Transforming Language Instruction

Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

In June 2016 the University of Chicago Language Center (CLC) received a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project “Transforming Language Instruction at the University of Chicago and Beyond: Collaborative Curricula and Professional Development.” The grant, initially awarded for five years but now extended until June 2025, began as a way to increase learner access to less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) and support those language instructors through professional development.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Grant

How long does this Initiative last?

We are funded until Summer 2025.

Can I participate by myself, or do I have to be part of a pair or group?

We have learned that collaborating in the design of assessments and realignment of curricula is a crucial component of the work done to transform pedagogy. Our participants are working in pairs teaching the same language across different campuses, or cohorts teaching multiple languages on the same campus. Contact us for ideas on how to form a pair or cohort.

Who owns the assessments and materials created in this grant?

Because the University of Chicago and the Mellon Foundation have funded the development of these materials, legally they are property of those entities. This just means that we will keep the final version of your test in our files and may allow other trained UChicago-Mellon participants to use the test. However, we expect and hope that you will use the tests and curricula you develop in your teaching and testing, and that you will make ongoing improvements over time as needed.

What can and can’t I do with the materials I develop through these workshops?

While you can and should use these materials in your own teaching, you may not sell them, use them in textbook development or other materials development for profit, or charge others to use or access them in any form. You also can and should share curricular materials with peers who teach your language, and consider uploading them to a repository for open educational resources (OERs).

Who can participate in this project?

Only full-time faculty and instructors of all ranks at postsecondary institutions in North America are eligible for the Mellon Transforming Language Instruction project.

We allow non-LCTL instructors to participate as members of a cohort that includes an instructor of a LCTL.

We also encourage language center directors, or others in a leadership role for assessment and curriculum on campus, to participate in our workshop cycles. We believe they can disseminate and ultimately drive similar professional initiatives on their own campuses.


About the Workshops

Are all of the workshops mandatory?
While all of the workshops are completely voluntary, participants must follow a specific progression. Everyone who participates in the Mellon Transforming Language Instruction project must have completed Oral Proficiency Interview training (led by an ACTFL trainer). The first time you design a test, you must attend the Test Design and Development Workshop; Once you have finished the workshop and your test has been fully developed and approved, you are eligible to participate in the Curriculum Design Workshop for the curriculum that corresponds to the test you have designed. 

Do I have to attend all of the sessions in a given workshop?

Yes, we require attendance at all sessions. Active participation in these workshops is important for achieving the desired workshop outcomes. Each workshop session and its follow-up activities builds upon the others to form a cohesive whole.

I already took an ACTFL OPI or MOPI workshop, but I need a refresher. Can I take your (M)OPI workshop again?

Yes, you are welcome to apply, but we give priority to new workshop participants.

Can I apply to develop a second test under this grant? 

Yes, you are welcome to apply, but we give priority to new workshop participants.

Can I apply to develop another version of the same test or revise parts of my previous test under this grant?

While developing multiple versions of a test is extremely valuable for test security and revising parts of a test may be necessary to improve its quality, neither are eligible for funding under this grant.

I have already developed a test under the Mellon grant. Can I apply with a different (new) partner to develop a test at a different proficiency level?

Yes, you are welcome to apply, but we give priority to new workshop participants. Your partner must have completed an ACTFL OPI or MOPI workshop, either with us or elsewhere.

Can I work with a colleague on a curriculum who has not yet developed a test under the Mellon grant? 

No. All Curriculum Design workshop participants must have completed OPI training and Test Design and Development.

Will the workshops be offered multiple times during the year?

No, each workshop is only offered once a year, typically falling between late spring and late summer.

Do I need to work with the same partners from the Test Workshop in the Curriculum Workshop?

No. However, your partner must have completed an OPI training.

I have partially re-aligned my curriculum. Can I apply to complete the rest of it? 

Yes, you are welcome to apply, but we give priority to new workshop participants.

Can I apply to revise the curriculum that I already developed under the Mellon grant?

No. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests to revise a curriculum you already developed with us. We would also like to give new participants an opportunity to work with us. However, if you only developed part of your curriculum with us, you may return to develop the other parts, if there is enough space in the workshop.

I’ve already re-aligned my curriculum for the first year. Can I work on a second-year curriculum if I don’t have a test in place?

No. This project has been designed so that you are fully able to take the steps of assessment and curriculum design on your own. We would also encourage you to attend the Program Evaluation workshop to strategically analyze multiple years of your curriculum.

Are there any restrictions for course development projects?

Yes. There must be a proficiency-oriented assessment in place, that is, at least one member in your group should have completed a test development project with us, in order for you to be able to align your course with it – that is a key element of reverse design.

Do I have to commit to all three workshops in order to participate?

No. We recommend that you start with us with the intention of doing all three – but we understand when life and work intervene.