Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Jonathan Beedle

Committee Chair Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 2

Taralynn Hartsell

Committee Member 2 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 3

Shuyan Wang

Committee Member 3 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 4

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research


Many world language and culture educators are non-native speakers of the language they teach. Although the current face-to-face professional development sessions do a good job in helping educators acquire technology tools to implement in their world language classrooms, professional development lacks in target language enrichment and providing ongoing collaboration among world language educators who are geographically dispersed. Additionally, the cost of attending state-wide, regional, and national world language professional development is very expensive and thus many world language educators cannot take part in these trainings. Consequently, many world language educators do not have the professional training they need to improve their teaching of language and culture.

Because of the shortage of professional development opportunities for world language educators, the researcher created a virtual community of practice for non-native Spanish educators. This online community provided a platform for non-native educators from Mississippi and Iowa where they accessed various technology tools tutorials created by the researcher, posted to the virtual community how they would use these technology tools in their Spanish classes, commented on how their teaching ideas connected to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guidelines, and developed ongoing professional relationships with other Spanish educators.

The research study lasted seven weeks where there were two groups of participants: a Spanish group and an English group. The Spanish group communicated only in Spanish whereas the English group communicated in English. After the seven weeks of online collaboration, both the Spanish group’s participants and the English group’s participants showed an increase in the three areas of language acquisition: writing, speaking, and listening comprehension.

During and after the study, participants provided unsolicited comments about the virtual community of practice. In the participants’ comments, educators mentioned that they would like to see more online professional development that is ongoing similar to this research study. Other participants also stated that they used their participation in the virtual community of practice study for teacher recertification and appraisal at their schools and districts.

Even after the study had ended, there were still some educators who posted work created with the technology tools and using the target language into the virtual community of practice for peer feedback.