/ listening/reading) to express and support opinions and values in a variety of settings;

   Rubric oral evaluation of Span 330




Understand, compare, and analyze ideas, values, or attitudes of people from the Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian world, showing enhanced cultural sensitivity;

   Rubric evaluation of final essay of Span 330




Read, comprehend, and critically discuss narratives, articles, and videos in Spanish and/or Portuguese from authentic texts on current topics related to the Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian cultures and linguistic structures and uses;

   Rubric evaluation of essays of Span 325



Assessment Findings: 

Findings and Future Initiatives based on the above Learning Outcomes – AY 2015-2016

 A. Span 325

Overview of the Assignment:

·      We evaluated the final essays from Span 325. The assignment requested students to write 6-7 page argumentative essay based on the themes and readings of the course.

·      Forty-six essays were assessed on outcomes 1 and 4. The final essay rubric included the following overall traits: title, development, language, format. Each trait was subdivided in items and scored individually. 

Findings and Future Initiatives:

1. In the essays, we need to incorporate other strategies to guide the students through the writing process. On a scale 0-25, the students scored between 19 and 20 when requested to develop their argument.  They demonstrated they could comprehend the texts and the cultural context but had difficulty creating a clear argument. Although students still find difficulty in constructing their thesis statement, the allocation of class time to allow students to discuss the formation of their thesis statements has proven to be useful. The instructors have also provided students with samples of theses and asked them to discuss their strengths and weaknesses. The exercise generated a better understanding of what is expected of them. Next semester we will dedicate more time and design tools to help students to think about how to structure their essays.

2. Many students (around 25% in some groups) had difficulty in elaborating complex sentences with varied structures. The essays demonstrate that students still do not know the difference between the use of ser and estar and cannot use the present and past subjunctive correctly. That problem is exacerbated by the fact that many students do not have a clear knowledge of what nouns, adverbs, subjects, and predicates mean. Students can benefit from peer reviews if we develop forms or a simple rubric that could be used to help students evaluate their peers’ work. This exercise will help them develop skills to evaluate their own work.


B. Span 330

Overview of the Assignment:

·      During the semester, students were required to read and discuss a wide range of topics. The seven-minute oral presentation focused on aspects of the culture of the Spanish-speaking community. The students were also requested to maintain an appropriate exchange of ideas, answering and asking questions to show their capacity to interact with other students and the instructor.

·      Fifty-two oral presentations were assessed on outcomes 1, 2 and 3. The final oral presentation rubric included the following overall components: duration, content/audiovisual aids, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and interaction. Each component was subdivided into items and scored individually. 

Findings and Future Initiatives:

1. The overall performance of the students was very good. The students were well prepared to discuss and comment on the topics. They presented ideas, information and opinions and maintained a good interaction with other students. They demonstrated sensitivity to cultural differences in their answers.

 2, Most of the students demonstrated a very good degree of accuracy in vocabulary. On a scale 0 to 15, 73% of the students scored 80% or higher. With very few exceptions, students had high scores in pronunciation. Out of fifty-two students, 84% had a score around 80%.

3. Span 330 was designed to improve students’ speaking skills.  In order to develop effective speaking skills, students need to have an accurate knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. For this reason, in 2013 we added a grammar component to the course. Since then, their performance has improved substantially. Approximately 65% of the students used accurate grammatical structures and the large majority of the others achieved a satisfactory performance (above 60% of the grade component). Most students conjugated verbs accurately; however, when the subjunctive mood was required, many students used it incorrectly. Students should be advised to practice the use of verbs, moods and tenses during the semester.

            Overall we were very pleased with the findings. There are two areas that need special attention. The assessment data found that students are still struggling with the use of the subjunctive and the essay structure.  The data will be shared with the instructors for discussion in order to review our pedagogy. 

Updated date: Tue, 11/08/2016 - 15:09