Language complaints drop

Thursday, May 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Complaints about the English proficiency of faculty members in the University of Missouri system have dropped significantly in the past five years, according to a policy review to be presented today to the UM Board of Curators.

Stephen Lehmkuhle, UM vice president of academic affairs, said the policy passed in October 2000 requires department leaders to certify that all faculty members teaching required, non-foreign language undergraduate courses be proficient in English.

Lehmkuhle said he will update curators meeting in Kansas City on the policy using results from yearly surveys given to students on the system’s four campuses. The surveys allow students to comment on how well their teachers speak English.

“We’ve reduced complaint rates significantly,” Lehmkuhle said.

According to Lori Franz, MU’s vice provost for undergraduate studies, 4 percent of students responding to the survey in 1999 said they had difficulty in courses taught by non-native English speakers. In the latest survey, she said, that number was 2 percent.

Lehmkuhle said that each year, 80 percent of complaints are generally attributed to three to five programs on each campus. The areas with the most challenges are mathematics, economics and statistics, said Franz.

Survey results are reported back to the heads of each campus, who are then expected to formulate a plan of action.

“MU has several initiatives that can be requested by all faculty members to help them improve their teaching,” Franz said.

She listed initiatives such as placing observers in new teachers’ classrooms to offer them feedback and “language support services and culture courses for non-native faculty members and teaching assistants.”

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