Beyond curricular fossilization: New challenges and developments

Elena Lanza*, Elisa Baena, Heather Colburn, Reyes Morán, Deborah Rosenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many years, departments in university settings have struggled to achieve practical curricular development. Part of the challenge rests in the fossilization of many departmental curricula into a fixed program of studies, leading to ineffective courses that do not employ the latest pedagogical theory. Other departments-whether because of funding or institutional setbacks-hesitate to assess their curricular needs. An audit of the departmental curriculum, however, can expose the gaps, weaknesses, and sites for innovation in programming. In fall 2007, the Spanish Language Program of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University decided to audit its curriculum. This effort arose partially in response to a May 2007 report by the Modern Language Association, "Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World." Under the headline "Strengthening the Demand for Language Competence within the University," the report stated that departments should seek to develop programming to meet a clear set of standards for undergraduate majors. In addition, the Department aimed to reassess its class offerings based on the emphasis on assessment and learning outcomes in recent years, as well as the goal of preparing students for an increasingly global world. This paper will detail the goals, methods, and outcomes of this departmental audit. It will present the curricular audit as a model for other departments, whether in the humanities or in the sciences. We view our model as a useful tool in achieving a clear correlation between curriculum and improved learning outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-480
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Learning
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2009


  • Audit
  • Curriculum development
  • Foreign language
  • Globalization
  • Learning outcomes
  • Model
  • University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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