STARTALK Critical Language Assessment Program (CLAP)

The Second Language Studies Program and the Department of Linguistics & Languages at Michigan State University held a STARTALK synchronous online workshop on language-assessment development for teachers of Arabic and Russian, with a workshop that ran June 7 to 30, 2021. Follow-up components during the 2021-2022 academic school year are onging. By the end of STARTALK CLAP in February 2022, teacher participants will have identified best practices in foreign language assessment, implemented online assessment tools they developed in the workshop, communicated effectively with students and other stakeholders (for example, parents, supervisors, administrators) concerning assessment processes and results, and shared their assessment instruments with colleagues and other instructors of Arabic and Russian.

STARTALK CLAP is open to teachers of Arabic and Russian who will be teaching in U.S. middle schools (6th grade or above), high schools, community colleges, colleges, or universities during the 2021-2022 academic year. U.S. citizenship is not required: teaching Arabic or Russian in the USA is. Our application is closed, but we may return to open to new teacher-participants in 2022!

Program participants receive a full scholarship, which includes:

  • All course materials mailed in a bound packet to you at your home address, to arrive at least one full week before the workshop starts.
  • One graduate-course credit from Michigan State University, which is transcripted and transferable.

2021 Workshop Reading List

  • Week 1: Group Oral Assessment 6/9/21, for the session with Koen van Gorp on Task-based Language Assessment
    • Noudali, R. Performance assessments to improve student proficiency. The Language Educator, 11(2). 46-49.
  • Week 2: Multimodal Assessment 6/14/21, for the session with Caitlin Cornell on Universal Design
    • Devault (2020). Teaching language learners with learning disabilities. The Language Educator, 15(1). 49-53.
  • Week 2: Multimodal Assessment 6/16/21, for the session with Shawn Loewen on Instructed Second Language Acquisition
    • Naditz, N. & Lanphare, C. (2019). Four ways can-do statements empower learner proficiency. The Language Educator, 14(3). 46-50.
  • Week 3: Self-Assessment6/21/21, for the session with Megan Driver on Heritage Language Learners
  • Week 3: Self-Assessment 6/23/21, for the session with Jason Merrill on Placement Testing
    • Thompson, C. (2015). Moving along the proficiency continuum. The Language Educator, 10(1). 24-31.
    • Fernandez, C. (2021). From Grammar-driven to proficiency-based: Improving the Spanish basic language curriculum in higher education. The Language Educator, 16(1). 28-31.
  • Week 3: Self-Assessment 6/23/21, for the session with Ayman Mohamed on Vocabulary Growth and Assessment
    • Coombe, C. (2011). Assessing vocabulary in the language classroom. Malaysian English Language Teaching Association, 111-124.

2021 Workshop Videos

We recorded the STARTALK CLAP 2021 Zoom sessions. The videos are edited for streamlining or privacy where needed.

Team Members

Paula Winke, MSU STARTALK CLAP Director
Dmitrii Pastushenkov, Lead Russian Instructor
Elizabeth (Lizz) Huntley, Lead Arabic Instructor
Caitlin Cornell, Accommodations Presenter
Jason Merrill, Placement Testing Presenter
Ayman Mohamed, Vocabulary Testing Presenter
Meagan Driver, Assessing Heritage & Multilingual Speakers Presenter
Koen Van Gorp, Task-based Language Assessment Presenter
Shawn Loewen, Instructed SLA Presenter
Penny Shanks, Lead Financial Officer
Carly Kabel, Financial & Logistics Team Member
Ben Lampe, Financial & Logistics Team Member
Icon made by Freepik,

Enrolled Instructor-Participants

Enrollment Update: We have fully enrolled 20 instructor-participants total with full scholarships. The individuals below have obtained their MSU NetIds and email addresses as part of the application process, have filled out our internal, pre-program survey, and had their tuition covered by a scholarship from STARTALK CLAP for the 1-credit graduate course, LIN 891: "Topics in Linguistics: STARTALK Critical Language Assessment Program (CLAP)." If you have questions about enrollment or the scholarship tuition coverage, please email Paula Winke at
Enrollment 100%

I’m Dr. Muna Al-Shawafi. I have a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and an MA in Bilingual and Multicultural Education. My research and teaching interests include second language acquisition, critical pedagogy, Islamic education, and post-conflict education.

Natalia Black graduated from the Pedagogical University in Moscow, Russia and the New School in New York. She has been teaching Russian Language, Literature and Culture for many years. Natalia has been working as a teacher, translator and a screenwriter; she has collaborated with nonprofit organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the UN.

My name is Maryah Converse. I am a new PhD student on Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, and an instructor in the Arabic program. I’ve been teaching Arabic to adults for the better part of fifteen years, specializing in the Levantine dialects of Jordan, where I taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Above all, I believe that anyone can learn Arabic, and have fun doing it!

My name is Svetlana Filkova. I am a Russian teacher at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau Alaska. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Southeast. I also teach Business and English Language Learners. I see teaching as teamwork of teacher, students, parents, and community.

My Name is Eman Hammad. I have been teaching the Arabic Language for over 15 years now, and currently I teach Arabic to the secondary grades at MCYC California. I Love teaching and I love seeing how my students progress. As well I am always keen on developing myself and learning new skills.

My name is Hagar Ibrahim. I am an Arabic teacher, HOD and curriculum designer at Tarbiyah Academy ( An IB school). I have a Bc’s in the Arabic language and literature- Egypt. I have been teaching Arabic as a second language for over 12 years in Japan and US.

My name is Samah Idris. I am a College Instructor and an Arabic Teacher at the secondary level. I earned my B.A. in English Literature at Damascus University and my M.A. in Teaching K-12 Education with an ESL endorsement at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I am an ACTFL Assessment of Performance towards Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) Arabic rater. I work to create a safe and collaborative environment for my students where technology and other creative educational tools are welcome in the classroom.

My name is Islam Karkour, and I am the Lecturer of Arabic at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). I have a Ph.D. in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction, with concentrations in Second Language Acquisition and Intercultural Competence, from UNH. I am a former Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, and I am an ACTFL-certified Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) tester/Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) rater. My interests include the relationship between intercultural competence and foreign language education, curriculum design and development, and educational technology. As an Arabic instructor, I utilize a flipped classroom method to help my students improve their language skills and intercultural communicative competence.

My name is Irina Kogel and I am currently a lecturer at Davidson College, where I teach Russian language at all levels as well as literature in translation. Before Davidson, I taught at Mount Holyoke College. In the past I have participated in the Intensive STARTALK Institute for Russian Teachers at Middlebury College and taught at a STARTALK summer program for high school students at Arizona State University.

My name is Tanya McIntyre. I am an Associate Professor of Russian at Kent State University. I have worked with STARTALK programs since they began offering Russian. I was a co-director of the STARTALK KSU Foreign Language Academy in 2019. I strive to create a learner-centered classroom with 90+% TL use.

My name is Irina McLaughlin. I’m a Russian and Educational Technology instructor at Utah State University. I graduated from Dnipro National University (Ukraine) and Utah State University. As a teacher, I create a welcoming environment where my students can feel more comfortable to demonstrate their ability to learn and succeed.

Greetings from Svetlana Nuss! I am a literacy enthusiast. I have worked with language and language teaching in elementary, secondary, community, and tertiary settings. I believe in collegiate collaboration: serve on boards of two professional associations, consult school districts on EL instructional coaching, and teach online graduate teacher education program

My name is Katie Quackenbush and I am an Arabic teacher at Boston Latin Academy in the Boston Public Schools. I teach Arabic levels 1-4 to students in grades 8-12. I earned my Masters in Teaching Arabic and French at Tufts University. As a teacher, I strive to build a student-centered, communicative, and exploratory classroom experience.

My name is Alaa Razeq. I am an Arabic teacher and graduate student at Harvard University. I have taught Arabic with Startalk for over 10 years and am the Academic Director for the Arabic Summer Academy. As a teacher, my goal is that students know when to say what to whom.

My name is Angelina Rubina. I am currently working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of South Carolina while pursuing a PhD degree in Linguistics (Second Language Acquisition) and an MA in Comparative Literature (Russian and English). I focus on Russian and English morpho-syntax and on the acquisition of Russian as a heritage or a second language. I am also interested in using technology in language teaching and in the effect of teacher-student interactions on student motivation to learn foreign languages.

My name is Iza Savenkova. I am a Visiting International Scholar in the Department of Russian at Dickinson College, where I have been teaching Russian language of all levels since 2018. I hold a master’s degree in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Since 2018 I have served as a regular summer faculty member at the Middlebury College Cathryn Davis School of Russian. As I teach, I work to empower my students by creating an environment conducive to learning both in the classroom and in the real world.

My name is Luke Stratton. I teach Middle School Russian and French at Friends School of Baltimore. I completed my M.A. in Russian at the University of California, Berkeley. I create a classroom that encourages curiosity, play, and overall confidence in the target language.

My name is Olga Starchenko. I am a teacher of Russian language and literature for more than 20 years. Also, I am currently a Deputy Director at Russian School Olympus. During free time I write scientific articles about education.

My name is Renee Underhill. I am currently a middle school Arabic teacher in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and have worked as a high school teacher in the past. A non-native Arabic speaker, I received my B.A. in Middle East Studies and Arabic Studies from George Washington University in 2016. As a teacher, I strive to create a classroom environment focused on real communication where students feel that they belong and are known.

Hi, my name is Mona Zaki and I teach Arabic at the college level. I teach Elementary and Intermediate classes of 25 students. As a teacher I hope to create a community of students who love the language and enjoy doing activities together. I am always looking for activities to make students more engaged in learning the language.