Spain or bust? Assessment and student perceptions of out -of -class contact and oral proficiency in a study abroad context
This dissertation examines the relationship between the researcher's assessment and students' perceptions of both out-of-class contact and oral proficiency in a study abroad context. The participants of two University of Massachusetts Amherst programs in Spain were investigated in the summer and fall of 2002. Self-report surveys of out-of-class contact were administered to these students, focusing on prior experience with Spanish, as well as interactive and noninteractive contact in Spanish and English during the sojourn abroad. In addition, students' self-evaluations of their oral proficiency levels were compared to the researcher's ratings, determined through oral interviews following the ACTFL OPI protocol. Finally, students kept language journals while abroad in order to continually reflect on a series of introspective questions about language and learning opportunities. In a follow-up to the main study, five students who studied abroad a second time in the spring of 2003 also responded to a series of questions about their approach to learning abroad, comparing their two University of Massachusetts Amherst program experiences. The results of and responses to these instruments permit the researcher to gauge how students perceived the contributions of out-of-class contact to their oral proficiency levels and their overall learning process. In addition to fostering awareness and encouraging active learning on the part of participants, this project and its findings should enable future program planners to more effectively prepare students to maximize opportunities for interaction while abroad.