BA and MA German Programs 

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The German faculty began a revision of the entire undergraduate and graduate curriculum in fall 2012. Were supported in our efforts by the newly required assessment procedures, which encouraged us to make many of our implicit ideas explicit and enabled us to develop them even further.

We developed mission statements for the BA and the MA program that take up the university’s mission of preparing students to excel in an increasingly advanced and interconnected global society. In our mission statements, we also indicate they we think of both degree programs as components of an overall curriculum. The latter is most clearly indicated by the fact that we successfully integrated upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses. As we recruit undergraduate students not only nationally and regionally but also our own undergraduates for the MA program, rethinking both curricula in terms of integrating them became the obvious next step in our revision process.

We revised the BA Program by reorganizing the undergraduate curriculum into three course clusters of beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses. As part of this revision, we then engaged in an overall revision process for the beginning sequence of introductory language courses (1010, 1020, 2010) and are currently in the process of revising the syllabi for each of the courses. We completed the syllabus revision for 1010 and will complete the 1020 revision in fall 2016 and the 2010 revision in winter 2017. We have furthermore revised the syllabi for the intermediate sequence (2020, 3100, 3200) and will discuss these revisions further in AY 2017/18. Before revising the syllabi for the advanced sequence in detail, which will require further reflection of optimally integrating upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses, we are currently revising the English-language courses (2310, 2710, 2720, 2991) we offer to our majors and minors as well as students who need to fulfill their general education requirement in Foreign Cultures and Philosophy and Letters. We anticipate completing the revision process of these courses in AY 2016/17 and the revision of upper-level/graduate courses in AY 2017/18.

The integrated nature of our undergraduate and master’s program is also indicated by the fact that we developed the same categories for learning outcomes for both programs and expect undergraduate and master’s students to meet them at different levels of proficiency. In developing the learning outcomes, we relied in part on the national standards developed by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). We developed the following learning outcomes for both programs: LO 1 Writing, LO 2 Presentational Speaking, LO 3 Interpersonal Communication, LO 4 Reading Comprehension. We have collected assessment data for LO 1 and LO 2. The data indicates that almost all of our undergraduate and master’s students scored at the level of 4 and 5 (on a scale of 1 to 5) on almost all of the rubrics of L0 1 and LO2 indicating that they can speak and present at the appropriate ACTFL proficiency level. No undergraduate or master’s student scored below a 3 and of the very small number of students who scored at a level of 3, none did so on more than two of the rubrics for each learning outcome. We believe that our students’ success reflects the substantial revisions we have made over the past few years to our curriculum, which in turn benefitted from the optimal cooperation among the German faculty.

Our students’ success furthermore greatly depends on the fact that at least 90 percent of our majors and minors spend a semester or a year in Germany with the Junior Year in Munich Program. JYM is the oldest continually-running study-abroad program in Germany and is housed at Wayne State but the program recruits students nationally, which in turn allows our students to pay only a fraction of the program cost and thus enables such a large number of our students, many of whom are first-generation students, to take advantage of this exceptional learning opportunity. The German area also continues to actively participate and co-organize the Annual CMLLC Career Day for which we invite alumni who work in the soft sector of the more than 300 German companies in the Metro Detroit area, to engage with current majors, minors, and students in introductory language classes in workshops in which they share their personal experience of how learning German benefitted them professionally and personally. All of these elements have enabled the German undergraduate program to substantially increase the number of majors (most of whom are dual or double majors) and minors to 65 (as of fall 2016). Unlike at virtually any other university, we thus have the same number of majors and minors as the Spanish BA program. With our continuing efforts to rethink and revise our undergraduate and master’s curriculum, we believe that the German program will continue to grow.

We have already sketched out three further learning outcomes – analysis of primary and secondary sources, information literacy, and intercultural competency – which we will discuss further in AY 2017/18 as part of our overall curriculum revision and assessment processes. As we revise courses that constitute both the advanced sequence of the undergraduate program and the master’s program, we plan to systematically recruit our best undergraduates into the AGRADE Program, which will allow them to complete a German Master’s Degree in only one year. Currently, our master’s students complete the program in two years and cutting the time to completion in half would allow us to offer GTA ships to twice as many master’s students which would in turn benefit enrollment in upper level/graduate classes.

We are also becoming more familiar with the assessment process and the differences in assessing programs rather than individual students and/or classes. In an effort to streamline the assessment process and collecting meaningful data, we decided to not assess every student in every upper-level/graduate course but instead use the Master’s essay, oral exam, and the last course each master’s student is taking to collect assessment data. We also will rethink the data collection for the assessment of the BA Program along these lines and may only collect date based on the writing intensive course and the last course students take rather than all upper-level courses.

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