Date of Award

Spring 5-2008

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Jean Delcourt, DML

Third Advisor

Lois Favre, EdD


The national increase of Latinos has resulted in an increase in students who speak Spanish. The major topic in this study was the instructional practices used by Middle School Languages Other Than English (LOTE) Spanish teachers when working with Heritage Language Learners (HLLs). HLLs have different needs from those of the traditional LOTE student. Recent literature has focused on HLLs at the elementary, high school, and university levels. Researchers have suggested activities to meet the needs of HLLs, but there is little evidence that teachers utilize these suggestions.

This multiple case study sought to determine how teachers modify instructional practices to address the unique needs and talents of the HLL through classroom observations, student focus-groups, and instructional scenarios completed by practicing teachers. The study also sought to determine if teachers were aware of the suggested activities for HLLs through coursework, workshops, or professional development. This study provides insight on how to assist teachers when working with HLLs.

Fifteen teachers of Spanish completed an Instructional Scenarios Questionnaire about their instructional practices with HLLs and non-HLLs. These teachers were from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and their native languages were either English, Spanish, or Italian. All had been teaching Spanish for at least two years; some had received training through formal coursework or professional development to work with HLLs. Five Middle School teachers were selected by convenience for classroom observations. An observation form, the Instructional Practices Record (IPR) was developed for use during a total of seven classroom observations. Additionally, 14 students were interviewed in small focus-groups of HLLs and non-HLLs. Data were coded and analyzed for themes to determine which instructional practices were being used in Middle School Spanish classes with HLLs.

Results of this study indicate that teachers understand the needs of HLLs and are familiar with recommended strategies to meet their needs. However, teachers and students reported little difference in the activities assigned to or in learning expectations between HLLs and non-HLLs. Little modification was reported in any part of the study. Using methods adapted from instruction of gifted and talented students, The Curriculum Compactor may be used to help teachers plan accelerated and enriched activities for HLLs.