Award Date

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Steven McCafferty

Second Committee Member

Shaoan Zhang

Third Committee Member

Denise Davila

Fourth Committee Member

Tiberio Garza

Fifth Committee Member

Deborah Arteaga

Number of Pages



The changing demographics in the United States and the growing need for multilingual individuals originated by globalization, among other reasons, have contributed to the emergence of a new field within the area of Applied Linguistics: The Teaching and Learning of Heritage Languages. Due to historical and geographic causes, Spanish for Heritage Speakers (SHS) is currently the largest and most established of these programs. However, the curricula, like those of most college courses, has been developed from professors’ perspectives, largely ignoring what students want to learn and/or their motives for enrolling in these classes. The lack of student input is especially poignant because, unlike with other programs, there is a deep and unique connection between these individuals and their heritage language. Therefore, the present study set out to find out what students expected to learn, as well as what they wanted to learn in their SHS courses. As closely related topics and to further understand the students’ perspective, the research also investigated why they enrolled in SHS classes and how satisfied they were with these programs. The study was designed as a mixed methods inquiry that included a student survey, student and professor interviews, and classroom observations. This design followed similar published articles and it was an attempt to capture a large data sample and to triangulate the qualitative information with quantitative figures. The data was collected at four large universities located the Southwest region of the United States. It included 120 student surveys, 30 student interviews, eight professor interviews, and nine classroom observations. The results showed that while students were keen about improving their grammatical competence, the end purpose and motivation were enhancing communication with their families, friends, and heritage language (HL) community at-large. Therefore, the curricular implications included surveying student interests and needs at the beginning of every semester and incorporating a service- learning component that would directly connect students with their HL community.


Heritage Language; Motivation; Spanish; Spanish as a Heritage Language; Student Expectations; Student Satisfaction


American Studies | Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Methods | Language Description and Documentation | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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