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AP[R] Italian language and culture course and exam.

In late June of 2003, the College Board[R], a hot-for-profit membership association, decided to develop an Advanced Placement Program[R] (AP[R]) course and exam in Italian language and culture that will have profound implications for the teaching of Italian as a second language in this decade and beyond. Moreover, the course and exam will have equally important ramifications for existing AP language programs (French, German, Latin, Spanish) and several proposed language courses and exams (Chinese, Japanese, Russian) because of its inclusion of culture as an explicit component of the test.

Announcements of this significant academic initiative have appeared in recent issues of the AATI Newsletter (Baldini; Kleinhenz 1, 3; Mita; "College Participation Needed"). The schedule of events in the launching of this milestone course and test will begin with an AP Summer Institute in summer 2005 as well as AP workshops throughout the year, the offering of the first AP Italian course in fall 2005, and the first administration of the exam in May 2006. The genesis and successful promulgation of the prestigious AP course and exam is a tribute to the leadership of the AATI, the government of Italy (the Italian Embassy, the Educational Directors of the various Italian Consulates in the US), the National Italian American Foundation, the Order of Sons of Italy in America, UNICO National Inc., several prominent people from the Italian community (including Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Dr. Margaret Cuomo Meier), all of the members of the original Proposal Committee, Educational Testing Service[R] (ETS[R]), as well as the College Board. Once launched in the 2005-2006 academic year, the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam will enhance the Italian curriculum in North America, and if will strengthen Italian studies programs in colleges and universities by allowing students to place into advanced courses.

The Development of the AP Italian Course and Exam

The development of the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam is following a specific timeline to ensure its successful initiation for the 2005-2006 academic year. Last academic year, the members of a national AP Italian Language and Culture Task Force met on three occasions at the College Board offices to develop a course description and exam specifications. During the current (2004-2005) academic year, the AP Italian Language and Culture Development Committee will again convene three times to develop exam questions in coordination with the College Board and Educational Testing Service[R] (ETS[R]) for the first exam to be administered in May 2006.

This year, representatives of the College Board, including some of the members of last year's Task Force and new members of the Development Committee, will convene at professional organizations such as the American Association of Teachers of Italian, the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and similar meetings to present sessions and workshops devoted to the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam to interested instructors who seek information so that they may participate next year. Discussions will include the course description, the exam specifications, sample test items, the teacher's guidelines, related materials and professional development workshops and institutes that will be held starting in 2005.

Evaluation and Assessment

The exam itself will utilize the ACTFL Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century with its "5 Cs" (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, Communities) and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines as revised (Breiner-Sanders, Lowe, Miles, and Swender; Breiner-Sanders, Swender, and Terry) as a basis for its evidence-based approach to assessment.

Evaluation of communication will involve three modes: Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational. The AP Central[R] Web site ( College Board's online resource for AP professionals--has the course overview and the exam specifications available on-line. Statements about the goals and objectives that describe what AP Italian students should know and be able to do upon completing the course, are reproduced here:

Interpersonal--Interactive Communication: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing

* Students demonstrate comprehension and comprehensibility in spoken and written Italian in a variety of personal contexts, actively negotiating meaning and drawing appropriate inferences.

* Students appropriately use the formal and informal registers of spoken Italian.

* Students communicate clearly and effectively in a variety of personal contexts with minimal errors that do not interfere with communication.

Interpretive--Receptive Communication: Listening, Reading

* Students comprehend spoken Italian in a variety of academic and culturally appropriate contexts and draw appropriate inferences.

* Students comprehend and interpret authentic fiction and non-fiction written texts.

* Students have knowledge of vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and grammatical structures necessary to comprehend and interpret the oral and written texts.

Presentational--Productive Communication: Speaking, Writing

* Students write essays in Italian based on general topics with clarity and accuracy in a variety of contexts, styles, and registers.

* Students write essays in Italian based on cultural topics with clarity and accuracy, demonstrating an introductory knowledge of aspects of Italian geography, contemporary life in Italy, the arts and sciences, social customs and traditions, and contributions of Italians and Italian Americans to the world.

* Students speak accurately and fluently in a variety of academic, culturally appropriate contexts, with minimal errors that do not interfere with communication.

* Students speak accurately using the formal and informal registers.

The AP Italian Language and Culture Examination, which will last approximately two hours and forty-five minutes, consists of Reading, Writing, Culture, Listening, and Speaking (all equally weighted at 20%). The time allotted to each section varies according to test item type (multiple-choice, paragraph fill-in, composition, free-response). The specific components of the Exam include the following elements (now available on the AP Central Web site):

Section I consists of multiple-choice questions that assess reading comprehension in the interpretive mode.

Section II consists of three parts that assess writing in the presentational mode: Parts A and B consist of short free-response questions testing students' knowledge of grammar, and Part C consists of a prompt that requires the student to write an essay in Italian on a general topic (e.g., nominate a teacher from your school for the Teacher of the Year award and explain your nomination).

Section III assesses students' cultural understanding and requires the student to write an essay in Italian on one prompt on a cultural topic.

Cultural topics for AP Italian, which teachers should be interweaving throughout their language instruction, include:

* Italian geography (including major cities and regions)

* Contemporary life in Italy

* The arts and sciences

* Social customs and traditions

* Contributions of Italians and Italian American to the world

Section IV consists of multiple-choice questions that assess students' listening skills in the interpretive mode.

Section V consists of free-response questions that assess students' speaking skills in the presentational mode.

The Curricular Impact

The new AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam will have a substantial and valuable curricular impact at all levels. It will not only affect how Italian is taught at the high school level, but it will have a positive effect by strengthening and elevating the preparedness of the students who enroll in college and university courses. Students who enroll in the AP Italian Language and Culture course will be better prepared and, subsequently, they will be more likely to pursue advanced undergraduate courses at the college and university level.

These desirable outcomes will not take place overnight, in part, because the first Exam will not take place until May 2006. After that, we may expect to see more and better-trained students in post-secondary classes. Getting to that point will involve building on the existing curriculum with the help of the dedicated and enthusiastic Italian instructors already in place. Issues that need to be addressed include the following: (1) articulation; (2) collaboration of instruction at all levels; (3) curriculum review and revision; and (4) technology and second-language instruction.

(1) Articulation

As noted above, the development of the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam is likely to yield several beneficial results over time. Articulation, according to Byrnes (281), means "well motivated and well designed sequencing and coordination of instruction toward certain goals." Articulation means the logical progression and coordination of the content and format of the curriculum over a four-year period. Success in articulation, as Long points out, "is related to a number of important issues such as teacher education, placement, assessment, and standards" (513; see also Gahala 542-43). The AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam will create an environment in which teachers of Italian will seek to articulate course materials and course configurations so that students will be successful.

(2) Instructional Collaboration at All Levels

Closely linked to articulation is the matter of collaboration. Elliott, for example, notes that this notion has various meanings including people working together toward a common goal, or people from different backgrounds who "work together to solve problems or create a new product" (2). Such collaboration is likely to open the lines of communication and facilitate articulation. Preliminary interest in the AP Italian Course and Exam suggests that this necessary interaction is already occurring.

(3) Curriculum Review and Revision

The forthcoming Teacher's Guide--AP Italian Language and Culture will provide four sample syllabi that exemplify excellent curricular models. In addition, the materials ("Standards for Learning Italian') assembled by the National Standards Task Force of the American Association of Teachers of Italian are another valuable curricular resource. This useful document discusses how to incorporate the "5 Cs" (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, Communities) into the curriculum. Detailed exemplification of successful learning scenarios will help instructors to introduce the "5 Cs" into the curriculum. Likewise, the annual pedagogy and linguistic issue of Italica is yet another source of worthwhile and innovative materials.

(4) Technology and Second-Language Instruction

The electronic classroom provides students with access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. It presents opportunities (instantaneous access to information and to people around the world). It also presents challenges to institutions (expensive, rapid obsolescence, limited campus access, and so forth). The forthcoming Teacher's Guide--AP Italian Language and Culture will contain information on the Internet and Web sites.

Testing and evaluation will depend more and more on current and emergent technologies. In the future, it is likely that many AP Exams will be administered via the Internet to facilitate scoring and to expedite the reporting of results to students, schools, and higher education institutions.


The College Board will provide ample resources and training to ensure that all cooperating teachers who participate in the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam will have a sound preparation. The Web address for AP Italian on AP Central, as noted above, is From there, it will soon be possible to access the Teachers' Resources section that contains information on textbooks, anthologies, film, Web sites, and related materials. Each entry will contain title, author/director, course, abstract/summary, publication data, resource type, cost, link to resource, and materials included in the resource.

A second resource is the forthcoming Teacher's Guide--AP Italian and Culture, which contains a welcome letter from the College Board, and five chapters: (1) About AP Italian (Overview: Past, Present, Future; Course Description; Key Concepts and Skills); (2) Advice from the Classroom; (3) How to Organize Your Course (Create Your Own Syllabus; Four Sample Syllabi; Notes on Articulation of Curriculum); (4) The AP Exam in Italian; and (5) Resources for New Teachers (How to Address Limited Resources, Resources).

A third resource is the professional development workshops. These are training sessions and they are of two basic types. First, there are workshops (half-day or full-day) designed for teachers, administrators, and counselors, and these are available year-round during the academic year. The second format is the AP Summer Institute that lasts one week and trains teachers in the content of the AP Italian Course and Exam. These meetings take place at various institutions during the summer months.

Another resource is the Electronic Discussion Group (EDG) on AP Central that will allow participants to post messages that may be viewed by the members of the EDG.

Concluding Remarks

Italy, its national language, and its noteworthy cultural achievements form the foundation of Western civilization. The Modern Language Association's ("MLA's Fall Survey" 5) most recent enrollment figures for Colleges and Universities (fall 2002) indicate a substantial increase for Italian: 29.6% since fall of 1998. The actual enrollment increase went from 49,287 (fall 1998) to 63,899 (fall 2002). Under the impetus of the first AP Italian Exam, which takes place in May 2006, that number is likely to continue to increase. We may all look forward to overall improvement of the curriculum and the quality of students enrolled in Italian courses at all levels because of the academic effect of the AP Italian Language and Culture course and exam. This course and exam represent the most significant pedagogical achievement for Italian studies in the first decade of the new century.


ACTFL. Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century. Lawrence, KS: Allen, 1999.

AP Central.

Baldini, Pier Raimondo. "Messaggio del Presidente." AATI Newsletter (Summer-Fall 2004): 1.

Breiner-Sanders, Karen E., Pardee Lowe, Jr., John Miles, and Elvira Swender. "ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines--Speaking. Revised 1999." Foreign Language Annals 33 (2000): 13-18.

Breiner-Sanders, Karen E., Elvira Swender, and Robert M. Terry. "Preliminary Proficiency Guidelines--Writing Revised 2001." Foreign Language Annals 35 (2002): 9-15.

Byrnes, Heidi. "Priority: Curriculum Articulation: Addressing Curriculum Articulation in the Nineties: A Proposal." Foreign Language Annals 23 (1990): 281-92.

"College Participation Needed in Developing AP[R] Italian Language and Culture." AATI Newsletter (Winter-Spring 2004): 1.

Elliott, Anne. "Introduction." Collaboration Uncovered. The Forgotten, the Assumed, and the Unexamined in Collaborative Education. Ed. M. Richards, A. Elliott, V. Woloshyn, and C. Mitchell. Westport. CT: Bergin and Garvey, 2001. 1-15.

Gahala, Estella M. "'An Overview of New Approaches to Articulating Spanish Programs." Hispania 79 (1996): 542-44.

Kleinhenz, Christopher. "Messaggio del Presidente.'" AATI Newsletter (Spring-Fall 2003): 1, 3, 14, 16.

Long, Donna Reseigh. "Introduction" [Special Section: Articulation]. Hispania 79 (1996): 513-14.

Mita, Dolores. "Italian Language Advanced Placement Program." AATI Newsletter (Spring 2002): 4-5.

"MLA's Fall 2002 Survey Shows Increase in Foreign Language Enrollments." MLA Newsletter (Swing 2004): 5.

National Standards Task Force of the American Association of Teachers of Italian. "Standards for Learning Italian." Standards for Foreign Language Learning in tire 21st Century. Lawrence, KS: Allen, 1999. 283-323.

Teacher's Guide--AP Italian Language and Culture. New York: New York, Forthcoming.


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Title Annotation:Notes and Discussions
Author:Nuessel, Frank
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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