Spanish for nurses : a case study of classroom invention

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Date

2004-05

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Bloom, Melanie Louise

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In response to the growing population of Spanish-speakers in the United States, many institutions of higher education are responding by offering professional Spanish language classes. Language for specific purposes (LSP) is an established field within the foreign language research community; however, research in English for specific purposes has dominated the field (Swales, 2000). These studies typically investigate LSP curriculum or program development, discourse, and assessment. However, there has been relatively little LSP classroom research conducted, and even fewer studies investigating Spanish curricula. The purpose of the present study was to examine the curriculum of a Spanish for healthcare professionals course. This teacher-research project explored the negotiation of the curriculum, classroom tensions, the students’ linguistic gains, and the students’ progress in the negotiation of meaning. vii Thirteen students and the instructor of a Spanish for healthcare professionals course at a large southwestern university participated in this semester-long qualitative case study. Data collected in support of this teacher-research project included videotaped class sessions, transcripts, anecdotal records, informal interviews, brief questionnaires, and documents. The data analysis for this study was based on heuristic inquiry (see Merriam, 1998), and its goal was to gain a better understanding of the curriculum and the students’ learning through collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources or perspectives. The findings profiled the changes made in the curriculum due to class negotiations of assignments and activities. Findings also indicated that creating a nontraditional language classroom may cause tensions. These tensions did not prevent the students’ linguistic development. Students’ demonstrated significant linguistic gains including increases in fluency, risk taking, discourse conventions, and communication strategies. The students and the teacher also developed strategies in the negotiation of meaning over the course of the semesters suggesting that classroom negotiation of meaning was an active process. This research suggests that a communicative classroom emphasizing authentic communication in Spanish can be successful in promoting the achievement of communicative language learning goals after only one semester of language study. This study concludes with pedagogical implications for the foreign language classroom and implications for the future of foreign language research.

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