Alejandra Gonzalez, M.A.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (August 2017)
Master of Arts in modern languages from Kansas State University
McNair Project: Introduction of Spanish as a Heritage Language Learner in Higher Education: Assumptions versus Training (2017)
Mentor: Laura Valentín-Rivera, Ph.D.
Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) have rapidly grown in the college education (Lynch 2003). Although enrollments in Spanish courses have increased, the number of the courses provided for Spanish HLLs are still limited (Rhodes and Branman, 1999). Thus, most of the Spanish HLLs have been in classes that are designed to teach traditional foreign language, that is: where English-dominant students learn a foreign language and re-teach the basics that they were supposed to learn at home (Valés 1997, 2003). According to Mikulski and Elola (2011), there are limited opportunities that are designed to keep track of HLLs' needs and for the training resources for Spanish instructors in charge of teaching Spanish to these types of learners. This limitation has led to insufficient comprehension of learning needs as well as the different levels among bilingual contact variation that complicate the effectiveness of teaching strategies within the classroom (Valdés, Fishman, Chavez & Perez 2008). To shed some light on this issue, this study analyzed whether Spanish instructors at the college level have pursued or received any training on the teaching of Spanish as a heritage language, as well as exploring the teaching strategies that these subjects execute in the heritage classroom.