About the Language Proficiency Flagship Initiative

The Language Proficiency Flagship Initiative (2014-2019), funded by the National Security Education Program within the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, was housed in the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA) at Michigan State University. Our goal in this project was to introduce assessment practices to four of MSU’s foreign language programs (French, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish) to measure teaching and learning and to determine the impact of such practices on teaching and learning. The program was extended internally to include assessment of German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese.

During the years of funding, we collected extensive student proficiency scores (based on ACTFL rubrics). Through classroom observations and focus groups, we investigated understanding of proficiency-based instruction by teachers and learners. Through the use of self-assessment, we aimed to help students set clear expectations for themselves and to help teachers use those self-assessments to inform curriculum. Results for various publications have been gleaned from:

  1. Detailed student information on language use and experience,
  2. Classroom observations,
  3. Focus groups, and
  4. Actual assessments



  • Carrillo Cabello, A., Paesani, K., & Soneson, D. (Eds.) (2019). Developing advanced speaking proficiency: Instructional and curricular models for post-secondary language programs. (CARLA Working Paper Series). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.
  • Winke, P., & Gass, S. (Eds.). (2019). Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education.  Berlin/New York: Springer.

Articles and chapters:

  • Dillard, B. (2019). Language Instructors Learning Together: Using Lesson Study in Higher Education. In P. Winke & S. Gass, S. (Eds.), Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education (pp. 245-263). Berlin/New York: Springer.
  • Gass, S., & Winke, P. (2019). Proficiency testing in the U.S. context: An introduction. In P. Winke & S. Gass (Eds.), Foreign language proficiency in higher education (pp. 3-13). Berlin/New York: Springer. 
  • Gass, S., Van Gorp, K., & Winke, P. (2019). Using different carrots: How incentivization affects proficiency testing outcomes. Foreign Language Annals, 52(2), 216-236. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12389 
  • Hacking, J. & Rubio, F. (2016). A proficiency-based articulation project between two post-secondary institutions. In P. Urlaub & J. Watzinger Tharp (Eds.), The interconnected language curriculum: Critical transitions and interfaces in articulated k-16 contexts. (pp. 118-133). Boston: Cengage/Heinle.
  • Hacking, J., Rubio, F. & Tschirner, E. (2019). Vocabulary size, reading proficiency and curricular design: The case of college Chinese, German, Russian and Spanish. In Gass, S. & Winke, P. (Eds.), Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education. (pp. 25-44). Berlin/New York: Springer. 
  • Hacking, J. & Tschirner, E. (2017). Reading proficiency, vocabulary development and curricular design: The case of college Russian. Foreign Language Annals, 50(3), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12282
  • Isbell, D. R., Winke, P. M., & Gass, S. M. (2019). Using the ACTFL OPIc to assess and monitor progress in a tertiary foreign languages program. Language Testing, 36(3), 439–465. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265532218798139 
  • Ma, W., & Winke, P. (2019). Self-assessment: How reliable is it in assessing oral proficiency over time? Foreign Language Annals, 52(1), 66-86. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12379 
  • Mack, S. & Sweet, G. (2017).  Taking the next step and empowering students with self-assessment. The Language Educator 12(3), 37-39.
  • Rubio, F., Hacking, J. (2019). Proficiency vs. performance: what do the tests show? In Gass, S. & Winke, P. (Eds.), Foreign language proficiency in higher education. (pp. 137-152). Berlin/New York: Springer. 
  • Soneson, D., & Tarone, E. (2019). Picking up the PACE: Proficiency Assessment for Curricular Enhancement. In P. Winke & S. Gass, S. (Eds.), Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education (pp. 45-70). Berlin/New York: Springer.
  • Soneson, D. (in press). Advanced users of Spanish: Relationships among modalities of speaking, reading, and listening. In M. Menke & P. Malovrh (Eds.), Advancedness in second language Spanish: Definitions, challenges, and possibilities. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
  • Strawbridge, T., Soneson, D., & Griffith, C. (in press). Lasting Effects of Pre-University Language Exposure on Undergraduate Proficiency. Foreign Language Annals.
  • Sweet, G., Mack, S., & Olivero-Agney, A. (2019). Where am I? Where am I going, and how do I get there?:  Increasing learner agency through large-scale self-assessment in language learning. In P. Winke & S. Gass, S. (Eds.), Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education (pp. 175-195). Berlin/New York: Springer.
  • Suvorov, R., Carrillo Cabello, A., & Janssen Sánchez, B. (2018). Professional Development in Language Centers: Approaches and Guidelines for Design and Implementation. In E. Lavolette & E. Simon (Eds.). Language Center Design (pp. 197-222). Alabama: IALLT. 
  • Tigchelaar, M., Bowles, R., Winke, P., & Gass, S. (2017). Assessing the validity of ACTFL can-do statements for spoken proficiency. Foreign Language Annals, 50(3), 584-600. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/flan.12286/full 
  • Tschirner, E., Hacking, J. & Rubio, F. (2018). Reading proficiency and vocabulary size: An empirical investigation. In Ecke, P. & Rott, S. (eds.) Understanding vocabulary learning and teaching: Implications for language program development (pp. 58-77).Boston: Cengage/Heinle.
  • Van Gorp, K., Reed, D., Gass, S., & Winke, P. (2017). Comparing speaking performances across tests and languages: evaluating the success of an institutional rater-training program. In Savage, J., M. Marulli, & A. French (Eds). Learning and Assessment: Making the connections (pp. 194-200). Cambridge, UK: Association of Language Testers in Europe.
  • Vanpee, K. & Soneson, D. (2019). Arabic Proficiency Improvement through a Culture of Assessment. In P. Winke & S. Gass, S. (Eds.), Foreign Language Proficiency in Higher Education Education (pp. 197-216). Berlin/New York: Springer.
  • Winke, P., & Gass, S. (2018). Individual differences in advanced proficiency. In P. A. Malovrh & A. Benati (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of advanced proficiency in second language acquisition (pp. 157-178). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Winke, P., & Gass, S. (2018). When some study abroad: How returning students realign with the curriculum and impact evidence of learning. In C. Sanz and A. Morales-Front (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of study abroad research and practice (pp. 527-544). New York: Routledge.
  • Winke, P., & Ma, W. M. (2020). The assessment of Chinese L2 proficiency. In C. Shei, M., Zikpi, & D. Chao (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of Chinese language teaching (pp. 405-422). New York: Routledge
  • Winke, P., Gass, S., & Heidrich, E. (2019). Modern-day foreign language majors: Their goals, attainment, and fit within a twenty-first century curriculum. In P. Winke & S. Gass (Eds.), Foreign language proficiency in higher education (pp. 117-136). Berlin/New York: Springer. 

About NSEP’s “The Language Flagship”

The Language Flagship is a national effort to change the way Americans learn languages. Flagship offers language programs at schools across the United States for undergraduate students in critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. Designed as a network of programs, The Language Flagship seeks to graduate students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of many languages critical to U.S. competitiveness and security.

Flagship Team Members

  • Paula Winke, Associate Professor, Flagship Co-Director
  • Susan Gass, University Distinguished Professor, Flagship Co-Director
  • Charlene Polio, Professor, Flagship Co-Investigator
  • Koen Van Gorp, Academic Specialist, Flagship Co-Investigator
  • Angelika Kraemer, Academic Specialist, Flagship Co-Investigator
  • Emily Heidrich, Academic Specialist, Flagship Project Manager
  • Shinhye Lee, Graduate Assistant, Flagship Project Assistant