Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Will There Be A Waiver For FLPP Soldiers Who Took the MSA DLPT5?

Will DoD work with students who aready took the Modern Standard Arabic DLPT 5 and have lost their FLPP pay due to lower results? I will try and stay tuned to what happens and see what they decide.

On the other hand, I strongly believe that DLI should look seriously at examining the Iraqi version of the DLPT test. From my observations over this past year, and according to feedback from students of mine who took it, it seems that the Iraqi test was fielded too early and has some serious problems. So far it has not managed to accurately reflect the true performance of students (including some who were native or heritage speakers of the dialect).

Hopefully DLI will use this discovery to strengthen its validation process for other Arabic versions of the DLPT and test thoroughly before releasing anything further in Arabic.

Having said all of the above, I have to say that validaing tests and putting out a solid standard test is a monumental task. They receive lots of whipping that they do not deserve. The current criticism of DLI is mainly a communications problem within DoD. Language requirements differ by the type of work a soldier or an intelligence element performs. What they have tried to do so far is make DLI a do-it-all organization with no flexibility, except for SOCOM (Special Operations Cmmand), in how language instruction is done. That resulted in bottlenecks, cookie-cutter solution for language training, and other problems. I'd rather see DLI play the following roles:

1. DLI should be training grounds for teachers of language rather than teaching students. DLI should focus on train-the-trainer solutions. Language teaching is an art and there is no one absolute way to teach language. A language teacher should be proficient or at least have knowledge of all teaching methods out there. DLI could specialize in providing such training. These trainers can be instructors who work at different JLCs or military educational organizations that train soldiers such as the Special Warfare School at Fort Brag, Air Force Academy and West Point among others. This way DLI would be a force multiplier rather than a bottleneck.

1.1 If you ask, who will teach students if DLI is out of the picture? my answer would be 'decentralization'. JLCs and other military academies and educational organizations plus private language schools should do the training. DLI becomes a certifying authority. If you want to get language training business from DoD then you have to have your instructors be certified by DLI which can include a course attended by instructors at their own expense plus a test taken every 4 years or something like that. This way you open the doors to the private market to take care of the increasing need for training language students and at the same time we know that the instruction received meets DoD standards.

2. DLI should develop curriculum, tests and teaching standards for all of DoD elements. Right now this lack of standards is causing all kinds of fragmentation in teaching, curriculum and not applying the right teaching methods in the right conditions. I have developed a 'Situational Language Teaching method' according to which I teach apply best practices in language teaching to different soldiers depending on where they are in the learning process. I am considering publishing the model here on my blog to get feedback.

DLI on the other hand has some organizational issues. From my personal observation and conversation with several people at DLI it seems to me (and I am open to correction) that there is not much information sharing among teachers, between teachers and students or between administration and faculty and teachers. Lack of a declared teaching methods and organizational memory which prevent study and evaluation as to what are the best practices for language education.

I remain an outsider to DLI and as I said, I am open to being corrected if my assesment is wrong. DLI has been a great resource over they years but I believe it is time for it to adjust its mission and focus on what it can be really good at.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DLI Suspends DLPT 5

Why am I not surprised. The test was off-the-charts hard, according to many of my students who were 3/3 linguists in the past and scored 1+ on the new test. These were not ordinary students. They have years of experience working with Arabic material much harder than the DLPT and have very exceptional communicative ability.

I believe that DLI needs to do a more thorough job at validation. It has taken me 2 years so far to validate questions for my two upcoming books for Farsi and Iraqi Arabic, so I know how big of a challenge it is (each of my books contains over 400 questions while the DLPT has a total of 128 for both segments.).

Here is a link to the official memorandum suspending the test.