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17 Replies to “Challenging the Notion of Spanish Heritage Language Reading Deficits: Comparing Spanish Heritage & L2 Learners’ Performance on Non-Traditional Readings (Patricia MacGregor-Mendoza, Gabriela Moreno, Jeffrey Longwell)”

  1. Your video does not have sound. Could you please check?
    I am interested in this topic so I would like to hear what you are saying.
    Thank you.

    1. We have re-recorded and submitted the video and all of our voices are present. We invite you to view the new recording.

  2. Thank you for the presentation!
    I have a few questions for you. (1) It is not clear to me if the reading profiles you are finding are independent of learning experience in the courses (that is, are they profiles that you might find in HSSs enrolled at your university who are not enrolled in Spanish courses?) or are the result of the interaction between the reading profile learners “bring” before taking Spanish courses and the development prompted by the work in the classroom. (2) Could you expand on your conclusion that “non-traditional” texts show promise for making distinctions of L2 learners? and finally (3) Can you expand on your definition of “non-traditional” texts? Are you referring to genres and modalities? To me any text, even a text message, could be “traditional” or not,. Many would say that El Quijote is not a traditional text, I guess i am not sure why you chose “traditional”-“non-traditional”as your designation of texts instead of using other categorizations like genres (in the sense used by functional linguistics) or modalities (in the sense used by the New London Group).

    1. What wonderful questions! Thank you for watching our presentation.

      In response to 1):
      There is a mixture of both. In each semester of data collection, we collected information at the beginning of the semester, before much classroom influence could be registered. For 113 learners (first SHL/SNS course) this is who they are when they come to our classroom. What we demonstrate here is that, contrary to what previous literature has claimed, even these beginning learners can demonstrate reading abilities. Learners in subsequent SHL/SNS course levels (213, 214, 312, 315) are a mix of learners who have been placed in our program by means of the placement exam and learners who have progressed in our program; we don’t have a way of teasing them apart although we can say that there are no repeated test takers in our data—we filtered out anyone who completed our survey of items multiple times either in the same or in subsequent semesters (we only took the first instance of their participation). Nonetheless, their performance on the reading tasks illustrate that whether placed or having progressed from one level to the next, learners at each level are similar to one another and contrast with learners at other levels (note the diminishing standard deviations as course level rises and the robust number of significant post hoc comparisons). Although we can’t distinguish performance between adjacent course levels (e.g. 113 and 213) we can find contrasts between non-adjacent levels (e.g. 113 and 214). Since we’re using readings of this type as only part of our placement exam (the readings are part of the items we’re piloting to test alternative items), we’re not concerned that we can’t precisely distinguish between adjacent levels using only the readings since we have other items that help us out.

      In response to 2):
      In the results of the L2 learners (with SHL/SNS learners filtered out) we see that although the mean scores were lower than for SHL/SNS learners, distinctions between 111 and 112 learners were found in two of the readings. Since our informant pool was greatest at those two levels, we’re (cautiously) optimistic that we might find more contrasts among L2 learners with greater learner participation at the 211, 212, 313, and 314 levels.

      In response to 3):
      Thank you for this question; we sacrificed the background on literacy to make the time limit in our presentation. We do embrace a multiliteracies approach in the design of our texts. We recognize that literacy is not simply the interpretation of mechanical elements of written language nor the result of the application of a series of cognitive strategies to unlock the meaning of a particular text, rather that the reader bears a wealth of linguistic and cultural knowledge and experience that is used as a lens to make sense of the reading. Kern (2000, p. 36) notes that “People do not read and write to engage in abstract processes; rather, they read and write particular texts of particular types, in particular ways, because they hold particular values. Literacy is therefore not monolithic but multiple in nature; it is not just about language or reading and writing per se, but about social practices” In our designing of these texts we seek to align ourselves with the literacy practices, purposes and points of view of the SHL/SNS learners in our community and harness their power to measure literacy skills.
      Our use of traditional vs. non-traditional is somewhat imprecise, but it reflects the forms and functions of literacy that are outside of norm of those found in the classroom or in textbooks and aligns with the overall impressions of Cope and Kalantzis (2009, p. 166) who acknowledge that “Whereas traditional literacy curriculum was taught to a singular standard (grammar, the literary canon, standard national forms of the language), the everyday experience of meaning making was increasingly one of negotiating discourse differences. A pedagogy of multiliteracies would need to address this as a fundamental aspect of contemporary teaching and learning.” They state later (p. 170) that “Literacy needs much more than the traditional basics of reading and writing the national language: in the new economy workplace, it is a set of supple, variable, communication strategies, ever-diverging according to the cultures and social languages of technologies, functional groups, types of organization and niche clienteles.”

      Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning, Pedagogies: An International Journal,4(3),164-195.

      Kern, R. (2000). Literacy and language teaching. Oxford University Press.

    2. Thank you for watching our presentation and for your great questions.

      In response to (1):
      There is a mixture of both. In each semester of data collection, we collected information at the beginning of the semester, before much classroom influence could be registered. For 113 learners (first SHL/SNS course) this is who they are when they come to our classroom. What we demonstrate here is that, contrary to what previous literature has claimed, even these beginning learners can demonstrate reading abilities. Learners in subsequent SHL/SNS course levels (213, 214, 312, 315) are a mix of learners who have been placed in our program by means of the placement exam and learners who have progressed in our program; we don’t have a way of teasing them apart although we can say that there are no repeated test takers in our data—we filtered out anyone who completed our survey of items multiple times either in the same or in subsequent semesters (we only took the first instance of their participation). Nonetheless, their performance on the reading tasks illustrate that whether placed or having progressed from one level to the next, learners at each level are similar to one another and contrast with learners at other levels (note the diminishing standard deviations as course level rises and the robust number of significant post hoc comparisons). Although we can’t distinguish performance between adjacent course levels (e.g. 113 and 213) we can find contrasts between non-adjacent levels (e.g. 113 and 214). Since we’re using readings of this type as only part of our placement exam (the readings are part of the items we’re piloting to test alternative items), we’re not concerned that we can’t precisely distinguish between adjacent levels using only the readings since we have other items that help us out.

      In response to (2):
      In the results of the L2 learners (with SHL/SNS learners filtered out) we see that although the mean scores were lower than for SHL/SNS learners, distinctions between 111 and 112 learners were found in two of the readings. Since our informant pool was greatest at those two levels, we’re (cautiously) optimistic that we might find more contrasts among L2 learners with greater learner participation at the 211, 212, 313, and 314 levels.

      In response to (3):
      Thank you for this question; we sacrificed the background on literacy to make the time limit in our presentation. We do embrace a multiliteracies approach in the design of our texts. We recognize that literacy is not simply the interpretation of mechanical elements of written language nor the result of the application of a series of cognitive strategies to unlock the meaning of a particular text, rather that the reader bears a wealth of linguistic and cultural knowledge and experience that is used as a lens to make sense of the reading. Kern (2000, p. 36) notes that “People do not read and write to engage in abstract processes; rather, they read and write particular texts of particular types, in particular ways, because they hold particular values. Literacy is therefore not monolithic but multiple in nature; it is not just about language or reading and writing per se, but about social practices” In our designing of these texts we seek to align ourselves with the literacy practices, purposes and points of view of the SHL/SNS learners in our community and harness their power to measure literacy skills.
      Our use of traditional vs. non-traditional is somewhat imprecise, but it reflects the forms and functions of literacy that are outside of norm of those found in the classroom or in textbooks and aligns with the overall impressions of Cope and Kalantzis (2009, p. 166) who acknowledge that “Whereas traditional literacy curriculum was taught to a singular standard (grammar, the literary canon, standard national forms of the language), the everyday experience of meaning making was increasingly one of negotiating discourse differences. A pedagogy of multiliteracies would need to address this as a fundamental aspect of contemporary teaching and learning.” They state later (p. 170) that “Literacy needs much more than the traditional basics of reading and writing the national language: in the new economy workplace, it is a set of supple, variable, communication strategies, ever-diverging according to the cultures and social languages of technologies, functional groups, types of organization and niche clienteles.”

      Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning, Pedagogies: An International Journal,4(3),164-195.
      Kern, R. (2000). Literacy and language teaching. Oxford University Press.

      1. Wonderful! And thank you for the detail response. I see that we are reading the same texts on literacy. I suppose that one thing is categorizing texts so then we can choose from different categories, and a different things is how texts (any texts) are actually used in education with multilingual, multicultural speakers who are members of minority communities, right? So we could use any “canonical” work of literature and use them in a multiliteracies framework. It seems to me (of course I might be totally wrong, since I’m inferring this from watching a 10-minute video), that your reading tool is based on a specific type of text and not on a specific way of using different types of texts. Is this the case or not? Maybe we will leave this conversation for a future zoom conversation.

        1. Correct! Everything is open for (re)consideration: what texts are and for what purposes they are being used; the focus is on the meaning (a la New London Group).

          What you see here briefly is how we are using one literacy form (a text-based conversation) to tap into the (often overlooked and undervalued) cultural, linguistic, and literacy knowledge of SHL/SNS learners for the purposes of placement in our program. Having such text-based representations of conversations not only aids us in our task of placement, but it also builds (or minimally does not diminish) SHL/SNS learner confidence in their language skills in what is often their first contact with our program. Gabriela has a more detailed explanation of what happens after SHL/SNS learners enter our program in her recent article, “Yo hablo el español de mi pueblo: A Conscious Curriculum for the Heritage Language Learner” (https://www.scolt.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Ch_4_Dimension2021.pdf)

  3. Interesting presentation.
    How did you measure Reading? And what do you mean exactly by “non-traditional texts”? Did you use a specific type such as an email, or a Facebook post?
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for watching the presentation and for your question!

      The readings were created (we made them up) to replicate a social media exchange, like a series of texts on a phone. They were presented as such like the sample you see in the presentation (which is representative of the passages used, but not actually one of the ones we included in our study). We were measuring general comprehension of the text-based conversation; the “sense” of what could be inferred or concluded about the exchange in general or the relationship between the people having the exchange, or what was generally communicated by certain turns of phrase. The questions were presented in the same order, but the answer options were randomized to avoid order effects.

      How do we know we’re tapping into reading and not just learners’ guessing ability? Each of the non-traditional texts had 6 questions; each of the questions had 5 answer options. The probability of scoring an average of 3 on any of the readings just by guessing is <10%; to score an average of 2 on any of the readings the probability increases to about 34%, so we're confident that learners are drawing upon their knowledge of literacy as well as their linguistic and cultural background to respond to the questions rather than just guessing.

  4. Have you thought about expanding this research in a high school setting? Your evaluation could be compared to the standardized evaluations being used at the public high schools, such as the AVANT test.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for watching and thanks for the question!

      First, we’re big proponents of tests being home grown rather than standardized, particularly for the purposes of placement. I actually did a detailed analysis of the placement exam we used previously for a couple of decades (not really standardized but created and used by another university nearby from whom we purchased the rights to use; it was already in place when I arrived at NMSU in 1995). I found that none of the 100 items in that test worked for our students. Not a single one. Here’s that reference (MacGregor-Mendoza, P. (2012). Spanish as a Heritage Language assessment: Successes, failures, lessons learned. Heritage Language Journal, 9(1): 1-26.)

      Our solution to that problem was to throw out that exam and create our own. Since each population of learners and each program is going to be different (as are the purposes for each test) then we think that the people closest to the students (teachers) should be the ones closest to the making of the test. Here we detail what we did and how, and how we know that it works for our student population and our program: (MacGregor-Mendoza, P. and Moreno, G. (2020). Streamlining the Placement of Spanish as a Heritage Language Learners. SCOLT Dimension 2020, 108-131.)

      Nonetheless, no test should be considered a “set it and forget it” proposition. In the larger project of which the data we present here is a part, we’re engaged in potentially adding alternative items to our placement exam, so we’re focused on monitoring the performance of our students on the items now, and later on monitoring the performance of the items themselves to confirm whether or not they’re useful in identifying differences between students (that’s item analysis). With those thoughts in mind, we don’t have plans to compare our results to a standardized exam since we don’t feel it would give us any additional information about our students for our purposes.

  5. Hello,
    Thanks for this interesting presentation. For your non-traditional texts, did you include the language features usually associated with this kind of text to make it more authentic? How did you select the topics of the texts?

    1. Thanks for viewing the presentation and for asking your question, Yuly!
      The non-traditional texts did contain words or phrases that could be recognized as a part of everyday interactions (colloquial expressions such as “échale ganas,” “¿qué cuentas?,” “chancita”) but that wouldn’t necessarily be found in a textbook. These were sprinkled in to give the texts a sense of realness and to draw upon the linguistic knowledge that our SHL students would be likely to have gained through their contact with other Spanish-speakers in our communities. We didn’t use images, emojis or alternate spellings.
      The non-traditional texts in this study reflected three informal conversations that our students might typically have (two friends talking about the difficult transition to the first year in college; two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while taking about getting together; two friends in a class commenting on a new classmate and whether or not to approach them). The topics and their creation spring from the genius of the second author, Dr. Gabriela Moreno.

  6. #1 With respect to your answer to Alberta’s first question, if you do intent to use this kind of tool and gain more data, perhaps you can add a survey or an extra couple of questions on how the arrived to that class and what other class in the program they took previously? And maybe develop more reading texts similar and have them pre and post?
    #2 I think your results show clearly how certain type of exchanges and vocabulary are more commonly understood by SHL, but just as we need to be cautious about using other types of texts where they have more problems, the traditional ones, we need to be cautious about generalizing also from this type of text. I think it is more about generalizing that it depends on the kind of texts and then being able to tease apart what kinds of texts are harder and easier, and what are their characteristics. It is still interesting how even in this “easier for SHL” type of text, they can also increase their performance, as they do in higher courses. Very interesting indeed. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Irene, for viewing our presentation and for your questions and comments!

      Regarding your comments to #1. We do have a lot of sociodemographic questions that probe the background of our students and their estimation of their abilities (sorry we couldn’t include more details in our presentation), so the ones you suggest might be valuable in the future to know whether students have had previous experience in our classes before or if this is their first course. Our SHL/SNS courses integrate a great deal of non-traditional reading and writing as well as traditional forms, so learners use their existing knowledge about language (and literacy) to bridge to new forms.

      Regarding #2, yes, we are still somewhat cautious about our data here, but beyond what we’ve presented here, we have seen how these types of readings have worked in our placement exam for the last 5 years in helping us place thousands of L2 and SHL/SNS students (and/or identify those who have been misplaced in L2 courses through misadvising or lack of advising). We need to be clear about our purposes for using these readings. Along with the other items and sociodemographic information we collect on students, they’re helping us gain insight into how/how much knowledge about Spanish learners have for the purposes of identifying which course would be appropriate for them in order for them to apply that knowledge and also grow; we’re measuring for fit.

      Regarding generalizations, yes, reading represents a complex set of skills, and measuring reading ability is incredibly difficult and not always comparable across different studies given that different types of genres, vocabulary, sentence lengths, reading lengths, topics, etc. are involved as well as number, types and formats of tasks used to divine that ability, and that’s not even entering into the realm of multilingual learners which complicates things even further. Nonetheless, the SHL field for some time has been comfortable with the (over)generalization that SHL learners can’t read and write. What we are trying to do here is challenge that perspective and instead show that we can find ways for SHL learners (minimally those in our community) to demonstrate the literacy skills they do possess by using forms that replicate their own practices and that we can take advantage of this knowledge for the purposes of placing them in our program.

  7. Patricia, Gabriela y Jeffrey:

    Gracias por su presentación. He leído los intercambios (preguntas y respuestas) y me parecen muy interesantes. A mí, me encantó su propuesta de encontrar formas que les permitan a los jóvenes usar las habilidades lectoras que tienen y no las que se supone que debería tener. También descargué el PDF sobre su currículum. Lo leeré con mucho interés. Esa en mi área de interés también. Gracias!

    1. Gracias, María Luisa por tu interés en la presentación y el diálogo aquí; apreciamos también tu apoyo y la sintonización de visión que compartimos. El trabajo de Gabriela te va a encantar; igual que tú, es creativa e innovadora.

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