115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Challenges and Opportunities of the Big Ten LCTL Partnership 

Emily Heidrich, Michigan State University

The LCTL Partnership focuses on the collaborative development of models of LCTL instruction across multiple universities to improve the language proficiency of advanced learners of LCTLs. In this session we will discuss the practical, institutional, and pedagogical challenges of such a partnership as well as its opportunities for strategic cooperation.


The Big Ten LCTL Partnership is a three-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that seeks to expand the scope and refine the focus of the longstanding and successful Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) CourseShare initiative within the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Seeing a decline in enrollment at higher levels of proficiency is typical of all LCTL programs, making it virtually impossible for any one institution to offer advanced training in most languages, the LCTL Partnership focuses on establishing strategic cooperation across a variety of LCTLs by leveraging leading-edge research and advances in proficiency-oriented instruction and assessment so that more third and fourth year students, across more institutions, achieve at least intermediate high proficiency in more LCTLs.

The project focuses on the collaborative development of hybrid models of LCTL instruction. Course development and delivery are shared across multiple universities. Specific materials will be developed in three languages: Focusing on Swahili in Year 1, Swahili and Hindi in Year 2, and Hindi and a third language (TBD) in Year 3. This takes place through a ‘working groups’ model in which representatives from multiple Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions collaborate to develop curricula supported by innovative pedagogies. The working groups are comprised of experts in instructional technology and curriculum/assessment and include a language specific coordinator along with two additional language specific experts for each of the three languages from different participating institutions.

The LCTL Partnership aims to pool the relevant expertise and experiences across universities and other stakeholders or communities of language users (e.g., heritage speakers) to create an intentional community of practice that will enrich language programs. Furthermore, the project sets anambitious researchagenda. As part of our program evaluation we are carefully recording and evaluating all steps and missteps along the way. This program evaluation will inform us about the success of implementing proficiency-based course materials to improve students’ overall proficiency and will inform teachers and students of the effectiveness of their language program.

Because sustainability is essential to the success of this project, we see the outcome as the creation and implementation of transferable models for coordinated LCTL instruction (i.e., a language-independent Manual) that can serve as the basis for development of other languages in subsequent years. This Manual will consist inter alia of curricular templates, checklists of steps that need to be taken, personal stories from the working groups that outline their steps along the way, and webinar templates.

In this session we will discuss the progress of the Partnership that started in September 2016. We will reflect on the practical, institutional, and pedagogical challenges that we encountered in shaping the Partnership and on the ways we have advanced our project underscoring the intended strategic cooperation between the Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions.