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Modes of Communication
Process: Communication Models
Language teachers are generally familiar with a four-skills model of communication, in which reading, writing, listening, and speaking proficiencies are assessed individually. A four-skills approach will continue to be a useful model for assessment, as it is often necessary to avoid confounding performance on one dimension, such as listening, with skill in another area, such as reading. Assessing skills individually is desirable in situations where learners have acquired language in a variety of ways, and thus may not share common pathways to proficiency—often the case with adults. Evaluation criteria, such as those of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, are not aligned with a particular program or method of instruction.
Three Standards for Communication
The three standards in the Communication goal of the National Standards focus on the purposes and contexts for communication. Teachers will recognize the incorporation of the four-skills view of language proficiency in the Standards, but the Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational modes present a more complete and authentic model of communication.
The five goals of the National Standards—Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities—are goals for instruction. Although the five 'C's appear equally significant in the Standards' symbol of interlocking rings, it is clear that the Communication goal is the heart of the Standards. Learning scenarios, such as those included in Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century or Proficiency-Oriented Language Instruction and Assessment: A Curriculum Handbook for Teachers, provide examples, lessons, and units that interweave the five C's in instructional contexts.