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

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.

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.

New research study published on language teacher development and open practice

I have had a new piece of research published this week with my University of Southampton colleague, Kate Borthwick which focuses on language teacher development and open practice. Our study investigated the professional and motivational benefits of engaging with open practice among higher education language teachers in UK universities. Our findings are published in the latest edition of Computer Assisted Language Learning

 

 

 

Reflections on Storyville: exploring narratives of teaching and learning

This last week I spent two days at the Higher Education Academy’s Arts & Humanities Conference, Storyville: exploring narratives of teaching and learning in a rather damp and murky Brighton.

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I was presenting a paper with my colleague, Kate Borthwick on a research study that we carried out recently which looked at language teacher professional development. Below are a few highlights of sessions I attended:

1              The tall tales we tell about teaching (Vicky Gunn, University of Glasgow)

Vicky used her background as a medievalist to examine how collective memories about teaching and learning are made. For me, most interesting was how Vicky encouraged us to think about how we bring our memories to our teaching. She also talked about some recent research with humanities academics who have reported themselves to be very suspicious of the HE buzzword concepts of entrepreneurialism, work-related learning and global citizenship.

2              Write here Write now (Jac Cattaneo, Northbrook College and University of Chichester)

This workshop introduced a project which set out to encourage Art, Design and Media Studies students to engage with academic writing through the use of creative writing practices. After the preliminaries, Jac got us all writing using a series of visual prompts – in one example we drew a map to represent a childhood place of personal significance and another one of a place in the here and now. We were then asked to do a piece of free writing and to link the two maps. This was a really enjoyable and thought-provoking session. I could imagine using some of the ideas here in professional development workshops for teachers.

3              Narratives of the future self: a narrative method for researching language learners’ self-concepts (Angela Goddard & Alistair Henry, West University, Sweden)

Angela and Alistair reported on a language learning motivation study in Sweden. This was of particular interest to me as motivation is my main research area. They used a narrative approach to investigate students’ L2 identities at key transition points in an English-mediated university programme (using the concepts of possible and future selves). This is a longitudinal study so they will have more to report as it develops.

4              The OpenLIVES OER oral history experience: rebalancing methodologies, values and identities in Arts & Humanities in HE (Antonio Martinez-Arboleda, University of Leeds)

The OpenLIVES Project collected the oral histories of people who left Spain during the Civil War. Antonio described how the materials gathered during OpenLIVES were developed into a student module at the University of Leeds and how the skills developed by the students during the module form part of an ‘empowerability’ rather than ‘employability’ agenda. All the OpenLIVES materials are openly available in the Humbox

5              Student-led peer mentoring (Gabriele Neher, University of Nottingham)

Gabriele described an initiative at Nottingham where students are invited to apply (through a formal application process) to become mentors to new students. It’s an opt-in scheme for mentees and project activities involve extensive use of social media. The scheme has helped to bridge the transition gap for incoming students.

Other useful presentations included Students as partners: sharing stories (Jenny Lewin, University of Worcester), Academic staff perceptions of I.T. in the Humanities (Pritpal Sembi, University of Wolverhampton) and Pioneers on the frontiers of learning? A narrative inquiry approach to new pedagogical practices using technology in Arts and Humanities learning and teaching (Rosemary Stott, Ravensbourne, Sarah Cousins, University of Bedfordshire & Dounia Bissar, University of Essex)

Overall, an enjoyable couple of days although I would have liked to have seen a greater languages presence on the conference programme.

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Multilingual Britain Report

This short report from the British Academy provides an overview of multilingualism in British society and education and is a fascinating read.

The report notes the scarcity of data on multilingualism outside the school population. There is available census data from the 2011 England and Wales census which shows that 8% of the population reported having a ‘main’ language other than English, with Welsh and Polish occurring more frequently than anything else. Surveys of school children have, unsurprisingly, indicated that London schools are the most linguistically diverse.

The report makes the case for multilingualism, citing benefits for health, communication, business, academia and public services. It also challenges a perceived hierarchy of bilingualism in which higher status is attached to languages which are formally learned as opposed to languages which are acquired in the home.

The educational context in England, Scotland and Wales is briefly outlined; language learning and teaching are discussed and the lack of a language education strategy in England is highlighted. Rather depressingly for those of us who research language learning motivation, the report states that:

‘there is little research into the attitudes of UK language learners’ (p. 5).

This is an interesting summary document – definitely worth a read