Guided Independent Study

The GILS Courses follow a Guided Independent Learning Study format with regular feedback and language practice provided by weekly individual tutorials and small group conversation sessions.Students are required to complete a set number of readings and assignments during the semester as well as to provide samples from this work that demonstrate their progress toward achieving the stated learning outcomes.  Students upload these samples to a graded electronic portfolio along with corollary written reflections on the learning process; a major portion of the final grade is determined by a mid-term and a final comprehensive evaluation with an outside evaluator. Participation in the program requires significant independent work and personal initiative.

There is no “teacher” in a GILS course, as that term is usually understood in other instructional contexts. It is central to the success of the program that students clearly understand what is expected of them in such an independent learning environment: they must be self-directed and self-disciplined, and they must be willing and able to assume full responsibility for their learning. This being said, students submit regular self-assessment reports  to the program coordinator, who can advise them on their progress and additional resources.

Only students in good academic standing should apply to the program; moreover, it is recommended that applicants have already taken a traditionally taught language course at Lafayette.  Students will be accepted in the program only at the discretion of the GILS Director.

The GILS Program Director will identify appropriate curricular materials, Language Partners, and qualified evaluators for students whose applications are seriously considered.   Since establishing the availability of these resources takes time, GILS applications must be submitted in the semester preceding the one for which study is proposed. Only those applications will be approved for which adequate materials, Language Partners, and assessment can be arranged.

GILS courses cover both spoken and written aspects of the language to be studied with an emphasis on developing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. For example, Guided Elementary Arabic I emphasizes learning to read, write, and pronounce the Arabic script. It also covers basic conversational skills and culturally appropriate etiquette. It is followed by Guided Elementary Arabic II. Each of these courses covers learning objectives and outcomes that are equivalent to those included in college-level, elementary Arabic study in a traditional classroom course. Students who are planning on doing a study abroad semester in a country where Arabic is spoken might want to consider taking the GILS courses before traveling abroad; they can then follow-up on more advanced level courses at a university in their host country.

The syllabus for GILS courses assigns materials at a pace necessary to complete the assigned materials within a semester. Students who fall behind this pace will be in danger of not passing the course and should discuss their situation with the program directors.

The Lafayette program is modeled on the Directed Independent Language Study (DILS) program developed by the Center for Language Study at Yale University and the Less Commonly Taught Language Program at Hamilton College; we would like to thank colleagues at these institutions for sharing their expertise and their help in setting up our program. We would also like to credit the NASILP (National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs) for coordinating information  in this field as well as the Five College Consortium for developing and sharing on-line materials for so many of the un commonly taught languages.

For more information about GILS courses and registration procedures contact: Prof. Geoffrion-Vinci or Mary Toulouse (Director of the FLLRC) at or 610-330-5265