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

Improving Enrollment and Retention in Intermediate and Advanced French Language Courses at the University of Washington: A Case Study

Lorenzo Giachetti, University of Washington

This case study of work undertaken at the University of Washington discusses negative impacts on enrollment and retention, and outlines actions taken to curb those enrollment and retention problems in intermediate and advanced French language courses.


Even large R-1 institutions are not immune to declining enrollments and administrative pressure put on language programs, both traditional and less commonly taught. The Department of French and Italian at the University of Washington is undergoing a major curricular transition at the intermediate and advanced levels for French (and soon Italian) aimed at improving retention and ultimately increasing numbers of majors and minors.


Data analyzed from the past 5 years showed that the highest drops in enrollment occurred around the first quarter of reaching a new level, i.e. 1st quarter of intermediate (2nd year) or advanced (3rd year).


We attribute this:


1)    Abrupt transitions and different pedagogical methods used from one level to the next;

2)    Rising tuition and students having to purchase new, often very expensive US-published materials;

3)    Difficulty establishing cohorts.


In order to curb the negative impact of these issues, we have:


1)    Implemented a task-based pedagogical framework at the introductory, intermediate and advanced and revised course objectives according to CEFR levels and guidelines. These offer students a clear, outcomes-driven path from 1st year/1st quarter all the way to the Major/Minor.

2)    Transitioned to European publishers at the intermediate and advanced levels and adopted Moodle as an online grammar and homework submission portal. This has reduced the cost to our students from over $200/year in textbooks and website support to less than $50/year.  

3)    Revised the way we schedule courses and give teaching assignments in order to maximize opportunity for students to advance with the same cohort and instructor.  


As we near the completion of the first year in which we have implemented this strategy, enrollments and retention have increased at the intermediate level, and remained steady at the advanced. These are encouraging early signs we will continue to monitor closely throughout the summer and into next Autumn, and hope to have the opportunity to share them at this important discussion on the future – and survival – of language programs.