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Dear Students and Teachers of Languages,

We are teacher educators from the United States and Austria conducting a collaborative project on behalf of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe (ECML). Our project requires the active participation of practising teachers and student teachers. We would be very pleased if you would take part in ACTOSTL (the acronym of our project) project.

Research question of ACTOSTL

The central aim of the project is to determine what student and initial teachers consider to be good practices in foreign language teaching. To do this, we are asking student teachers and initial teachers of languages in the USA and throughout Europe to observe foreign language classes and to document ‘indicators’ of good practices in specific areas. We hope that the findings of this survey will feed into teacher education programs and be of value to all teachers of foreign languages.

Content of the observation

At the core of the project is an online survey, consisting of a structured observation sheet to be used to evaluate foreign language classes. The content of this observation sheet is based on two documents, both of which are concerned with what constitutes good teaching.

  • ACTFL/NCATE (CAEP) Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers, which is used to assess teacher education program performance in the USA;
  • The European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL), a Council of Europe document, which serves the purpose of reflection and self-assessment of didactic competences.

The survey will examine good practice with regard to 24 specific competences identified in these two documents. The competences are organised under four headings taken from the ACTFL/CAEP standards:

A.    (Lesson) planning (standard 3)
B.    Teaching (standard 4)
C.    Evidence of Culture (standard 2)
D.    Assessing (standard 5)

Specific competences have been selected within each section and have been adapted from those found in the EPOSTL.

If you are willing to participate in our project, we ask you to do the following:

  1. Click on the following link which will take you to the observation sheet (hyperlinked below) to be used in the project.
  2. The observation sheet consists of 22 statements of competences accompanied by spaces to fill in your comments. Look carefully at the descriptors and decide which you want to select for a particular observation period.
  3. Arrange to observe classroom sessions – they may be held by experienced teachers, initial teachers or student teachers.
  4. As you observe a class, make notes under the respective competences by identifying specific practices – indicators - which you regard as good teaching.
  5. After your observation, go to the project website and fill in the information you have gathered under the respective competence. Up to four specific indicators of good practice can be recorded for each competence. (An example of how to fill out the observation sheet is given below.)

Points for guidance
a)    Your observation can be based on a single lesson but preferably on a series of lessons.
b)    Your observation may be of classes held by different teachers.
c)    You may observe teachers who teach any foreign language. In the online survey, you are asked to state the language that is being taught in the classroom you have observed. If you observe two or more foreign languages, please fill in separate feedback sheets for each one.  
d)    You do not need to give feedback on all 22 competences in the observation sheet. Select those that are of particular interest or relevance to you.
e)    It is possible to enter up to four items under each competence. You do not need to fill in all four spaces.
f)    After you have first accessed your personal observation sheet, you will be able to return to it and can fill it out over a period of time. Once you have pressed the submit button, the sheet will no longer be available and will be sent to the project coordinators for processing.

Comments must be entered by 1st December. After this time, it will no longer be possible to access your observation sheet.

Anonymity policy
No names will be recorded in the survey. Both observers and teachers will remain absolutely anonymous. Please inform the teacher(s) you are observing in advance that your observation is part of an international project.

Processing of the project data will begin on 1st December. It is hoped that the results will be presented at an international conference held at the ECML in Graz Austria in February 2014.

If you require further information, please contact the project coordinators:
Dr. Dave McAlpine:
Emeritus Professor of Spanish and Second Language Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Dr. David Newby:
Emeritus Professor of English Language Didactics and Research, University of Graz, Austria

Example of how to fill out the survey (based on observations of students at Graz University):

  The teacher creates a supportive atmosphere that invites learners to take part in speaking activities.
a. She took a genuine interest in what students were saying and showed this in her responses
b. She allowed students to talk in small groups to reduce pressure
c. Although she corrected the mistakes, she did it in an appropriate way and not in an intimidating way
d. She used role-play so that students could ‘step outside themselves’ – they were therefore less inhibited when speaking







Download Observation Form (interative PDF)

Information Sheet for Teacher Educators

Information Sheet for Participants