Program Types

What types of programs serve heritage language learners?

Now that you understand what it means to be a heritage language learner, we will now look at the different types of programs that provide heritage language education.

Heritage language learners may be learning the language and culture of their heritage in any type of educational setting, including K-12 schools, community-based schools, and institutions of higher education. While classes or programs may be designed specifically for heritage language learners, students may also be placed in traditional world language classes with second language learners, which are often referred to as mixed classrooms. Some heritage languages are more commonly taught than others, and heritage language education may or may not be considered part of standard school curriculum and programming.


Programs that serve heritage language learners vary in terms of:

  • the populations they serve
  • the degree of heterogeneity in their classes
  • their educational goals and objectives
  • their curriculum, materials, and resources
  • their approaches to instruction and assessment
  • their funding sources and practical considerations
  • their role in local and global communities

It is important for teachers to consider these factors when planning for assessment, especially when working with less commonly taught heritage languages in less traditional heritage language programs, such as community-based schools that operate on weekends or after school during the week.

As these programs provide heritage language education outside of public and private school systems, their instructional and assessment practices may be quite different from those commonly used in standard K-12 or university-based educational settings. Teachers working in community-based schools may have different perspectives on the role of assessment in heritage language education, and they may be working with heritage languages that are rarely or never taught in mainstream classrooms and thus have limited access to assessment resources that address the needs of their students.

While much of the information provided throughout this module is designed to be appropriate for all types of heritage language learner contexts, some recommendations will be more or less appropriate for teachers working in community-based schools, K-12 schools, or university-based programs. To address these differences, we have included a number of learning scenarios throughout the module that provide examples of assessment situations for different contexts, including:

Dual language or immersion programs

  • These programs serve both students with English-language backgrounds and students who speak the partner/heritage language with their families and in their communities. While they may be offered at any age or educational level, these programs are commonly found in K-5 or K-8 educational settings.

Heritage-specific classes or programs

  • These programs serve students who have been identified as heritage language learners and may be offered at any age or educational level.

Mixed world language classes or programs

  • These programs are traditional world language programs that serve second language learners and students who have been identified as heritage language learners. They may be offered at any age or educational level.

Community-based schools or programs

  • These programs serve heritage language learners within an immigrant or heritage language community and may be offered at any age or educational level.