Guidelines for designing an SA model that strengthens predeparture interventions

The present guidelines are intended to advise SA practitioners, especially faculty leaders, as to how conversation exchanges between SA participants (L2Ls/SHLLs) and SHL conversation partners in the predeparture phase of an SA program might be implemented. The pedagogical interventions proposed here are informed by previous SA research, already discussed, related to the employment of SHLLs as peer mentors or conversation partners (e.g., Marijuan, 2018; Quintanar-Sarellana et al., 1997; Reznicek-Parrado et al., 2018); experiential-education philosophy and methods (e.g., Kolb, 1984; Roberts 2015), which emphasize real-life experiences and “hands-on” activities as the foundation for structured reflection; and preliminary testing of such pedagogical interventions on a short-term SA program in Spain.

Step 1: selecting SHLLs who will work as conversation partners in the predeparture sessions

SA practitioners need to carefully consider the characteristics of the SHLLs who will work as conversation partners in the predeparture phase. It is recommended, but not required, that the SHLLs who will act as conversation partners have some experience studying, living, or traveling abroad. These SHL conversation partners should also have an advanced command of the heritage language - as is typical of SHLLs of, for example, the 1.5 generation - since the hands-on activities in the predeparture sessions are intended to be conducted mainly in the target/heritage language. SHLLs with a background in linguistics, education, or world languages would also be strong candidates to fulfill this role. The selection of the SHL conversation partners will depend on the availability of SHLLs who are willing to work in such a role; the pool of potential candidates will vary depending on the state and the type of institution. It is recommended that SHL conversation partners be provided with monetary compensation or incentives for their services. Those who have been awarded federal work-study funds, for example, are good candidates for the pool. Faculty leaders can work with their international centers or SA offices to seek other sources of funding. SHLLs should be compensated for the time they spend during related training as well. In cases where no funding is available, SHL conversation partners should be provided with other kinds of incentive or recognition - for example, in the form of an unpaid internship or research position that can be listed on their resume.

Step 2: informing participants about the SA program format and exploring learner concerns

Once the pool of SHL conversation partners has been established, SA practitioners should inform the SA cohort about the format of the predeparture phase - that is, that predeparture sessions will take place on campus and that SA students will have an opportunity to exchange ideas in a supportive conversation setting with SHLL peers from their home institution. If SA faculty leaders decide to also give SA learners opportunities to start connecting with Spanish native speakers from the host institution via computer-mediated communication, for example, that information can also be shared with them at this time. The most recommendable point in time to announce this information is during the first general orientation meeting, when staff from the international center or its equivalent can also participate. It is also a good practice at this point to gather preliminary data about how many of the SA participants are SHLLs themselves (and what their perceived command of the heritage language is), and how many of the participants (L2Ls/SHLLs) have had previous experiences studying, traveling, or living abroad. Other types of useful information that can be

Heritage learners as conversation partners 247 gathered include questions and concerns SA learners may have about the host institution and host culture. This data can inform the development of conversation tasks for the third step in the process, which ideally should be tailored to the particular SA group and its characteristics.

Step 3: developing hands-on activities for the predeparture sessions and training SHL conversation partners

SA faculty leaders can then analyze the preliminary data they gathered in the first general orientation meeting to look for patterns of learner concerns, which can inform hands-on activities that learners complete with the help of SHL conversation partners. For example, if SA participants (L2Ls/SHLLs) are interested in knowing how to avoid offending their host families, conversational tasks can be developed in the target/heritage language that relate to common conflicts during shared time with host families2 and how to resolve them. Other more straightforward concerns - for example, questions about what time meals typically take place - can be handled more directly by the faculty leader, by simply providing students with the relevant information.

The development of hands-on activities will vary depending on the characteristics of the SA cohort, but in any case they should be communication oriented so as to allow SA learners to negotiate meaning, express their point of view, develop strategies to connect with Spanish native speakers and the target culture, and gain more insights on the host country. Once the structure of the predeparture sessions and the conversation tasks have been developed, the SA faculty leader should conduct a training session with the SHL conversation partners and explain the goals, characteristics, and kinds of tasks to be completed by SA participants, so that SHL conversation partners are familiar with the format, content, and purpose of the predeparture sessions and can ask the SA faculty leader for clarifications, if needed.

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