Critical Pedagogy in the Spanish Language Classroom

Rebecca Lee Ramirez, Fordham University


Spanish-language students in the United States often exit the language requirement lacking the background knowledge needed to communicate with the Spanish-speaking community in a meaningful way. The linguistic diversity present in students’ communities is often not reflected in teaching and textbooks superficially represent Spanish varieties. The “standard” Spanish language is overemphasized and overrepresented while local varieties are marginalized. This case study attempted to narrow the gap between theory and practice. Critical pedagogy was used to explore standard-language ideology and how students discussed the Spanish-variety hierarchy in a seventh-grade classroom in an academically gifted public school. Students examined Spanish varieties, the Spanish-variety hierarchy, and engaged in critical dialogue around issues of social justice. Transcriptions of 11 classroom lessons, nine interviews, and one informal conversation were analyzed using inductive coding and grounded theory. Findings showed that students initially adhered to Eurocentric viewpoints by favoring Castilian Spanish; however, during lessons employing problem-posing activities, students began to exhibit raised consciousness about inequities present in the classroom and beyond. Students revised previously held beliefs and began to challenge standard-language ideology as well as the dominant culture. Though the effects of critical praxis were evident during the course of the study, the impact was short-term. During a follow-up interview 3 months later, students were unable to accurately describe the study and did not recall most of the vocabulary taught during the lessons. This study highlighted the need to embed critical pedagogy practices into the curriculum rather than a series of discrete lessons.

Subject Area

Foreign language education|Gifted Education|Middle School education|Education|Language

Recommended Citation

Ramirez, Rebecca Lee, "Critical Pedagogy in the Spanish Language Classroom" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10838507.