Immersion Research at CARLA and the University of Minnesota

CARLA's Language Immersion Education Program has provided funding and/or support for a number of research projects focused on immersion education. The resulting publications from these research projects are organized within five chronological periods:

Immersion Research Publications (2015–2019)

Fortune, T.W., & Tedick, D. J. (2019). Context matters: Translanguaging and bilingual/immersion education in the U.S. and Canada. In M. Haneda & H. Nassaji (Eds.), Perspectives on language as action (pp. 27–44). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

"Tara Fortune and Diane Tedick critically consider translanguaging practices, for which a number of renowned L2 education scholars have increasingly provided overt support. Fortune and Tedick pose a thoughtful question as to whether translanguaging practices can be beneficial for all learners in all instructional settings. While respectfully acknowledging the merits of translanguaging in some contexts, they present evidence-based arguments that invite a re-examination of the ubiquitous support for translanguaging practices in bilingual and immersion programs. Calling for more research in this area, they ultimately argue for the importance of taking account of the contexts and purposes of different bilingual and immersion programs, as well as students’ needs (e.g. language-majority versus language-minority students), in making recommendations as to what constitute optimal pedagogical practices."

Fortune, T.W., & Ju, Z. (2017). Assessing and exploring the oral proficiency of early total Mandarin immersion learners. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics37, 264–287.  [Special issue: Young Second Language Learners, edited by A. Mackey and Jenefer Philp]. doi: 10.1017/S0267190517000150

"This article presents original empirical research carried out in the early total Mandarin language immersion context. The study involves K-5 learners from three early total Mandarin immersion programs whose home language is English. We examined students' oral proficiency in Mandarin (L2) in two ways: (1) a statistical comparative analysis of cross-sectional assessment data for Kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 5 students; and (2) a detailed linguistic complexity analysis comparing immersion students' speech samples (one per grade level) produced during the assessment interview. Study findings question the efficacy of existing proficiency assessments at capturing the multidimensionality of oral proficiency in the intermediate and pre-advanced range.  They also highlight the important role finely-grained complexity measures can play in informing curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices."

Fortune, T. W., & Song, W. (2016). Academic achievement and language development in early total Chinese immersion education. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 4(2), 168-197.

"Findings from this multi-year research study show that economically advantaged elementary students who participate in an early total MI program can achieve in English reading and math as well as, and at times, better than grade-level non-immersion peers in the same school, district, and state. There was also evidence of a "math advantage" for the MI learner group both in Grade 3 and Grade 5. In addition, the majority of Grade 5 students demonstrated proficiency in Mandarin at Intermediate levels with listening and speaking skills outpacing character writing and reading. This suggests a somewhat distinct pattern of skill development relative to earlier studies of immersion students learning in alphabetic languages. Given the challenges of reading and writing characters, this finding is not surprising. It does, however, suggest a need to further explore character literacy development in immersion settings to better understand best practice for English-proficient children in the U.S."                     (Fortune & Song, 2016, p. 193)

Fortune, T. W. & Tedick, D. J. (2015). Oral proficiency development of K-8 Spanish immersion students.  Modern Language Journal, 99(4), 637-655.

"The present study examines and reports on the L2 oral proficiency of 218 English-proficient K–8 students in four early total Spanish immersion programs. In so doing, it aims to refocus attention on the important L2 acquisition goal for English-proficient students, build the knowledge base on oral proficiency for Spanish immersion students, and contribute findings towards the larger goal of informing immersion-specific proficiency targets. To begin, we will briefly synthesize findings and critically discuss extant research and program evaluation data on oral proficiency levels for English-proficient students participating either in one-way world language or two-way immersion models." (Fortune & Tedick, 2015, p. 638)

Payesteh, B., & Fortune, T. W. (September, 2016). Preschool immersion education in Persian. Research-to-Action Brief,The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"This study adds to a body of literature that assures parents and educators that by speaking and teaching in the minority language, they are not harming their children's chances and abilities to acquire the majority language (e.g., Kan & Kohnert, 2005; Lindholm-Leary, 2014; Paradis, Genesee, & Crago, 2011). On the contrary, they are supporting their children's potential to take advantage of the substantial benefits that come from speaking the heritage language and being bilingual. These are advantages for a lifetime."  (Payesteh & Fortune, 2016, p. 2)

Tedick, D. J. & Young, A. I. (2016). Fifth grade two-way immersion students' responses to form-focused instruction. Applied Linguistics, 37(6), 784-807. doi:

The purpose of this descriptive, observational case study was to investigate how English home language (EHL) and Spanish home language (SHL) students responded to form-focused instruction (FFI) focused on past tense-aspects: preterit and imperfect. Data were collected in a 5th grade TWI classroom in a large, urban district in the Midwest. They included 16 audio-recorded classroom observations (5 pre-FFI, 7 during-FFI, and 4 post-FFI), field notes, and teacher interviews. For this study, pre-FFI and post-FFI transcripts were examined for 10 focal students. Data were analyzed both quantitatively (with an obligatory occasion analysis) and qualitatively. Qualitative analysis provides further interpretation of quantitative results. (Tedick & Young, 2016, excerpt from abstract)

Young, A. I. (2015). Student oral proficiency in Grade Three Spanish immersion: Linguistic diversity, student interaction and differentiated scaffolding (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. 

"This collaborative design-based study reports on the efficacy of instructional practices that potentially afford increased student oral proficiency development through language-focused differentiated instruction. Findings indicate that 1) EHL/SHL students increased their language complexity as measured by number of different words, mean length of utterance, and use of subordination. However, SHL students' language complexity changed to a lesser extent than EHL students'. 2) Students appeared to increase their participation in relation to their engagement with the target language structures, their exposure to increasingly complex language, and their developing awareness of both how language works and how to increase academic language use. 3) The classroom teacher's perception of linguistic diversity shifted to become less focused on "native speakers." His conceptualization of "attention to language" changed from a focus on form to an exploration of functional options to facilitate student interaction. Additionally, teacher-identified "socially sanctioned niches" became safe spaces for students to engage with language play that reinforced their developing bilingual identities." (Young, 2015, Abstract)

Young, A. & Tedick, D. (2016). Collaborative dialogue in a two-way Spanish/English immersion classroom: Does heterogeneous grouping promote peer linguistic scaffolding? In M. Sato & S. Ballinger (Eds.), Peer interaction and second language learning: Pedagogical potential and research agenda. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

"This interpretive case study contributes to the field of language education by attending to bilingual language learners' unique interactional patterns in relation to Vygotsky's theory of mind.  Using a sociocultural theoretical framework, researchers analyzed 16 audio-recorded sessions of student interactions in Spanish in a fifth grade two-way immersion classroom during heterogeneous and homogeneous (based on language proficiency) small group work.  Centered on four focal students, the study explored the relationship between group make-up and collaborative dialogue.  Qualitative, sociolinguistic analysis of the interactions revealed that students positioned themselves as experts or novices, and through their acceptance or resistance to this positioning, they co-constructed groups that involved a combination of varying degrees of equality and mutuality (Storch, 2002). Findings suggest that collaborative dialogue occurred more often with increased positioning of equality. This study recommends ways that teachers and students can facilitate collaborative interactions in bilingual interactional spaces."  (Young & Tedick, 2016, p. 135)


Immersion Research Publications (2010–2014)

Broner, M. A., & Tedick, D. J. (2011). Talking in the fifth-grade classroom: Language use in an early, total Spanish immersion program. In D. J. Tedick, D. Christian, & T. W. Fortune (Eds.), Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities (pp. 166–187). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

"In this mixed methods case study, the following questions were explored: 1) What languages (English L1/Spanish L2) do students use in peer-peer and student-teacher interactions? 2) What factors (interlocutor, task factors, context, individual characteristics, etc.) impact student language choices?" (Broner & Tedick, 2011, p. 168)

Cammarata, L., & Tedick, D. J. (2012). Balancing content and language in instruction: The experience of immersion teachers. The Modern Language Journal, 96(2),251-269.

"Research on immersion teaching has consistently shown that immersion teachers tend to focus on subject matter content at the expense of language teaching. The response to that research has often entailed suggestions for teachers on how better to integrate language and content in their instruction. However, missing from the discussion are rich descriptions of the actual experiences that immersion teachers have as they attempt to balance language and content in their teaching. This phenomenological study aims to address this gap by exploring teachers’ lived experience with content and language integration. In this article, authors report on findings suggesting that immersion teachers’ experience with balancing language and content is a multifaceted struggle involving issues related to teacher identity, stakeholder expectations, and understandings regarding the relationship between language and content. Implications for school-based support for immersion programs as well as calls for reform in immersion teacher preparation and professional development are shared."(Cammarata & Tedick, 2012. p. 251)

Fortune, T.W. (2011). Struggling learners and the language immersion classroom. In D. J. Tedick, D. Christian, & T. W. Fortune (Eds.), Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities (pp. 252-53). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

 “What research-based information is available to inform program policy and practice with children from a wide range of backgrounds and developmental profiles? What learning possibilities exist in immersion programs for children who struggle? In the remainder of this chapter I briefly review academic and linguistic outcomes for typically developing learners and those who struggle with language, literacy or learning and may be developmentally atypical. I then underscore several issues related to the crux of the challenge for many immersion practitioners: Is the learner experiencing a typical delay or evidencing some kind of language and/or learning disorder? This section includes a discussion of common sources of misdiagnosis, useful parameters for distinguishing between delay and disorder, and assessment possibilities to assist in determining language disorders. I then specify a set of principles that can serve as guideposts when developing program policies and tackling the day-to-day issues that surround struggling immersion learners. I end the chapter by urging educators in immersion programs to implement research-supported policies and practices that will more fully realize the possibilities of this program model as enrichment for all.” (Fortune, 2011, pp. 251-270)

Fortune, T. W., with M. R. Menke. (2010). Struggling learners & language immersion education: Research-based, practitioner-informed responses to educators’ top questions (CARLA Publication Series). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.

“This handbook provides dual language and immersion educators with rich information and practical resources that address common concerns with children who struggle with language, literacy and learning. In response to practitioners’ most pressing questions this book offers:
  • Real Stories—case narratives that recount lived experiences with struggling learners from a range of educational specialists, administrators and teachers
  • Background information and research summaries that provide important information about the existing knowledge base on this topic
  • Discussion of issues as they relate to language minority and language majority learners
  • Guiding principles to inform program policies and practices
  • Reference materials and useful web resources to assist educators in meeting the needs of a wide variety of language and learning challenges.”
 (Fortune, with Menke, 2011, back cover)

Genesee, F. & Fortune, T. W. (2014). Bilingual education and at-risk students. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 2(2),196-209.[Special issue: Language Immersion Education: A Research Agenda for 2015 and Beyond, edited by Tedick & Björklund].

“Research evidence reviewed here (and in Fortune, with Menke, 2010, and Paradis et al., 2011) indicates that educational programs that use an additional language for teaching prescribed school subjects can be effective with a wide range of students, including students with characteristics and backgrounds that may put them at risk. However, our understanding of the effectiveness of such programs for such students is still inadequate. Given the importance of ensuring that all students have access to high quality programs that afford them opportunities to become bi- or multilingual, there is a clear need for much more research on these and related issues. The urgency for more research is underlined by the fact that many extant studies are dated and, thus, may not be based on current conceptualizations of risk or current definitions of language and learning disability. Moreover, most extant studies were carried out in North American contexts and, thus, need to be replicated in other socio-cultural-political settings..” (Genesee & Fortune, p. 204)

Koop, B. (2012). L2 Oral language expectations and L1/L2 reading in a one-way Spanish immersion program. (Unpublished Master's thesis). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

“The goal of this mixed-methods study is that, as Fraenkel and Wallen (2009) state, qualitative and quantitative data will converge to present a more complete picture of the role of L2 oral language expectations on reading in immersion education. As the review of literature suggests, additional empirical evidence in this area of research is of significant importance to immersion administrators and teachers as they seek to increase students’ L2 skills and continually focus on reading abilities in both languages. The intent of the present study is not to prove or generalize a causal relationship between increased L2 oral language skills and reading scores or student language preference in reading, rather the purpose is to look at one specific school and describe the relationship between L2 oral language expectations and L1 and L2 reading skills and language preferences for reading in grade 1. Driving this research study are the following questions:
  • What is the relationship between increased expectations for students’ L2 oral language use in kindergarten and grade 1 and their Spanish (L2) reading scores?
  • What is the relationship between increased expectations for students’ L2 oral language use in kindergarten and grade 1 and their English (L1) reading scores?
  • What is the relationship between increased expectations for students’ L2 oral language use in kindergarten and grade 1 and their reading preferences?
  • How do L1 and L2 reading scores and reading preferences compare between students who participated in K-1st grade before the implementation of a “Target Language Use Only Timeline” and those who participated in K-1st after the implementation of the timeline?”
  • (Koop, 2012, pp. 25-26)

Menke, M. (2010). The acquisition of Spanish vowels by native English-speaking students in Spanish immersion programs. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"Native-like pronunciation is necessary for membership into some social groups and to be considered a legitimate speaker of a language. Language immersion education aims to develop bilingual individuals, able to participate in multiple global communities, and while the lexical, syntactic, and sociolinguistic development of immersion learners is well documented, their phonological skills are not. This study set out to address this gap by investigating immersion learners' pronunciation of Spanish vowels, a sound class known to lead to a foreign accent, comparing the vowel productions of native English-speaking learners in one-way (foreign language) immersion and two-way (bilingual) immersion programs to those of their native Spanish-speaking peers and their teachers. A total of 85 immersion students participated in this study. A cross-sectional sample of students from each of the program/language groups was taken; students from each of four grade levels (first, third, fifth, and seventh) participated. Students completed an animal picture sorting task in pairs during which their speech was audio and video recorded. Up to twenty tokens of each of the five Spanish vowels, for a possible total of 100 tokens per subject, were isolated and examined via spectrographic analysis in order to measure first and second formant values. The tokens examined for each vowel were balanced for their occurrence in stressed and unstressed syllables. Students also completed a written questionnaire in order to gather data about extralinguistic factors (i.e., attitudes and motivation) that have been shown to influence pronunciation. The findings indicate that the vowel productions of immersion learners differ from those of native Spanish-speaking peers. In general, the vowel space of the learner groups is larger than that of the native speaker peer group. Over time, the number of differences between one-way NES learners and native speakers increase while the number of differences between two-way NES learners and native speakers decrease. This finding suggests that there may be an effect of program model; however, differences in the ethnic background and exposure to Spanish outside of school between the two learner groups may also play a role and thus make it difficult to attribute differences solely to the effect of program model. Differences in attitude between the groups do not reach statistical significance and do not correlate with more native-like vowel pronunciations." (Menke, 2010, p. iv)

Tedick, D. J., Christian, D., & Fortune, T. W. (Eds.). (2011). Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

"In Pathways to Multilingualism: Evolving Perspectives on Immersion Education, Fortune and Tedick (2008) argued that the three immersion program types--one-way (foreign language), two-way (bilingual) and indigenous language immersion--have much in common despite their different contexts. They proposed that there is much to be gained from 'cross fertilization' of ideas and practices across program types and social contexts. This volume builds on these themes by describing the practices and policies that characterize a variety of immersion programs." (Tedick, Christian, & Fortune, 2011, p. 1)

Tedick, D. J., & Fortune, T. W. (2013). Bilingual/immersion teacher education. In Carol A. Chapelle (Ed.). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (pp. 438-443). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. Published online 5 Nov. 2012 doi: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0096

“Bilingual/immersion teacher education is a unique and evolving area in the larger field of language teacher education. Scholars have argued that in addition to native or near-native proficiency in instructional language(s), bilingual/immersion teaching requires a particular knowledge base and skill set (Day & Shapson, 1996; Evans et al., 2001; Fortune, Tedick & Walker, 2008; Freeman, Freeman, & Mercuri, 2005; Lyster, 2007; Snow, 1990; Young, 1995). It is far more than simply teaching language or teaching content. Despite widespread agreement that bilingual/immersion pedagogy is different, until recently there has been a surprising lack of clarity and consistency regarding what it takes to be an effective teacher in such settings. This is likely due in part to at least three common misperceptions about bilingual/immersion education: 1) being a proficient user of a language makes one a skilled bilingual/immersion teacher, 2) bilingual/immersion teaching is, at its core, simply just “good teaching,” and 3) for students, learning through a second language is very similar to learning through the first. Thus, bilingual/immersion teacher preparation in general remains underdeveloped.”(Tedick & Fortune, 2013, p. 438)


Immersion Research Publications (2005–2009)

Cohen, A. D. & Gómez, T. (2008). Towards enhancing academic language proficiency in a fifth-grade Spanish immersion classroom. In D. M. Brinton, O. Kagan, & S. Bauckus (Eds.), Heritage language education: A new field emerging (pp. 289-300). NY: Routledge.

This research aimed to promote the development of more complex academic language and linguistic structures by giving immersion students the opportunity to enhance their inner voice in that language. Since the development of L2 inner voice in elementary immersion students has not been investigated to any extent, this study set out to determine how the enhancement of the students L2 inner voice in the immersion classroom might influence linguistic knowledge and the ability to comprehend and produce language. It was posited that it might be possible to stimulate increased use of the immersion language by students while also enhancing the academic vocabulary and grammatical structure of the language that they use for specific tasks. More specifically, the pedagogical intervention included: (1) modeling by the teacher and the research assistant (RA) in the use of Spanish academic language to solve problems in science and history, and (2) supporting the students in developing their own L2 inner voice inSpanish through modeling and follow up activities.

Related publications:

Cohen, A.D. & Gómez, T. (2004, Sept.). Enhancing Academic Language Proficiency in a Fifth-Grade Spanish Immersion Classroom (CARLA Technical Report). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. Available at:

An overview of this research was published in the ACIE Newsletter, November 2002.

Finnamore, S. M. (2006). Immersion in a language of power: A case study of the English immersion pedagogy of an elementary school in China. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"This interpretive case study examines the English language development of English immersion students in a public Chinese elementary school, and compares the practice and results of immersion in the school to that typically found in North American research, paying special attention to culture-based pedagogy modifications. The limited research on English immersion in the Chinese context, together with its apparent success there, provided the impetus for the study. The quantitative portion of this case study focuses specifically on the oral proficiency of grade 5 students as measured by the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment (SOPA) (Thompson, Boyson, & Rhodes, 2001). When the SOPA scores of 30 language immersion students were compared with those of 30 peers who had more typical, language-focused instruction, immersion student scores were significantly higher in all areas (oral fluency, vocabulary, grammar, listening comprehension). When the scores of the same immersion students were compared to those of age peers learning Spanish in North America, they were significantly higher than those of students taking single daily classes, while they were almost identical to those of students in a two-way immersion program. The qualitative portion of the study explores the language pedagogy of the elementary teachers through interviews, surveys, and classroom observations. The Immersion Teaching Strategies Observation Checklist (Fortune, et al., 2000) and the Communicative Orientation to Language Teaching Observation Scheme (Allen, et al., 1990) were both used. The results were then compiled into 41 principles in action of immersion pedagogy. These principles were compared to those of research-based immersion pedagogy and found to be parallel in many regards. Chinese culture plays a significant role, sometimes enhancing the pedagogy, and sometimes hampering its effectiveness. Most remarkably, the classroom teachers appear to have chosen a collective approach (different from North America) and a low teacher-student power distance (different from China) (Hofstede, 1986), creating a unique classroom culture. This study highlights the need for additional research in China to develop a more culturally complete model of language immersion, and for continued strengthening of current teacher training mechanisms. It also recommends ways for national policy to strongly support English language development in China."(Finnamore, 2006, p. iv)

Fortune, T. W. & Tedick, D. J. (Eds.). (2008). Pathways to multilingualism: Evolving perspectives on immersion education. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

"[The authors] suggest that much will be gained by drawing upon research carried out in different program contexts to inform curricular and instructional practice. Each program has its unique situational dynamics to address, and such dynamics must be carefully considered particularly in the interpretation of research findings. Nevertheless, there is much to be learned from research and practices carried out in closely related immersion settings. This volume provides an opportunity to do just that.” (Fortune & Tedick, 2008, p. 27)

Fortune, T. W., Tedick, D. J., & Walker, C. L. (2008). Integrated language and content teaching: Insights from the language immersion classroom. In Fortune, T., & Tedick, D. J. (Eds.). Pathways to multilingualism: Evolving perspectives on immersion education (pp. 71-96). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

"The questions driving this study include: 1) How do six practicing immersion teachers (both one-way and two-way) understand the complex phenomenon of integrated language and content teaching? 2) What particular beliefs, knowledge and behaviors do these teachers identify as guiding immersion teacher practice?"(Fortune, Tedick, & Walker, 2008, p. 71)

Rodriguez, K. B. (2009). Support for struggling readers: A case study in one early, full immersion school. (Unpublished Master's Thesis). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"In early total language immersion programs, students receive initial literacy instruction in their second language (L2). While immersion research indicates that this does not increase the risk of reading difficulties, even for students considered at-risk, immersion programs must plan for the instruction of all students, including those who struggle with reading. This case study examines the characteristics of three struggling readers in one early, full Spanish immersion program as well as the teachers’ interpretations of and responses to their needs. Studies in immersion programs indicate that the needs of struggling readers in immersion are similar to struggling readers in other first and second language settings and the discussion reviews some effective intervention practices that can inform immersion educators’ response to struggling learners" (Rodriguez, 2009, p. 1)

Wesely, P. M. (2009). The language learning motivation of early adolescent French and Spanish elementary immersion program graduates. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"This mixed methods study focuses on the transition between elementary and middle/junior high school in one-way immersion programs in the United States. Understanding more about this transition is important to creating immersion programs that provide the maximum benefits to students, schools, and the community. An exploration of students' language learning motivation at this point of their education can help with this understanding. The primary goal of this study is thus to investigate the L2 learning motivation of elementary immersion school graduates, with a particular focus on issues vital to the unique context of immersion education"(Wesely, 2009, p. iv)

Subsequent publication:

Wesely, P. M. (2009). The language learning motivation of early adolescent French immersion graduates. Foreign Language Annals, 42(2), 270–286. doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.2009.01021.x


Immersion Research Publications  (2000–2004)

Broner, M. (2000). Impact of interlocutor and task on first and second language use in a Spanish immersion program. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

“This study explores patterns of first and second language use by three fifth graders attending a Spanish full immersion program in a large Midwestern city as they carried out classroom tasks with different interlocutors. The study analyzed 13 hours of naturally occurring classroom interactions recorded over five months. This study w as designed to: 1) obtain a comprehensive and measurable description of the use of the LI (English) and L2 (Spanish) by three immersion students while they interacted with the teacher and with other peers in the classroom; 2) describe the differential use of Spanish and English while children carried out academic tasks in the classroom and to analyze whether there is a measurable relationship between the type of task and language choice; 3) construct a model of language use for the three children and test its statistical validity with VARBRUL; and 4) describe the linguistic output of older elementary school children. The verbal interactions w ere analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively using VARBRUL. Interlocutor and task w ere found to have a significant effect on the amount of LI and L2 produced by these children. The study found that interlocutor predicted language use w hen it was the teacher, but other variables such as "on/off” task, content of the activity, and social relationships came into play w hen the interlocutor was another peer. Type of task w as found to have a measurable effect on first and second language use, providing evidence that w hen the goal of the task included focusing on the L2 (e.g. creative writing) children used the L2 to a greater extent, regardless of the presence of other factors. Further analysis of those tasks showed that children were doin g m ore than just getting the job done' a n d /o r focusing on the L2. They were pushing' their interlanguage by co-constructing (Vygotsky 1981) dialogue in the L2. It is suggested that their linguistic behavior was also motivated by developmental/age related factors such as the presence of vernacular words, preadolescent themes, and metalinguistic awareness. These were found to have an impact on the LI and L2 use of these three children.” (Broner, 2000, p. iv)

Subsequent publications:

A dissertation based on the data collected was completed in 2000. In February 2001 this dissertation was also published as a CARLA Working Paper:

Broner, M. (2001, February). Impact of interlocutor and task on first and second language use in a Spanish immersion program (CARLA Working Paper Series #18). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.

An overview of this research was published in the ACIE Newsletter, June 2000.

Broner, M. A., & Tedick, D. J. (2011). Talking in the fifth-grade classroom: Language use in an early, total Spanish immersion program. In D. J. Tedick, D. Christian, & T. W. Fortune (Eds.), Immersion education: Practices, policies, possibilities (pp. 166–187). Bristol,UK: Multilingual Matters.

Cohen, A. D., & Allison, K. (2001). Bilingual processing strategies in the social context of an undergraduate immersion program. In R. L. Cooper, E. Shohamy & J. Walters (Eds.), New perspectives and issues in educational language policy: In honour of Bernard Dov Spolsky (pp. 35-60). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

While university-level language immersion programs have been in existence for some years, research on the bilingual processing strategies of students participating in such programs is scant. This chapter reports on two aspects of a four-course college-level immersion program: (1) the participants’ use of both their native and the immersion language to process meaning on academic tasks, and (2) the influence of the social ecology of the immersion context on their language use"(Cohen & Allison, 2001. p. 35)

Fortune, T. W. (2001). Understanding immersion students’ oral language use as mediator of social interaction in the classroom. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

“This interpretive case study seeks to describe and understand the oral language use practices and perceptions of four 5th grade Spanish immersion learners in a classroom setting. Using the interactional episode as a bounded unit of interaction, 55.4 hours (3354 episodes) of naturally-occurring classroom interactions were recorded and analyzed to identify salient patterns and interrelationships between contextual and interpersonal factors and students' choice of language, as well as the amount, focus and function of student language produced. In addition, nearly fifteen hours of audio and video data-prompted interviews with focal students and their teacher were analyzed and categorized for themes regarding participant perceptions of student language use using content analysis and the software program, NVivo.

The study found that participants perceive immersion students' use of language in the classroom as influenced by numerous contextual, interpersonal and intrapersonal factors. Those factors that participants cite as influencing student use of the immersion language include: clear communication of the expected language through established classroom routines, peer &/or teacher language in use, explicit teacher requests, reminders, and rewards, teacher proximity, effective activity planning and activity design, participation of peer interlocutors during structured, language-focused writing tasks, students' sustained and active engagement in cognitively complex activities such as processing task directions or generating text for a creative writing task, and the use of verbal scaffolds to support the writing process.

This study also found interesting patterns in immersion student language use. During Spanish time, all four students used more English than Spanish. Students interact with peers three times more frequently than with teachers and language produced with other students was more frequently sustained and language-focused than during interaction with the teacher. While there is evidence that interaction with a native Spanish speaker did increase English-dominant students' use of Spanish, there is also evidence that the native Spanish-speaking student in this study tended to reserve use of Spanish for other native Spanish speakers in the classroom. Student-led oral presentations, creative writing tasks, math projects, and structured group work elicited greater amounts of Spanish that was extended, language-focused, and academically-oriented.”(Fortune, 2001, pp. iv-v)

Subsequent publication:

An overview of this research was published in the ACIE Newsletter, February 2002.

Lynch, A., Klee, C. A., & Tedick, D. J. (2001). Social factors and language proficiency in postsecondary Spanish immersion: Issues and implications. Hispania, 84, 510-524.

“A number of SLA studies indicate that social factors play a crucial role in the language use and performance of second language learners participating in immersion experiences. Elaine Tarone and Merrill Swain (1995) described the impact of social pressures in the language choice of primary-level learners, indicating that issues of identity and group acceptance may impede use of the immersion language in informal interactions since learners lack a socially-appropriate vernacular. We suggest that social factors conditioning language use and performance are very important at the postsecondary level as well, but the impact of these factors on adult age learners is of a quite different nature. The diglossic situation created in many primary-level immersion classrooms appears not to be characteristic of immersion learning among adults. For adults, target language use appears to be the most acceptable norm in encounters both inside and outside of the classroom, leading to immersion "societies" which benefit those participants who already demonstrate higher levels of proficiency in both academic and non-academic interactions. Learners at lower levels of L2 proficiency may be excluded, either voluntarily or involuntarily, from the social community of higher-level learners, thus depriving them of potentially beneficial interactions with more advanced learners and, on socio-psychological grounds, impeding their L2 acquisition. Theoretical and pedagogical implications for postsecondary level immersion programs are addressed.”(Lynch, Klee, & Tedick, 2001, p. 510)

Rigaud, M. (2004). Attrition in four Midwest elementary immersion schools. (Unpublished Master's thesis). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"One indicator of a successful educational innovation is the ability to offer students a long-term schooling experience in one setting. While the topic of attrition in U.S. immersion schools has as yet received no research attention, certain Canadian research studies report attrition rates of between 40 – 50% for French immersion students during the elementary years (Mannavarayan, 2002). Are immersion schools in the U.S. encountering similarly high rates of attrition? This study examines the rates of student withdrawal for four U.S. elementary immersion schools over a ten-year period. Immersion student withdrawal rates are compared to (1) non-immersion student withdrawal rates of demographically similar elementary schools within the same district and (2) the average district-wide withdrawal rates for all elementary schools. Attrition rates for immersion schools are also examined to determine whether they increase, decrease or remain stable as start-up programs mature. Finally, data on the timing of student transfers are analyzed to determine if “critical periods” (particular grade levels) exist during which students are more likely to leave an immersion school"(Rigaud, 2004, p. 1)

Subsequent publications:

An overview of this research was published in the ACIE Newsletter, May 2005.

Walker, C. L. & Tedick, D. J. (2000). The complexity of immersion education: Teachers address the issues. The Modern Language Journal, 84(1), 5-27.

"The purpose of this study was to enlist practitioners in language immersion programs in the identification and elaboration of issues and challenges in immersion language teaching. Through focus groups and extensive individual interviews, 6 elementary Spanish-language immersion teachers in 3 school settings (a suburban full-immersion school and 2 inner-city magnet programs—1 partial and 1 full immersion) served as informants. Five major themes emerged: the primacy of language, the balance between language and content, assessment, the spectrum of learners in immersion programs, and the sociopolitical context of immersion schooling. Within each of these themes, teachers described the particular challenges of immersion teaching and illuminated the complexity of immersion classrooms on a microlevel. In a complex setting where the learning of curricular content and second language acquisition are expected to develop concurrently, teachers are in a unique position to add to our knowledge of immersion schooling"(Walker & Tedick, 2000, p. 5).


Immersion Research Publications  (1994–1999)

Cohen, A. D. (1994). The language used to perform cognitive operations during full-immersion math tasks. Language Testing, 11(2), 171-195.

Thirty-two students were selected from the third to sixth grade at a Spanish full-immersion school in St Paul. A team of five investigators collected data from the pupils over a five-month period: 1) verbal report; 2) questionnaire data about the pupils' abilities, attitudes and preferences with regard to thinking in Spanish and using Spanish as a vehicle for communication with peers and adults; 3) insights from classroom observation regarding language use patterns in the process of doing the particular task; and 4) background information on the selected learners, including achievement test scores available from the school office, the learners' school grades, sociolinguistic information on their exposure to Spanish language out of class, and so forth.

The findings revealed that, for the immersion students under study, English seemed at times to play a more prominent role in their internal language environment than Spanish. In responding to both numerical and verbal problems in maths, students reported favouring English in their cognitive processing and were also observed to be doing so. They read the problem in Spanish but would shift to English immediately or as soon as they had some conceptual difficulty. These findings may provide some contribution to the gaps that have been noted in the spoken and written output of immersion pupils."(Cohen, 1994, p. 145)

Fortune, T. & Jorstad, H.  (1996). U.S. immersion programs:  A national survey. Foreign Language Annals, 29(2), 163-190.

“This national survey identifies key components of U.S. language immersion programs and offers a description of existing partial and full immersion schools. It parallels information-gathering efforts in Canada and Europe by providing details and summaries of demographic information, teachers, materials, target language proficiency and use, program structure and content, student and program assessment, inservice education, and articulation.”(Fortune & Jorstad, 1996, p. 163).

Klee, C. A. & Tedick, D. J. (1997). The undergraduate foreign language immersion program in Spanish at the University of Minnesota. In Stephen B. Stryker, & Betty Lou Leaver, (Eds.) Content based instruction in foreign language education (pp. 141-173). Washington, D. C.: Georgetown University Press.

“[The authors] and their colleagues have designed a content-based Foreign Language Immersion Program (FLIP) for students with an Intermediate-High level of proficiency (approximately three years of college-level foreign language study). In this chapter they describe their successful pilot program in Spanish, which has since been expanded into French and German.”(Klee & Tedick, 1997, p. 141)

Parker, J. E., Heitzman, S. M., Fjerstad, A. J., Babbs, L. M., & Cohen, A. D. (1995). Exploring the role of foreign language in immersion education: Implications for SLA theory and L2 pedagogy. In F. R. Eckman, D. Highland, P. W. Lee, J. Milcham, & R. R. Weber (Eds.), Second language acquisition theory and pedagogy (pp. 235-253). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

“This study was designed to examine the nature of patterns of language use that emerge in learners as these patterns relate to the nature of the specific internal (the way learners process language in their minds) and external (all language-related elements that influence the learner from without) environments established in immersion classrooms. These environments are defined using the learner as a locus of reference…

We hope that this examination of the external and internal language environments may shed further light on the true role of the foreign (target) language in the immersion classroom. We asked the following specific research questions: (1) To what extent do learners use their native and target languages to communicate and to perform cognitive tasks in the immersion classroom. (2) During what tasks or learning moments do learners switch from performing cognitive operations in the target language to performing them in their native language?”(Parker, Heitzman, Fjerstad et al., 1995, pp. 236-237)

Related publication:

Cohen, A. D. (1998, February). Choice of language for performing cognitive tasks: A summary of the group discussion. In C. Klee, A. Lynch, & E. Tarone (Eds.), Research and practice in immersion education: Looking back and looking ahead. Selected conference proceedings (CARLA Working Paper Series #10, pp. 107-108). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.

Tedick, D. J. & Tischer, C. A. (1996). Combining immersion experiences and pedagogy for language teachers: Lessons learned and changes implemented. Foreign Language Annals, 29(3), 415-427.

      "The purpose of this study was to enlist practitioners in language immersion programs in the identification and elaboration of issues and challenges in immersion language teaching. Through focus groups and extensive individual interviews, 6 elementary Spanish-language immersion teachers in 3 school settings (a suburban full-immersion school and 2 inner-city magnet programs—1 partial and 1 full immersion) served as informants. Five major themes emerged: the primacy of language, the balance between language and content, assessment, the spectrum of learners in immersion programs, and the sociopolitical context of immersion schooling. Within each of these themes, teachers described the particular challenges of immersion teaching and illuminated the complexity of immersion classrooms on a microlevel. In a complex setting where the learning of curricular content and second language acquisition are expected to develop concurrently, teachers are in a unique position to add to our knowledge of immersion schooling."(Tedick & Tischer, 1996, p. 415)


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