ACTFL 2012 Proficiency Guidelines and Turkish Annotating and Sampling Taskforce

ACTFL 2012 Proficiency Guidelines and
Turkish Annotating and Sampling Taskforce

By Pelin Başcı

In 1993, an AATT working group, comprised of Ender Creel, Erika Gilson, Deniz Gökçora, Ralph Jaeckel, Sibel Kamışlı, Güliz Kuruoğlu, Mükrime Onursal, Sumru Özsoy, and James Stewart-Robinson had concluded their work on the Provisional AATT Proficiency Guidelines for Turkish. This was a significant document responding to the innovative thinking about language teaching and learning during the 1990s. Theirs was a fundamental accomplishment, which described the ACTFL proficiency levels as articulated through “actual performances elicited from language learners” (Introduction to Provisional Guidelines). In addition to the expertise of the original ACTFL team that articulated the levels in the 1990s, the AATT Provisional Proficiency Guidelines acknowledged the expert guidence of Pardee Lowe, Jr., James Child, David Hiple, Irene Thompson, and Roger Allen. Drafting of the AATT Provisional Proficiency Guidelines, a document, that has been frequently consulted by master teachers, novice assistants, and even students and learners alike for the last twenty years has been a tremendous service to our professional community. Today, nearly twenty years since the preparation of this text, another team of Turkish language experts undertook the task of re-thinking the latest ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines with Turkish language learners in mind.

A new committee of experts comprised of Erika Gilson, Pelin Basci, Nilay Sevinc, Mukaddes Sahin, Ercan Balci and Ebru Ergul was formed under the leadership of the AATT Executive-Secretary Roberta Micallef, who also serves in the committee. ACTFL expert Elwira Swender and trainer Mildred Rivera-Martinez have been working with the group since Fall 2012. Generous funding was secured through the Institute of Turkish Studies by the AATT Executive-Secretairat Roberta Micallef. Through this funding the group was able to meet in person at the ACTFL Headquarters in Alexandria, VA. The two-day meeting, held between January 11 and 12, 2013 included two members from the original AATT team: Erika Gilson, who had served on the 1993 working group, has been a continued source of expert advice and creative suggestions; Ender Creel, who had served in the original team, kindly agreed to participate in the two day meeting ay Alexandria, bringing her invaluable experience. On the ACTFL end, Mildred Rivera-Martinez provided excellent leadership. Earlier, Mildred had shared with the AATT group level-appropriate questions both for speaking and reading, and prepared a roadmap for the group’s work in Alexandria, VA.

The meeting in January set the ground for two kinds of work which is considerably different from the original 1993 assignment: 1) Annotating ACTFL’s own 2012 Proficiency Guidelines to articulate the specificity of Turkish language learning experience, rather than drafting an entirely new document for Turkish or updating the 1993 AATT document based on the 2012 ACTFL guidelines, 2) Providing Turkish audio samples for Speaking and Turkish written samples for Writing levels articulated in the ACTFL 2012 Proficiency Guidelines.

AATT Working group in ACTFL at Alexandria, VA, January 2013

During the meeting in Alexandria, the working group reached a consensus about usable samples for the middle range of Speaking and Writing levels. This is not an easy task as learners in a particular level range in their accomplishments, sometimes barely achieving the target level or almost attaining the next level. The group continues its work to choose from a variety of samples acquired through the permission of learners in a wide range of US institutions, from Princeton University to University of Michigan, from Kansans University to Portland State University, from Stanford University to Chicago University and Boston University. Choosing middle-range samples for levels (e.g. novice-mid, intermediate-mid, advanced-mid, etc.) and including samples and annotations for superior and distinguished levels is not an exact science and can be contentious. Equally challenging yet important is the annotation of the 2012 guidelines, which requires that professionals in the AATT community articulate cultural, grammatical, lexical, etc. specificities in Turkish through these annotations. But the meeting in Alexandria has been extremely helpful in ironing out such issues and reaching an understanding about usable samples and forms of annotation.

The group’s work continues with virtual meetings over e-mail and through tele-conferencing. The group intends to conclude its work Speaking and Writing skills by June 2013. The group aims to discuss its work in open forums like its annual meetings held in conjunction with the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association. The outcome will be accessible through the ACTFL’s own site. In the future AATT aims to take up Listening and Reading levels as well.