Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Building Community through Language learning: Selected Papers from the 1997 Central States Conference, eds. Robert Di Donato, Gale K. Crouse, and Dena Bachman (Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company), pp. 59-76.


Copyright © 1997 Central States Conference on the Teacing of Foreign Languages


Several developments have transformed the way the foreign language classroom looks, the role the teacher and the learner assume, and the approaches and strategies we use to teach and learn second languages. These changes stem from fundamental gains in the knowledge base of how second languages are acquired and learned as well as experimental inquiry into a variety of educational innovations such as cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, and the integration of technology into the classroom. Qualitative, quantitative, and action research have provided the foreign language profession evidence upon which to make informed decisions to build a classroom environment designed to optimize learning for all students. One area that requires further research and inqui1y is how teachers can meet the challenge of optimizing learning for students of color. Hancock (1994) points out that few African American students enroll in and continue foreign language study compared to students from other cultural groups. He observes that "African American students tend not to achieve as well as other students, even when they do enroll in such study" (p. 9). Brigman and Jacobs (1981) concur that those minority students who do study foreign languages at the college level "are not performing as well" (p. 376).