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Sheena Steckl

Sheena Steckl

Languages & Literature/College of Humanities


Best Practices for Post-Secondary Arabic Language Instruction

Faculty Mentor: Fernando Rubio - Languages & Literature/College of Humanities


To help ensure graduates are adequately qualified to use their language skills in their chosen career, this project aims to determine the best practices for collegiate-level Arabic language instruction and provide an assessment of the Arabic program at the University of Utah in order to determine what, if any, modifications should be made to the Arabic curriculum. A large portion of this project will be a review of the current literature concerning second language (L2) acquisition in post-secondary classrooms. Determining how students learn a language most effectively can help to establish how to refine teaching and learning methodologies. In addition, the literature review will resolve what it means to be proficient in a language and how long it takes an English speaker to learn Arabic based on guidelines issued by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), the Defense Language Institute (DLI), and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).


The second aspect of this project will be to determine student success in and satisfaction with the Arabic program at the University of Utah through three separate assessment surveys. First, current upper-level Arabic students will be given the ILR Self-Assessment; the evaluation will make known how close the advanced language students are to achieving fluency. Once the size of the gap between student proficiency and fluency is determined, recommendations can be made as to how to bridge the gap. Second, a survey will be sent out to Middle East Center (MEC) alumni (of the last five years) in order to see how many graduates use their language skills in the workforce; how many wanted to use their skills but were unable to find a job; and their overall impressions of their language classes.

MEC alumni are chosen because they are required to take more years of Arabic courses than typical humanities students and, in theory, should be among the most proficient in their language of emphasis and the most likely to secure a job based on their language skills. Determining what, if any, careers students are obtaining after graduation will allow the university to make tailored adjustments to the program to ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce with their language skills. The third assessment survey involves analyzing student course surveys from the 2012-2013 academic year to look for areas in the classroom student students perceive as needing improvement.  


In addition to analyzing the survey findings, Arabic course offerings, language requirements, and overall program organization will be investigated. Recommendations for improvement to the program will be made based on survey findings and the review of literature. This project will be of benefit to current and future Arabic students, as changes in the curriculum aimed at making them better qualified to obtain a successful career after graduation. Changes in the curriculum will be self-sustaining and will be designed with ease of implementation and the ability to be applied when teaching other languages. The success of the program can be measured over time in improved student language proficiency and more students securing careers with their language skills.
Last Updated: 7/27/18