The Advanced Placement Russian program and the examination developed by the American Council of Teachers of Russian and the College Board reflect recent pedagogy in the field of Second Language Acquisition. They are informed by three documents that have appeared in the last decade - Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (Standards Project), the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines(American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) and the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).
A basic tenet of all three documents is that students should be assessed on what they can do in a foreign language rather than what they know about the language. This emphasis on performance underlies expectations for student activities as described in the Standards document and also underlies the format of the AP examination in Russian Language and Culture. In separate parts of the examination students will be assessed on their ability to function in Russian in terms of their proficiency in reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, and writing in realistic situations.
Given the impact of the AP program on pre-college courses, it will be important for teachers to think about how best to prepare students for this proficiency-based assessment. An approach that is helpful is that of "backwards planning". In this approach a teacher plans units of learning by thinking first about how to assess student performance, and then considers what materials, what learning activities, and what formative assessments will be required. Vocabulary and grammatical structures are integrated into learning activities as necessary tools that students will need to perform in the language. Lesson plans derive from the final assessment activity rather than the other way around. Rubrics inform students and teachers as to how well students are using the language.
Examples from an AP level class in Brighton High School will demonstrate the use of backwards planning in creating performance activity assessments. A description of various activities and appropriate rubrics will illustrate the process of preparing students for this sort of assessment.