Ellen Johnson Serafini

Ellen Johnson Serafini

Ellen Johnson Serafini

Director of Graduate Programs

Associate Professor

Task-based Language Teaching; Critical Language Pedagogy; Community-Based Learning; Learner Individual Differences; Critical Language Awareness; Heritage Language Education.

Ellen J. Serafini is Associate Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics at George Mason University and Director of Graduate Studies. She holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Spanish Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Arizona. Her research explores how individual, pedagogical, and social factors dynamically interact and impact learner outcomes in diverse language learning settings. In both research and teaching, she seeks to apply and integrate principles of critical language pedagogy, service-learning, and Task-Based Language Teaching to optimize the development of both students' and educators' critical language awareness. Her work appears in several edited volumes and academic journals such as the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, The Modern Language Journal, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Language Teaching, Foreign Language Annals, Hispania, Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, and the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Currently, she is working on a co-edited book under contract with Wiley titled Manual para la formación de profesores de español, with Dr. Cristina Sanz (Georgetown University) and Dr. Inma Taboada (University of Illinois-Chicago). 


Dr. Serafini teaches courses on Spanish linguistics, Spanish for heritage speakers, Spanish for specific purposes, and Spanish service learning at the undergraduate level and offers graduate courses in methods of second and heritage language teaching and curriculum design, task-based language teaching, and bilingual education in the Spanish-speaking world.


Selected Publications

Serafini, E. J. & Roca-Ramirez, S. (In press). Exploring the role of critical experiences, positioning, and agency in the dynamic, emergent construction of heritage speaker selves. In A. S. Thompson (Ed.), “Languages Other than English (LOTEs): Issues and Solutions”, special issue of Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching.

Serafini, E. J. (Forthcoming, 2024). Integrating Task-Based Language Teaching, Critical Language Pedagogy, and Service-Learning to Foster Critical Language Awareness. Spanish as a Heritage Language.

Nguyen, M. V. H., Serafini, E. J., Leeman, J. & Winsler, A. (2023). Factors predicting secondary school language course enrollment and performance among U.S. heritage speakers of Spanish. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1035716.

Parra, M. L. & Serafini, E. J. (2022). “Bienvenidxs todes”: el lenguaje inclusive desde una perspectiva crítica para las clases de español. Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, Special Issue, “Entorno social y enseñanza del español LE/L2: Competencia sociolingüística y uso de la lengua.”

Serafini, E. J. (2022a). Assessing students through a Critical Language Awareness framework. In S. Loza & S. Beaudrie (Eds.), Heritage language teaching: Critical language awareness perspectives from research and pedagogy (pp. 80-97). London, UK: Routledge.

Serafini, E. J. (2022b). Adapting and advancing task-based needs analysis methodology across diverse language learning contexts. In M. J. Ahmadian & M. H. Long (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Task-Based Language Teaching (pp. 73-98). Cambridge University Press.

Serafini, E. J. (2022c). From differential to dynamic: The role of working memory in second language (L2) learning. In K. Kersten & A. Winsler (Eds.), Understanding variability in SLA (pp. 268-291). Routledge.

Serafini, E. J. (2021a). Service learning in heritage language education: A critical overview of motivation, design, and outcomes. In J. R. Torres & D. Pascual y Cabo (Eds.), El español como lengua de herencia (Advances in Spanish Language Teaching Series) (pp. 257-274). Routledge Press.

Serafini, E. J. (2021b). Adapting and advancing task-based needs analysis (NA) methodology across diverse language learning contexts. In M. J. Ahmadian & M. H. Long (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Task-Based Language Teaching (pp. 73-98). Cambridge University Press.

Serafini, E. J. (2021c). Advancing notions of advancedness: Clarifying the role of individual differences in learners across the second language proficiency spectrum. In P. Malovrh & M. Menke (Eds.), Advancedness in Second Language Spanish: Definitions, Challenges and Possibilities (pp. 351-366). John Benjamins' Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics series.

Leeman, J. & Serafini, E. J. (2020). "It's not fair": Discourses of deficit, equity, and effort in mixed HL/L2 Spanish classes. Journal of Language, Identity & Education. DOI: 10.1080/15348458.2020.1777866.

Serafini, E. J. (2020). Exploring the dynamics of interlocutor IDs and language learner selves during a short-term experience abroad. In L. Gurzynski-Weiss (Ed.), Cross-theoretical explorations of interlocutors and their individual differences (pp. 209-243). John Benjamins (Language Learning & Language Teaching series).

Serafini, E. J., Rozell, N. & Winsler, A. W. (2020). Academic and English language outcomes for DLLs in Miami as a function of school bilingual education model: The role of two-way immersion and home language support. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2019.1707477.

Sanz, C. & Serafini, E. J. (2018). La cognición y las lenguas no nativas: El papel de las diferencias individuales en el aprendizaje de lenguas extranjeras con especial atención a la memoria operativa. In E. Ortiz-Preuss & I. Finger (Eds.), A dinâmica do processamento bilíngue, (pp. 233-267). Pontes Editores.

Serafini, E. J. (2017). Exploring the dynamic long-term interaction between cognitive and psychosocial resources in adult second language development at varying proficiency. Modern Language Journal, 101(2), 369-390.

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.

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.

Grey, S., Cox, J., Serafini, E. J., & Sanz, C. (2015). The role of individual differences in the study abroad context: Cognitive capacity and language development during short-term intensive language exposure. The Modern Language Journal, 99, 137-157.

Serafini, E. J., Lake, J., & Long, M. H. (2015). Needs analysis for specialized learner populations: Essential methodological improvements. English for Specific Purposes, 40, 11-26.


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

Invited Talks and Workshops

Con y no para: The self as a site of social justice work in language education (Invited plenary speaker). National Symposium on Spanish as a Heritage Language (NSSHL), Harvard University, Boston, MA (April 15, 2023)

The use of (digital) linguistic landscape to build and assess critical language awareness in community-based Spanish heritage courses (Invited Lecture – Virtual). Initiative for the teaching of Spanish as a heritage language/Iniciativa para la enseñanza del español como lengua heredada. Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University (February 17, 2022)

Language and Social Justice in the Context of Spanish Heritage Language Education (SHLE) in the U.S. (Invited Lecture – Virtual). Language and Social Justice Seminar, Middlebury (September 28, 2021)

La conciencia crítica lingüística en la enseñanza de español como lengua de herencia (Invited workshop – Virtual). Spanish and Portuguese Pedagogical Workshop Series, Georgetown University (March 19, 2021)

Linguistics Keynote Panelist, Graduate Portuguese and Hispanic Symposium (GRAPHSY), Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University (February 22, 2019)

Doing critical language pedagogy in the Spanish heritage language classroom: Objectives, tasks, and outcomes/Implementar la pedagogía lingüística crítica en el aula de español como lengua de herencia: Objetivos, tareas y resultados (Invited Workshop). DMV Heritage Language Communities Symposium, University of Maryland-College Park (April 21, 2018)

Refereed Conference Presentations

Social justice and Spanish for heritage speakers: Activities for inside and outside the classroom. With Jennifer Leeman and Lisa Rabin. Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) – Virtual (October 9, 2021)

Building Critical Language Awareness through Service Learning: The Intersection of Task-Based and Critical Language Pedagogies, American Association for Applied Linguistics – Virtual (Mar 20-23, 2021)

Building Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Healthcare Settings: An Interdisciplinary Approach by Spanish, Social Work, and Nursing Faculty. With Carrie Bonilla & Esperanza Román-Mendoza, 2ND Medical Spanish Summit – Virtual (October 10, 2020)

Critical Task-Based Language Teaching: Exploring the dynamic development of critical language awareness in service learning. Task-Based Language Teaching Biennial Conference, Ottawa, CA (Aug 19, 2019)

DLL outcomes vary by bilingual education model: Two-way immersion and home language support. With Adam Winsler & Nadine Rozell. Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), Baltimore, MD (March 21, 2019)

Discourses of equity, identity and belonging among students in mixed heritage/second language Spanish courses. With Jennifer Leeman. American Association for Applied Linguistics, Atlanta, GA (Mar 11, 2019)

Exploring the dynamics of language learner selves and interlocutor characteristics during a short-term experience abroad. American Association for Applied Linguistics, Chicago, IL (Mar 27, 2018)

Engaging students through task-based language instruction. With Natalia Dolgova, Carrie Bonilla, Xi Chen, Raluca Romaniuc, & Helen Guglielmi. Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA (September 22, 2017)

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)

Refereed Conference Posters

Positioning, critical experiences, and agency: Heritage speaker constructions of self across sociocultural and sociopolitical contexts. With Marisa Filgueras (Florida International University) and Sara Ramírez (Georgetown University). Second Language Research Forum (SRLF), Hosted by Vanderbilt University – Virtual (Oct 25, 2020)

Effects of task-supported instruction on young beginning Spanish learners’ pragmatic comprehension of forms of address. With Paige Saunders. Task-Based Language Teaching Biennial Conference, Ottawa, CA (Aug 20, 2019)

Micro-evaluating Learners' Task-Specific Motivation in a Task-based Business Course. With Julio Torres. American Association for Applied Linguistics, Orlando, FL (April 12, 2016)

Language and subject separation by classroom: Impact of new curricular model on supporting minority language ‘space’ in a dual language immersion context. Georgetown University Linguistics Landscapes Symposium, Washington, DC (Apr 15, 2011)

Exploring the relationship between levels of awareness & prior knowledge in foreign language learning. With Annie Calderón. Second Language Research Forum, College Park, MD (Oct 16, 2010)

In the Media

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