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Through the Lens of Appreciative Inquiry
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All families have principles.

Whether or not the members of the family make those principles clear to others (or even to themselves), the principles are lived out day to day. The principles drive what the family believes to be important and are a measure of success, of how well they work together, of how much they accomplish together, and ultimately, whether each member of the family believes they matter, belong, and can contribute.

This truth holds, no matter what type of human “family” we consider. Institutions such as schools and school systems are also family in that they are a collection of human beings for certain purposes. Just like our more typical definition of family, schools and school districts have principles. Just like family, schools and districts may experience the principles lived out without focus, cohesion, effectiveness, or inclusion. When the members of the educational family sit down together to reveal, discuss, clarify, commit to, and share their principles, however, accomplishment is assured, and the family flourishes through affirmation, inclusion, and empowerment.

The family of world language educators also has principles to ensure flourishing. The principles reveal, clarify, and provide opportunity to commit to, evaluate, adjust, and consistently improve world language programs to ensure language and cultural proficiency for all students in all circumstances. Such programs are effective. Such programs fulfill our promises to students and achieve our educational mandates and purposes.

The Principles of Effective World Language Programs document was developed and published by a task force from the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NADSFL). This document reveals and clarifies the four key facets of the principles that impact the success of our programs for students and society. These principles help world language educators to commit to these principles and, in an ongoing and organic way, provide opportunities for evaluating and modifying our programs to continue to meet our educational vision. Download the pdf of the complete Principles here.

Now let’s get the flavor of how principles guide our world language education family.

The four facets of the principles are:

  • Program Design: intentional learning pathways
  • Curriculum: themes, experiences, and sources addressing articulated standards
  • Assessments: focus on language as a tool for communication
  • Teacher Effectiveness: recognition of the centrality of professional support and development

Each facet of the principles includes ideal characteristics, recommended leadership behaviors, and resources. For this overview, let’s focus on ideal characteristics—how “family principles” are revealed and clarified—and leadership behaviors—how we are led to commit fully to living out our world language family identity. Are these the principles you see in your own world language education family? Do the leaders in your family group exhibit behaviors that ensure that the principles can be understood and lived by all? Do you? Excellence is not an accident. Approach the vision of each facet of these principles with blameless discernment of your own situation.

Program Design commits us to this vision: “Effective World Language Programs cultivate globally competent students.”

In order to cultivate competence,

  1. The family (school/district) has a vision.
  2. There are extended, articulated sequences of study.
  3. All students have access to the programs.
  4. Data are routinely collected and analyzed.
  5. There are quality tools and resources.
  6. The “family” communicates regularly with all touched by the world language vision.
  7. Students get involved in the global community.

Leadership behaviors include advocacy, collaboration, clarity, systematizing, flexibility, and proactivity.

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How do your world language family, your leadership, and your own role reflect this principle?

Curriculum commits us to this vision: “A standards-based World Language curriculum should be focused on developing proficiency in the target language.”

In order to develop proficiency,

  1. There are clear proficiency targets.
  2. Results are based on standards and global language and cultural competencies.
  3. Curriculum writing and review are systemized.
  4. Programs use Backwards Design Principles.
  5. Thematic units engage student motivation.
  6. Can-do statements keep performance goals in front of students.
  7. Students get frequent opportunities to interact with authentic sources and native speakers.
  8. Students get involved in the global community.

Leadership behaviors include clarity, proactivity, process development, supervision, monitoring, and connecting.

How do your world language family, your leadership, and your own role reflect this principle?

Assessment commits us to this vision: “Effective World Language Programs help cultivate globally competent students through performance-based assessment.”

In order to cultivate competence,

  1. Assessments are used for student motivation.
  2. Programs use a balanced assessment approach.
  3. Programs use feedback to increase proficiency.
  4. Performance assessment is used to monitor and document growth.
  5. Growth data drive decisions about programs.

Leadership behaviors include expertise, analysis, facilitation, strategizing, monitoring, and support.

How do your world language family, your leadership, and your own role reflect this principle?

Teacher Effectiveness commits us to this vision: “Effective World Language Programs recognize that effective teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement.”

In order to address this key factor,

  1. Professional practice is driven by professional standards.
  2. Teachers are reflective practitioners.
  3. Teachers build and refine their knowledge and skills.
  4. Programs develop, empower, and retain teachers.
  5. Programs support teachers giving back to the profession.

Leadership behaviors include communication, clarity, support, creativity, vision, awareness, and proactivity

How do your world language family, your leadership, and your own role reflect this principle?

Without principles, our lives together fragment, and we lose the power to affirm our own full humanity and to engage with others to affirm theirs.

With principles, we have pathways to effective language teaching and learning. With principles, we also have pathways for our world language family to celebrate diversity, plan for inclusion, ensure equity, and fulfill our most profound goals: stability, prosperity, and justice through both education, and through developing global citizens.


By Norah Jones


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