CTL Featured Assignment Overview
Name & number of course: CHI 201 - Intensive Intermediate Chinese I
Major: East Asian Studies, Chinese
Name of assignment: “Campus Tour” - 20-Minute On-Site Oral Exam on a Self-Designed Route
Class size: 12
Last time class was taught & when it will be taught again:
This course is offered annually in the fall semester.
Learning goals of the assignment & briefly how they relate to the goals of the course:
The overarching goal of CHI 201 Intensive Intermediate Chinese I is set at promoting the student’s integrated post-novice proficiencies of Modern Standard Chinese in the four interconnected skill areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Cutting through these domains is the course’s emphasis on the development of interpersonal communicative abilities to foster each learner’s proper functioning in eight sociolinguistic scenes frequently encountered in college life, either task-based (store shopping, food ordering, apartment hunting, school orientation, etc.), or information-centered (on curricular plans, social life, the impact of TV and films, etc.)
This “Campus Tour” assignment is thus both relevant and conducive to the course goal because of its design as the course’s capstone project that culminates all the students’ semester-long hard work. It is a comprehensive exercise that enables the students to review and reflect on the various modules and components that they have learned, including the mastering of 421 new words, 289 characters, and 93 sentence patterns, to create a rich and coherent discourse of description, narration, and Q&A against a personally meaningful living environment.
Description of the assignment (e.g., when you give the assignment, if you scaffold the assignment):
This final project is conceptualized and implemented as a 20-minute on-site interactive practicum. Each student is assigned the role of an Admission Fellow at Connecticut College who sets out to lead a tour around the campus on behalf of a Chinese-speaking-only visitor, a role assumed by the instructor himself. It contributes to 20% of the total semester grade. The student designs his/her own route to launch the task while interacting context-sensitively with the visitor in the target language from site to site. All the eight college-life-related topics that have been covered in the course are expected to be incorporated, repackaged, and showcased in the action through its open-ended format and wide-scoped frame.
A preparation packet is distributed before the Thanksgiving break to guide the students towards the three projected goal: (i) communicative functionality, (ii) structural accuracy and (iii) diction felicitousness and sophistication.
The attached packet comprises the 93 new grammar patterns of the semester, the instructor’s full-length demonstration plan (realized each year, two weeks before the final assessment), a sample supplementary essay on the same topic, and a few pictures of previous students’ performances to assist with the students’ preparation and spur their imagination of the possibility of this grand finale of their third intensive semester of Chinese study here at Connecticut College.
What you like about the assignment & why you think it is effective:
From my own observations and student comments of this project since its first implementation 17 years ago, I have known “Campus Tour” to be an assignment that is at once authentic, original, challenging, motivating, convincing, and fun. Despite its grueling aspects — students are otherwise paired-up for their mid-semester oral exams — so this is their first opportunity of going solo, even popping outdoors in the mid-December cold. They like the project’s task-based nature and real-life feel, enjoy the freedom to follow their own routes and assemble language materials accordingly, and have found using physical environments as organizing brackets akin to exploring unfamiliar territories in the real world.
Throughout these years, as my students’ “Chinese-speaking-only visitor” and game referee at the same time, I have witnessed firsthand the progress they can achieve under such concerted evaluative rubrics. I have also been taken to places that include the Arboretum, buildings that I had not been to before, and dormitory rooms where my student’s roommates were still soundly asleep!
In face-to-face scenarios like this, no matter how well each student has rehearsed, they are bound by the interactive nature of meaningful communication to leave room for spontaneity rather than rely solely on previously memorized texts.
After a semester’s teaching, I can now take the passenger’s seat and enjoy a ride following the student’s lead and navigation, whereas still maintaining my authority to probe them on a subject that they did not get to articulate clearly. I believe for both my students and myself, there is ample reason to regard “Campus Tour” as a “tour” de force that every one of us would like to fly high on at the conclusion of each fall semester.