About Angela Gallagher-Brett

I am a language education specialist and learning developer working at the LLAS Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies at the University of Southampton and at SOAS, University of London.This is my personal website where I share my reflections on languages, higher education, research and reading.

Action Research Communities for Language Teachers

I am a partner in Action Research Communities for language teachers, a project funded by the European Centre for Modern Languages.

The project aims to make techniques for action research widely available to language teachers across Europe by establishing a community of practice which brings together newly qualified and experienced teachers with teacher educators and university researchers. The project will strengthen professional language teaching networks by forging links between academic expertise on action research and good practice in language classrooms. Language teachers will be able to benefit from improved access to action research and to a diverse range of perspectives on teaching methodologies. In addition, this project will provide opportunities for language teachers to reflect on practice and to propose and test innovations while working collaboratively within a community of practice.

More information on the project can be found on the ECML website: www.ecml.at/actionresearch

Motivational and learning benefits of peer mentoring

I’m about to start work on a small-scale qualitative study to explore the motivational and learning benefits of (near) peer mentoring for a team of PhD student mentors. In my role as Head of Learning and Teaching Development in a UK university, I oversee a scheme in which PhD students are recruited and trained to act as essay, dissertation writing and language advising one-to-one mentoring tutors to undergraduate and Masters students. The scheme is underpinned by a Vygotskian perspective whereby it is assumed that learners advance their thinking and understanding through interaction with a more competent peer (see for example, Mynard & Almarzouqi, 2006).  Our evaluation processes indicate that the scheme is highly valued by UG and PGT students. However, we know little about any benefits for the PhD students who act as mentors and so I’m hoping to be able to shed a little more light on these.

Reference

Mynard, J. & Almarzouqi, I. (2006) Investigating peer tutoring. ELT Journal 60 (1), 13-22.

Employability for Languages: A Handbook

Employability for Languages: A Handbook which I co-edited with two of my University of Southampton colleagues, Erika Corradini and Kate Borthwick was published in the summer by Research-Publishing.net.

The book showcases a collection of case studies and projects which teachers have embedded into the languages curriculum to enable students in both higher education and schools to develop transferable skills and competences. The collection focuses on some highly innovative practice and also provides information on how projects have been set up and organised so that they can be replicated. I really enjoyed being on the editorial team.

All chapters are fully downloadable at the above link.

London Language Show presentation now online

I recently presented at the London Language Show on behalf of Routes into Languages with Irena Holdsworth from Routes South West and Sarah Schechter from Routes East. Our presentation: What Routes into Languages can do for you and your school focused on exciting projects that help to take languages out of the classroom and is now online.

 

Employability for Languages Handbook

I’m very excited to be working on a new initiative with two of my University of Southampton colleagues, Erika Corradini and Kate Borthwick. As part of an employability project that we are conducting for Routes into Languages, we are editing an Employability for Languages handbook. We’ve invited contributions and will be showcasing inspiring case studies in the area of employability for languages graduates. The result will be an open access e-book which will be freely available for download. We’re very much looking forward to receiving expressions of interest and I’ll update on our progress later on.

Setting up academic writing communities

Academic writing with all its trials and tribulations, can sometimes be easier and more enjoyable in the company of other people. So providing students with opportunities either to write together or to talk about writing together seems to me to be an important way of overcoming some of the difficulties experienced in the writing process. There are various ways of going about establishing joint spaces for writing but I am interested in exploring options for doing a bit more than this and trying to create some kind of academic writing community.

I sometimes run writing retreats for Masters students and I’ve written about this before. Retreats are also widely used by the Higher Education Academy to support and mentor academic staff who are writing their fellowship applications. Some useful ideas for organising writing retreats for students can be found on the QMUL Thinking Writing website. Writing retreats have some similarities with Shut up and Write groups. The Thesis Whisperer offers suggestions on setting up these.

There is also lots of good advice available on the Inside Higher Ed website. Various options are described here including traditional writing groups, writing accountability groups (where you have to answer to people regularly about your writing), online writing groups, writing coaches etc. An important point made here is that we all need to work out what our actual needs are in relation to writing first.

Write Inquiry offers a toolbox of ideas to help writing and useful links and is intended for staff and students in HE who want to set up collaborative writing communities.

You could try an academic writing meet up – or set one up

The Writing Cafe at Plymouth University sounds great. It offers students the chance to come and talk to learning developers and writing mentors about their writing. It also puts on writing events.

So there are quite a few examples out there. I’m looking into organising something around writing communities with students and will update this blog with my progress during the next academic year.

It’s dissertation time again

It’s that time of year again when Masters students are busy and engrossed with their dissertations. For many of them, it is their first attempt at doing their own piece of independent research. As a dissertation supervisor and academic skills developer, I really enjoy the process of working with students as they bring their dissertation projects together – it’s really rewarding to see how many of them become so engrossed and passionate about what they are doing. As the dissertation is such a significant piece of writing, there are always challenges along the way with both the writing and the research. So each year, I look for useful resources that might be helpful to students. Often these have a different focus and they cover topics such as such as managing time when writing, writing style, putting together a coherent argument among others. Resources I’ve written about previously are listed here

Obviously, lots of universities have their own useful resources and these tend to be tailored for doing a dissertation in that particular institution.

Others I have come across recently:

Dissertation dos and don’ts from the Guardian: how to write your dissertation  

The No-Fail Secret to Writing a Dissertation – aimed primarily at PhD students but useful tips on writing every day which will also be relevant for Masters students.

Books on writing dissertations which students may find helpful:

Biggam, J. (2011) Succeeding with your masters dissertation: a step-by-step handbook. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Bitchener, J. (2010) Writing an applied linguistics thesis or dissertation: a guide to presenting empirical research. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Bolker, J. (1998) Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day: a guide to starting, revising and finishing your doctoral thesis. New York: H Holt.

Furseth, I. (2013) Doing your masters dissertation. London: Sage.

Hart, C. (2005) Doing your masters dissertation: Realizing your potential as a social scientist. London: Sage.

Murray, R. (2006) How to write a thesis. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Rudestam, K. (2007) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sumerson, J. (2014) Finish your dissertation, don’t let it finish you. New Jersey: Wiley.