Sarah Holden and Dr. Michael Bush, Center for Language Studies
Importance of the project
Brigham Young University’s Romanian orphanage internship has been a popular and well-attended program since its inception, attracting mainly students majoring in childhood development, nursing, psychology, and health sciences. The volunteer work these interns perform during their semester abroad is of utmost importance–both to the orphans receiving care and to the students providing it. The orphanage caretakers greatly value BYU interns, but have often expressed frustration in their inability to adequately communicate in the Romanian language. Although a beginning Romanian course has been offered at BYU for several years, it was clear that its curriculum needed to be altered and an enhanced Teacher’s Guide created in order to better equip students with the means necessary to communicate in the situation most pertinent to their line of work.
Approach to research
Researchers of modern foreign language pedagogy respect the ADDIE model, which served as my guide throughout the course of my research. The ADDIE model follows five essential steps in foreign language curriculum development: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. The analysis and design portions were largely completed prior to receiving the ORCA grant. With the grant, I focused on development, implementation and evaluation. As a student instructor for the Romanian 100 course, I had the advantage of developing lesson plans according to the specific needs expressed (or otherwise shown) by my students. Relying on feedback from past Iasi interns, as well as input from current students, I was able to create meaningful, pertinent lesson plans. I implemented these individually-designed lesson plans, as well as other best practices in foreign language pedagogy, directly in the classroom. I was able to see first-hand how effective these lessons were, what worked best, and what needed further improvement. The evaluation phase was carried out through regular surveys that I issued to the students the following semester, while they were immersed in their internship program in Iasi. Questions were answered anonymously and revolved around the day-to-day communication situations that the students most frequently encountered: What elements were most beneficial from the course? What do you wish you had spent more time learning? What elements would you eliminate in favor of a more narrowed, in-depth focus? What advice do you have for future interns who take Romanian 100/101? With their feedback, the Romanian 101 curriculum can be continually improved and refined to ensure future students are getting the most out of this course.
One unforeseen roadblock in creating a Teacher’s Guide was the size of my class. A record 23 students registered for Romanian 100 during Winter Semester 2012. Based on past class sizes of 5-10, I expected to be able to carry out a much more narrow, individualized study. More class time was spent trying to engage and monitor the participation of each student, rather than repeatedly practicing and drilling deep on certain topics. Although the circumstances were not ideal to the research I anticipated, I quickly learned how to adapt to the situation. I focused more time on giving every student ample opportunity to converse in the target language, and less time on nailing down best practices and teaching methods.
Areas for further development
As further research and development is carried out, I plan to account for the likelihood of a large class size, and to develop lesson plans that accommodate and effectively reach each student. Considering most recent feedback, I will also spend even more time on conversational skills necessary for communicating with nurses and children. Although a large portion of my curriculum was specifically addressed to this situation, the students expressed a desire to communicate more colloquially and with greater authority. Though I have now completed my undergraduate degree at BYU, I intend to continue the research I have started. Future graduate or doctoral studies will certainly find it of value. Most importantly, my goal to make BYU’s beginning Romanian course the most effective foreign language course on campus still persists. Several wonderful and significant developments have been made, but there will always be room for more.