University News

Faculty research targets Spanish language learning

Modern Languages Provost's Office Spanish
December 11, 2019

Nausica Marcos Miguel, assistant professor of modern languages, and Silvia Aguinaga Echeverría, visiting professor of the same department, are adding their expertise to a $50,000 research grant from the Spencer Foundation, which helps fund education research. Marcos Miguel and Aguinaga Echeverría will research how textbooks in Spanish-language classes may help or hinder student learners.

The goal of the study is to analyze how students, instructors, and materials interact in the classroom, and how materials and their interactions with users might create opportunities for learning or might just do the opposite.

“The content of classroom materials such as foreign language textbooks has been examined to assess quality, but the actual use of the materials by the instructors has not been taken into account,” says Marcos Miguel, who is a researcher on the grant. “Therefore, content analysis is limited if one does not know what the end users do with them.”

Marcos Miguel and her colleagues are targeting intermediate language courses as the most common language requirement for schools. “We will explore three different schools to have a better overview of universities across the country. We will carry out classroom observations and recordings to see materials in use and also talk with those utilizing the materials, both instructors and students,” says Marcos Miguel.

Anne Marie Guerretaz, an assistant professor of language, literacy, and technology at Washington State University is the lead investigator of the grant.

“In the long run, this project will not only be beneficial to students and instructors on how to better use class materials but also will benefit researchers interested in the topic. Future studies will be able to refer to the corpus we are compiling of the class videos and interviews with students and professors.” says Aguinaga Echeverría.

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