8 Replies to “Effects of Writing Instruction on Spanish Heritage Learners in Heritage-Only and Mixed Courses (Irati Hurtado, Kacie Gastanaga)”

  1. Irati, Kacie, thank you very much for your presentation. It was interesting to see that both groups of HS perceived their improvement after the semester. You also saw lexical improvement in the ‘post’ genre, what did they have to write in those assignments? How would you improve students’ writings in essay-type assignments?
    ¡Buen trabajo!

    1. Hello, Marina! Thank you for your question and for taking the time to watch our presentation.
      Regarding your first question, the forum post topics differed day to day but were almost always argumentative or descriptive in nature. To give a few examples, one topic asked students to give their opinion about the appropriateness of using Spanglish after watching a video on that topic and another prompt asked students to briefly compare and contrast two short stories they read for that class session.
      As for your second question, we think it is important to consider the goals of the writing course. This writing course focused primarily on the writing process and on writing for different genres, as many writing classes do. In this regard, our results seem to indicate that it might be important to focus less on learning different genres and more on practicing with more familiar ones. It may also be a good idea to work in specific lessons on key vocabulary and grammar points the students should incorporate into their writing (if your goal is for students to improve their writing in the context of grammar and vocabulary.)

  2. Hello Irati and Kacie.
    I enjoyed so much your presentation. I have one question: why didn´t you control for the course? I mean, if you compared only- heritage against mixed-class, both groups should be taking the same course with the same book. Otherwise, you have more variables that paly a role in your results. After looking at your findings, what are the pedagogical implications?

    1. Hello Adrián,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to watch our presentation.

      As far as your first question, although the two sections we compared did use different textbooks, they were very similar in almost every other aspect as they are technically counted as the same course (Spanish 228: Spanish Composition). The weekly assignments like online homework and forum posts were similar, the essays and the activities that helped students prepare to write them covered similar topics, and the overall goal of the course was the same for each section, to prepare students to write fluently in different genres in Spanish.

      As far as pedagogical implications, based on our largely inconclusive results from this initial study, we would prefer to collect more data before making any definitive suggestions.

      Thanks again!

  3. Hello Irati and Kacie,
    I was wondering how extensive were the posts. It is a somewhat surprising results that complexity was higher in those (or perhaps it was only lexical diversity that was higher?). If the later, MLTD is one of the best measures for shorter texts (as diversity and extension usually correlate), but it still requires at least 50-100 words, were the posts at least that long?
    Also, what frequency was the cut line to consider a token “advanced”?
    And one suggestion for you to consider perhaps. Previous studies have found that to consider the actual frequency of each word rather than defining two (or more in other cases) bands much more sensitive to differences between groups, so you may be more successful using this other way of calculating sophistication (see Crossley, S. A., Cobb, T., & McNamara, D. S. (2013). Comparing count-based and band-based indices of word frequency: Implications for active vocabulary research and pedagogical applications. System, 41(4), 965-981.)

    1. Hi Irene,

      We used MTLD to calculate lexical diversity which, as you mentioned, is the best measure for shorter texts. The forum posts were around 200 words each, so we think they were long enough to use this measure.

      Regarding frequency, we followed Bowles and Bello-Uriarte (2019) for our calculations. Whether a word was infrequent or not was de-termined in reference to the Corpus del Español (Davies, 2006). We took the first 2,000 most common lemmas in the corpus as being ‘frequent’, in such a way that only lemmas not included in that set could be considered ‘infrequent’ (and thus ‘advanced’).

      Lastly, thanks for your suggestion! We were not familiar with that paper, but we’ll check it out.

  4. Hi Irati and Kacie! Thanks for this interesting presentation! I was wondering if you explored the effects of the type of instruction on their writing since you mentioned that the ‘heritage only group’ was taught asynchronously and the ‘mixed group’ was taught synchronously (both groups were exposed to instruction but different types). I was also curious if you could see a difference on the performance between the L2 learners and the HL within the mixed group. Did you classify both populations of the mixed group as one homogeneous group for this comparison/contrast? My last question is what other measures did you use for the analysis of syntactic complexity? you explained that you used # of clauses / # of T-units but did you have any other measures to account for the structures produced at the sentential, clause, and phrasal level?

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Vivian,

      Thank you so much for your comments and questions!

      We would love to be able to explore the effects of type of instruction in this study. However, we were not able to operationalize type of instruction because there was no heritage-only section that was taught synchronously due to the constraints of trying to find one class time that would work for all interested HLLs. Apart from the asynchronous/synchronous difference, the sections were extremely similar in their design, goals, and the assignments students completed. One study, Henshaw (2016), found that HLLs did just as well in online as in face-to-face classes, so while there may be some interesting differences, we do not expect that instruction type was a major factor in students’ performance with the measures we used. That said, exploring the impact of type of instruction is surely a fruitful area for future study.

      We are still analyzing the data in order to be able to answer your second question about differences between L2 and HL learners in the mixed sections. We did not include L2 learners in this analysis, only the HLLs in the mixed sections.

      Regarding your third question, on measures of syntactic complexity, we calculated this using clauses/T-unit. We did not consider different levels, although that is an interesting suggestion.
      Thanks again for the detailed questions!

      Henshaw, F. (2016). Online Courses for Heritage Learners: Best Practices and Lessons Learned. In D. Pascual y Cabo (Ed.), Advances in Spanish as a Heritage Language (pp. 281-298). John Benjamins.

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