What pedagogical materials afford students of Spanish as a foreign language with opportunities to develop communicative competence?

Primary author: Preyadarshini Panday Shukla
Co-author(s): Anne Marie Guerrettaz; Nausica Marcos Miguel; Collin Shull
Faculty sponsor: Anne Marie Guerrettaz

Primary college/unit: College of Education
Campus: Pullman


Pedagogical materials (e.g., textbooks, PowerPoints, etc.) play an essential role in the teaching and learning of Spanish as a second language (L2) (Tarone, 2014). Many L2 teaching materials aim — in theory — to promote students’ development of communicative competence (Savignon 2017). Nonetheless, few studies have examined how pedagogical materials (Guerrettaz & Johnson, 2013) foster or inhibit students’ development of communicative competence.
This study’s goal was to identify pedagogical materials that: 1) afforded Spanish L2 learners opportunities to develop communicative competence and 2) those that did not — using the sociocultural framework of affordances (van Lier, 2004). This concept acknowledges broader classroom dynamics that influence the learning outcomes of materials: students’ and instructors’ uses of and responses to materials are complex and unpredictable. Fifteen focus groups, five teacher interviews, and fieldnotes from 45 recorded classroom lessons were analyzed qualitatively.
Results revealed that the following materials — frequently used by two expert instructors —afforded opportunities for communicative learning: 1) information gap handouts, 2) process-oriented sets of writing guides for in-class journaling, and 3) games (e.g., Taboo). Additionally, 4) music recordings were variably used with regards to students’ development of communicative competence: sometimes music was effectively used, but in other classrooms ineffectively or not at all. These differences are partially attributed to instructors’ divergent perceptions of music as a material. Lastly, many students paradoxically chose 5) Kahoot, a digital tool, as their favorite material, while acknowledging its failure to promote communicative learning. Findings have implications for L2 classroom practice and teacher development.