Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version



Theiler, J.M. (2012). A shared story of successful Spanish learning: An embedded multiple case study.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Aleidine J. Moeller. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Janine M. Theiler


Student success is on the American mind, and rightfully so, as indicators point to inequitable educational experiences in a nation that emphasizes equity and opportunity for all (NCES, 2009, 2010; Peterson, Woessmann, Hanushek, & Lastra-Anadón, 2011). The occasional story of academic success in the face of obstacles inspires a desire to make these stories of success mainstream rather than scattered occurrences. With this desire for widespread academic success, we arrive upon the challenge of fully understanding the inherently complex path to student success. One manner in which to understand the phenomenon of student success is to empirically identify situations of consistently impressive academic outcomes, entering into those situations and exploring the phenomenon at a deep, holistic level (Imig & Imig, 2006).

This embedded multiple case study explored three situations of student Spanish learning success identified through hierarchical linear modeling. Successful Spanish learning was defined as situations empirically identified as exhibiting the greatest overall student growth in Spanish proficiency over time. Each of these situations of empirically supported student success was explored both qualitatively (interviews, observations, artifacts, narratives) and quantitatively (matrix observations, surveys, demographical information) at both the building/community-level and classroom/teacher-level. Findings were presented through a narrative story of student success and then discussed through Goodwin’s What Matters Most Framework (Goodwin, 2011). Findings supported Goodwin’s assertion that “we can make a tremendous difference for students---especially if everyone is on the same page and working to the same ends” (p. 160, italics added). This story of student Spanish success reflected buildings and communities unified in supporting instructional staff so that they could focus on classroom instruction. Within this supportive and collaborative environment, reflective Spanish practitioners presented students with high expectations and actively engaged them with activities strategically designed to enable efficient and successful Spanish communication. In the words of one of the principals in this study, the outcome seemed to be a bit of a “daily, mini immersion”, that allowed students to maximize their learning experience.

Advisor: Aleidine J. Moeller