Latin American Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ellen Johnson Serafini

Ellen Johnson Serafini

Ellen Johnson Serafini

Assistant Professor

Instructed Second Language Learning; Learner Individual Differences; Task-based Language Teaching; Critical Language Pedagogy; Heritage Language Education; Bilingual Education.

Ellen Johnson Serafini is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. Her research explores the role of various internal and external factors in different language learning settings including second language, immersion, heritage, and specialized contexts. She has recently published on the impact of individual learner differences in instructed second language and immersion settings, the application of critical pedagogy to heritage language contexts, and task-based approaches to curricular design in specialized domains of language teaching.


In addition to Spanish language courses, Dr. Serafini offers undergraduate courses on Spanish linguistics, Spanish for heritage speakers, Spanish for specific purposes, and Spanish service learning as well as graduate courses in second language teaching methodology and curriculum development, bilingual education in the Spanish-speaking world, and task-based language teaching.


Selected Publications

Serafini, E. J. (In press). Exploring the dynamic long-term interaction between cognitive and psychosocial resources in adult second language development at varying proficiency. Modern Language Journal, 101(2).

Serafini, E. J. & Sanz, C. (2016). Evidence for the decreasing impact of cognitive ability on second language development as proficiency increases. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38, 607-646.

Leeman, J. & Serafini, E. J. (2016). Sociolinguistics in heritage language education: Promoting critical translingual competence. In Fairclough, M. & Beaudrie, S. (Eds.), Innovative Approaches in HL Pedagogy: From Research to Practice (pp. 56-79). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Torres, J. & Serafini, E. J. (2016). Micro-evaluating learners' task-specific motivation in a task-based Business Spanish course. Hispania, 99, 289-304.

Grey, S., Cox, J., Serafini, E. J. & Sanz, C. (2015). Lexical and grammatical second language development in an immersion context: Does working memory matter? Modern Language Journal, 99(1), 137-157.

Serafini, E. J., Lake, J., & Long, M. H. (2015). Methodological improvements in identifying specialized learner needs. English for Specific Purposes, 40, 11-26.

Serafini, E. J. & Pennestri, S. (2015). Clicking in the second language (L2) classroom: The effectiveness of type and timing of clicker-based feedback in Spanish L2 development. In R. Leow, L. Cerezo, & M. Baralt (Eds.), Technology and L2 learning: A psycholinguistic approach (pp. 219-239). De Gruyter Mouton.

Serafini, E. J. & Torres, J. (2015). The utility of needs analysis for non-domain expert teachers in designing task-based Spanish for the Professions curricula. Foreign Language Annals, 48, 447-472.



Ph.D., Spanish Linguistics, Georgetown University (2013)

M.S., Spanish Linguistics, Georgetown University (2010)

M.A., Hispanic Linguistics, University of Arizona (2006)

B.A., Spanish & English, University of Arkansas (2004) 

Recent Presentations

Conceptualizing motivational selves in instructed heritage language contexts. Symposium on Spanish as a Heritage Language (SSHL), University of California-Irvine, Irvine, CA (Feb 2017) 

'It's not fair': HL and L2 student perceptions of 'mixed' classes. With Jennifer Leeman. Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, Georgetown University, Washington, DC (Oct 7, 2016)

The long-term explanatory capacity of motivational constructs in instructed second language learning at varying proficiency. Second Language Research Forum, CUNY-Teacher's College, New York City, NY (Sept 23, 2016)

Conducting a needs analysis to design a Spanish for Business course. With Julio Torres. ACTFL Convention, San Diego, CA (Nov 22, 2015)

Applying a dynamic systems lens to interpreting the interaction between cognitive and (psycho)social resources in adult second language learning. Interlocutor Individual Differences Symposium, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN (Oct 1, 2015)

Sociolinguistics as content in heritage language education: A model for promoting critical translingual competence. With Jennifer Leeman. Spanish in the US, New York City, New York (Mar 28, 2015) 

The cognitive and psychosocial dimensions of learning a second language as an adult interact and change over time. American Association for Applied Linguistics, Toronto, Canada (Mar 22, 2015)

The impact of cognitive ability on second language development lessens with increasing proficiency. With Cristina Sanz. Second Language Research Forum, Columbia, SC (Oct 23 2014) 

The internal validity of tests tapping implicit and explicit linguistic knowledge in adult second language (L2) learners at increasing proficiency. American Association for Applied Linguistics, Portland, OR (Mar 2014)

Classroom-level instructional practice in a US dual language immersion context: Corrective feedback patterns and teacher perspectives. Conference on Language, Learning, and Culture, Virginia International University, Fairfax, VA (Apr 11-12, 2014)

In the Media

Interview about second language acquisition and bilingualism with reporter Karen Finucan Clarkson at Washington Parent (September 2014).