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Modernizing Spanish Language Education with PROYECTOS


Davidson College’s Department of Hispanic Studies modernized their Spanish language curriculum by adopting PROYECTOS, significantly boosting student engagement and practical communication skills. Instructor Mili Paredes reports notable improvements in student confidence and real-life language use through the program’s authentic, contextualized materials and interactive learning methods.

Mili Paredes
Instructor Profile

Mili Paredes boasts over 25 years of experience teaching Spanish across various countries, including Spain, Germany, Hungary, and the USA. She spent 15 years in Germany, where she taught Spanish at prestigious institutions like the Esslingen University of Applied Sciences and the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg. Since 2022, Mili has been an instructor at Davidson College, where she teaches both elementary and advanced Spanish courses.

She has been using PROYECTOS for over two years.

Lecture hall
Institution Profile

Davidson College is a private liberal arts college situated in Davidson, North Carolina. As a four-year undergraduate institution, it serves 1,973 students hailing from all 50 US states and 46 countries. The college provides a broad range of academic offerings, including 37 majors and 39 minors, spanning various liberal arts disciplines and interdisciplinary programs.

The Hispanic Studies Department focuses on teaching the language, literature, and cultures of the Hispanic world. Its beginning, intermediate and advanced-level courses emphasize linguistic proficiency, critical thinking, and cultural and textual analysis.

The Challenge

The textbooks used in the Spanish language courses at Davidson College’s Department of Hispanic Studies were outdated and failed to adequately prepare students for real-world communication. According to Mili Paredes, “These books, although containing grammatical information and vocabulary, lacked a communicative focus and did not meet real-world needs for practical language skills.”

These textbooks emphasized traditional grammar teaching and vocabulary memorization without providing enough opportunities for effective oral and written communication practice. She noted, “Many students negatively perceived grammar and vocabulary learning due to repetitive fill-in-the-blank exercises, which lacked authenticity and communicative relevance. They found themselves limited in expressing themselves in everyday situations and lacking the confidence to engage in Spanish conversations. Additionally, the content of the books was outdated and did not reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the contemporary Spanish-speaking world.” 

The main challenge was realigning the teaching approach with the instructional materials used in the Spanish courses. The faculty recognized the crucial need to adopt a more communicative approach that would allow students to develop practical and applicable language skills in real situations.

“Our previous books, although containing grammatical information and vocabulary, lacked a communicative focus and did not meet real-world needs for practical language skills.“

Mili Paredes

The Solution

To effectively align the instructional materials with the communicative teaching goals at Davidson College’s Department of Hispanic Studies, the faculty adopted the PROYECTOS program, guided by Mili Paredes’ expertise with communicative programs. The decision was underpinned by several key features of the PROYECTOS curriculum, which promised a comprehensive educational experience tailored to the modern language learner.

Program Implementation and Features

Mili Paredes highlighted the critical aspects of PROYECTOS that led to its selection: “The integration of diverse linguistic content in PROYECTOS, including texts in multiple versions—both written and oral—that cater to different Hispanic variants, has significantly enhanced the learning experience and broadened students’ perspectives on the Spanish-speaking world.” This feature is critical for developing a nuanced understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity within the Spanish language.

Additionally, PROYECTOS employs innovative color-coded text mapping techniques that assist students in effectively identifying and utilizing essential lexical-grammatical units. This method integrates grammar and vocabulary into communicative teaching from a pragmatic and intercultural perspective, making learning more applicable to real-world interactions.

The structured design of PROYECTOS aligns perfectly with Davidson College’s newly implemented semester system. Mili explained, “Each semester consists of five chapters, spread over 15 weeks, ensuring a systematic progression through the material. With PROYECTOS 1 and 2 each containing 10 chapters, the entirety of the four-semester curriculum is covered at a consistent and manageable pace.” This alignment ensures that students engage with content that builds progressively over their entire course of study, reinforcing language skills sequentially.

Enhanced Learning Experience

PROYECTOS also includes various supportive features that significantly enhance the learning experience. The program offers online quizzes at the end of each chapter and interactive quizzes accessible to instructors, fostering an environment of continuous assessment and feedback. Project-based assignments culminate each lesson with both group and individual projects, which Mili notes as a favorite among students: “These projects encourage the practical application of learned concepts in engaging and meaningful ways, allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios.”

The program’s digital platform is particularly favored for its user-friendliness and integration capability, making it a valuable tool for both students and faculty. It supports the comprehensive assessment of all four language skills through midterm and final exams, ensuring a thorough evaluation of student progress.

Impact on Students and Learning Outcomes

Reflecting on the program’s impact, Mili shared, “Since implementing PROYECTOS, there has been a noticeable increase in student engagement and learning outcomes. Students demonstrate increased confidence in communicating in Spanish, both orally and in writing, and they feel more prepared to face real-life situations where they need to use Spanish, whether in academic, professional, or social contexts.”

A student corroborated this sentiment, stating, “The activities to interact with my peers are excellent for practicing in real-life situations, which makes me feel more confident in communicating in Spanish. Working in groups has allowed me to practice the language in a more authentic and enjoyable way.”

Mili also observed that PROYECTOS has fostered a more dynamic and interactive learning environment in the classroom, where students are more motivated to collaborate and work as a team to achieve common language goals. “The change to PROYECTOS has been fundamental in improving the quality of Spanish teaching in the department,” she concluded.

This case study of PROYECTOS at Davidson College illustrates how carefully selected educational tools and methodologies can profoundly influence the efficacy of language teaching, preparing students for successful communication in diverse and dynamic environments.

“Students demonstrate increased confidence in communicating in Spanish, both orally and in writing, and they feel more prepared to face real-life situations where they need to use Spanish.”

Examples of student projects completed from the assignments at the end of each chapter in the PROYECTOS textbook
Learn more about the PROYECTOS textbook series by visiting our online store.