Current Research

As part of MI-BRIDGE, we are conducting research to best serve our teachers and students and promote successful second language acquisition.

Black language learners in the Spanish foreign language classroom

From 2010-2018, enrollment in Spanish language study by black learners decreased significantly. In 2017, Dr. Melissa Baralt and a team of graduate students conducted a year-long ethnographic study on why, interviewing 50 students and 10 teachers. It was found that black learners reported negative classroom experiences due to poor instructional environments and a lack of ethno-racial affinity and integrativeness opportunities in the curricula (e.g. lack of positive identification with both classroom communities of Spanish-language learners and Spanish- speaking communities, and a desire to maintain ties within them; Anya, 2011). In addition, black heritage learners (students who grew up with Spanish as their home language but may or may not have speaking proficiency) reported difficulty in accessing Spanish- speaking communities in Miami. They felt they did not fit into Miami’s definition of “Hispanic/Latin@,” even though Spanish is ubiquitous in their community.  Teachers need support, materials, and training on how to meet the needs of black Spanish language learners. We continue to research this topic and are seeking funding to train teachers on how to better promote Spanish-language learning outcomes.

Safe classroom spaces

We are researching what aspects of the formal language classroom environment contribute to students’ feeling safe in order to maximize their language learning experience. Please see our safe classroom checklist under the teacher toolkit on this website.