A Social Constructivist Approach to Content-Based Foreign Language Instruction

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Nina Greenwald


Most students who study a foreign language in the US cannot speak that languageñan outcome that relates directly to the ways in which foreign language instruction typically occurs. This paper examines and promotes the efficacy of content-based foreign language instruction, a social constructivist process that calls for students to use language in meaningful contexts for meaningful tasks. First, a framework is established for understanding the history of trends in language instruction and how politics and social attitudes toward language study and bilingualism have impacted instruction. Following is a description of contemporary theory in second language acquisition which clarifies the important role of connecting language to meaning and thought. This leads into a discussion about content-based instruction as an effective approach to quality instruction. Subsequently, the paper examines constructivist epistemology, illustrating that language acquisition is a social constructivist process that requires learners to construction their own meaning in collaboration with others. Finally, the paper presents two content-based lessons, applying to classroom practice the theoretical framework and principles that have been defined.


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