The 2013 Chinese Conference at ACTFL was held in Orlando. My panel was on Saturday morning, 8:00-9:00am, under the panel theme “K-12 Teaching” with two other speakers. My presentation was “To Bridge the High School and College Level Chinese Curriculums” which was based on the placement data analysis of the Chinese placement tests at Yale in the past 8 years.
As more high schools in America are adding Chinese programs to their foreign language curriculum, more high school students, mostly non-heritage, are entering college with already some level of Chinese proficiency, ranging from one year to four years. The increased number of students with Chinese proficiency is palatably reshaping the landscape of college Chinese programs and poses significant challenges to college curriculums and classroom teaching.
The most prominent problem can be found in the wide disparity in proficiency levels among students. While quite a few students are able to enter an intermediate Chinese course or an even higher level course, many others that have studied Chinese for 2-4 years or even more have to restart from the elementary level of Chinese. At the same time, their knowledge of some Chinese often dampens the class enthusiasm of other students who have not done any Chinese in the past.
My presentation analyzed the placement data in the past eight years at Yale concerning student background and their eventual placement in Yale Chinese courses at varied levels, and discussed the miscellaneous issues and difficulties that we have encountered in classrooms. By highlighting some prevalent issues among these students, I want to establish a dialog with high school teachers of the Chinese language and make some concrete suggestions concerning their teaching strategies and curriculum building. My purpose was to identify some specific areas of deficiency that could be likely addressed and improved in high school Chinese teaching and highlight some factors that could help bridge the gap between high school and college Chinese programs.
Although the panel was in the early morning with the distractions of the beautiful Orlando weather, it still attracted a sizable group of audience to the topic. After the presentation, we had also a direct conversation with several high school teachers, two of those were from Hopkins School and Hamden Hall, in the Yale neighborhood.