Supporting Language Learning Through Assessment in Primary Education

This month we are publishing Assessment for Learning in Primary Language Learning and Teaching by Maria Britton. In this post the author explains what we can expect from the book.

It is probably fair to say that teachers and learners can invest significant amounts of time and energy in assessing language learning. As a minimum, such effort should pay off by providing clear and accurate information about what has already been achieved and what needs to be improved. It would be even better if assessment could also support learners in becoming more proficient language users as well as more effective and independent learners. This may not seem easy to achieve, especially when the learners are young children.

What criteria should assessment meet to support language learning in primary education? I was keen to find out what educational research can tell us about this. In this volume, I outline what we know about children as language learners; how they learn languages and what factors might affect the outcomes of primary language education. This serves as a starting point for drawing out characteristics of the kind of language assessment which could benefit learning.

So much for theory, now onto practice. I took to the classrooms to investigate what actually happens when assessment for learning (AfL) is used and what teachers think about using it with primary-aged children. In this volume, I share a detailed report of what I found, offering insights from a large dataset. Importantly, the findings clearly show that AfL is appropriate for use with primary-aged language learners as it meets the criteria for effective language assessment in childhood. Perhaps even more significantly, they also suggest how using AfL may help enhance language learning.

Readers might be interested to find out about the four types of implementation of AfL in primary language education which I identified, or about the ways in which teachers can practically support language learning through AfL techniques, described in detail and illustrated with examples sourced from lessons. The discussion also clarifies the compatibility of AfL with teaching various language skills, task types and age groups. Finally, I explore the impact of AfL on language learning in primary education, focusing on interactions and feedback. I propose that the concept of an assessment spiral is an accurate and useful model for thinking about AfL and researching its use and impact on language learning in primary education.

I am grateful to all the teachers and learners who kindly welcomed me into lessons and were keen to share their practice and thoughts with me.

Maria Britton

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching edited by Danijela Prošić-Santovac and Shelagh Rixon.

Language Teacher Noticing as Professional Development

This month we are publishing Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks by Daniel O. Jackson. In this post the author explains the concept of ‘teacher noticing’ and the book’s aims.

To teach effectively we need to notice. Detailed accounts of how language teachers attend to and act upon student contributions in a range of ways are somewhat rare, however. The article I have already published on this topic needed expansion. My new book dives deeper into this key aspect of teachers’ mental lives and how it develops. The Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching (PLLT) series is the ideal venue for this research.

Teacher noticing involves attention, interpretation, and decision-making. It is a form of reflection that happens during engagement with learners. That engagement can be cognitive, affective, or social – it’s something we experience every time we teach. For years, such encounters have informed my practice and my identity as a teacher. This book examines noticing by a group of pre-service English language teachers studying at my university in Japan. It offers fresh insight into the teacher’s role in task-based language teaching in this setting and beyond.

The book’s main purpose is to introduce the concept of teacher noticing to the second language field. It situates noticing among related concepts and theories, but instead of being a purely theoretical book, it uses evidence to shed light on noticing in practice. I drew on a rich array of sources and methods to illustrate the implications for teacher development. The results show how tasks guide pre-service teachers to notice verbal and nonverbal resources that underlie successful communication in a second language.

I regard this effort as a tribute to and a continuation of the work of the late Richard “Dick” Schmidt, who was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is especially renowned for his widely cited noticing hypothesis. Dick was my PhD supervisor and he truly was a great mentor. For this book, I revisited his account of learner noticing and sought out connections with teacher noticing. It frames joint attention by teachers and learners within expanding contexts of tasks, programs, and schools.

Ultimately, I aim to encourage dialogue between teacher educators and language teachers about learning to notice. Pre-service teachers should have opportunities to observe on video how they interact to orchestrate performance on a range of tasks. I also offer practical suggestions to improve the noticing skills of in-service teachers. A key point for reflection is to consider when, what, and how you and your students notice during lessons.

Lastly, I could not have come this far without the support of my loving family, many wonderful students, teachers and colleagues, the PLLT series editors, and everyone at Multilingual Matters – thank you all!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Teacher Recognition by Alison Stewart.

A Multilingual Environment on Study Abroad – Barrier or Benefit?

This month we published Language Learning in Study Abroad edited by Wenhao Diao and Emma Trentman. In this post the editors explain how the multilingual environment of study abroad can be beneficial.

Study abroad has been a central part of our lives for the last two decades, starting with our own experiences studying abroad and working with study abroad students, and culminating with researching and leading study abroad programs ourselves, some of which are described in our chapters in this book.

As language learners, we were sold on the promise of the magical linguistic gains we’d make during study abroad through the immersion experience, and saw these same dreams reflected in the expectations of our research participants. Yet, as we discovered ourselves, and as the chapters in this book demonstrate across a variety of locations and programs, study abroad is usually not an experience of monolingual immersion. Both language learners and the contexts in which they study are inherently multilingual. All too often, this multilingualism, and especially the presence of Global English, is framed as an obstacle to language learning, as learners struggle to make friends in the local language, negotiate racialized and gendered experiences, and generally wonder how to learn a language in a multilingual environment.

Yet, what if the multilingual environment is not a challenge to overcome with language pledges and other program interventions, but one in which language learners can use their full linguistic repertoires to expand them? And what if the multilingual realities are what historicize and contextualize the study abroad experience in post-colonial societies, neoliberal economies, and cultural discourses that position certain language learners as non-legitimate speakers of their target language(s)? The chapters in this book detail how language learners in study abroad locations throughout the world use a variety of strategies to gain an awareness of the cultural nuances of being and becoming multilingual. Some chapters also demonstrate the consequences for learners who hold on to their monolingual language ideologies. The implications of this mindset shift are many, particularly for the context of teaching languages to English speakers from wealthy Anglophone countries that are often viewed as centers of economic globalization.  Rather than focusing on how to make a multilingual environment more monolingual, or advising learners to avoid compatriots and English speakers, we can encourage learners to engage in translanguaging practices and negotiate their multilingual identities in ways that expand their linguistic repertoires and develop a critical multilingual awareness. This focus has the additional benefit of recognizing the translanguaging and identity negotiation skills of minoritized students, both of which are often overlooked in the language classroom.

We would like to thank the authors of the chapters in this volume, Uju Anya, Lucien Brown, Janice McGregor, Lourdes Ortega, Tracy Quan, Jamie A. Thomas, and Brandon Tullock, for their insightful contributions. It is our hope that this volume will inspire study abroad researchers and practitioners to help students develop skills to negotiate language learning in multilingual environments.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality edited by Martin Howard.

A Lens into the Psychological Experiences of Learners and Teachers in Integrated Content and Language Settings

This month we published The Psychological Experience of Integrating Content and Language edited by Kyle Read Talbot, Marie-Theres Gruber and Rieko Nishida. In this post Kyle explains how the book came about.

The three of us (Kyle, Marie-Theres, and Rieko) are all interested in the psychological factors that impact language learning and teaching. As such, we are thrilled that our edited collection, The Psychological Experience of Integrating Content and Language, has found a home as a part of Multilingual Matters’ Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching series. We happen to think that this book offers a unique perspective into what we believe is an under-researched area; namely, how learners and teachers think and feel about teaching in integrated content and language (ICL) settings (e.g. FMI/EMI, CLIL, CBI, etc.). This collection of research papers covers a diverse range of settings and educational levels and topics such as the self and identity, cognition, learner and teacher beliefs, challenges and opportunities of learning and teaching in ICL programs, well-being, and self-efficacy, as well as professional development, classroom interventions and implementations.

The idea for this collection came together quickly. Kyle and Marie-Theres were working together as part of a nationally funded research project in Austria (ÖNB fund no. 17136) with several wonderful colleagues (thanks all!). The primary focus of this research project was on teacher well-being in CLIL settings across educational levels in Austria. Essentially, we were curious as to how CLIL contexts impacted the way teachers felt about their teaching in these settings, how this affected their lives on a more holistic level, and whether they were thriving in their roles or merely rolling with the punches. The primary investigator, Sarah Mercer, presented some of the preliminary findings of this research project as part of a symposium at the PLL3 conference in Tokyo. As it happened, Rieko was also featured in that symposium and was also researching CLIL settings. Before too long we were all brainstorming about a possible edited collection to house some of the work from our various research projects.

So why did we choose to center this collection of research papers on the psychological experiences of learners and teachers in ICL contexts specifically? Put simply, we view ICL programs as forms of educational innovations. Educational innovations have the potential to be destabilizing for learners and teachers (though they can also be enriching or everything in between). We are also aware that ICL settings are rapidly expanding globally and across levels of education. In speaking to the spread of EMI in higher education specifically, Macaro, Curle, Pun, An, and Dearden (2018) suggest that, “it is hard to see anything but further expansion of EMI in HE” (p. 68). In our view, the same can be said for other ICL program types across educational levels. With this in mind, we think some urgency is needed in addressing how these programs impact the experiences of the learners and teachers and we hope this collection is a small step in that direction. We think this collection of papers will be informative for teachers who find themselves teaching in various ICL settings, researchers interested in the integration of content and language or the psychology of language learning and teaching, and policymakers who may be faced with decisions of how to implement an ICL program in their context.

In sum, we are incredibly proud of this collection and excited that it has made its way into the world. We hope that this book finds its way onto many bookshelves and serves as a spark for future ideas and research in this domain and beyond.

Kyle Read Talbot

kylereadtalbot@gmail.com

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning edited by Liss Kerstin Sylvén.

Digital Spaces for Teaching Multilingual Writing

We recently published Creating Digital Literacy Spaces for Multilingual Writers by Joel Bloch. In this post the author explains what we can expect from the book.

As the internet has developed from a place to exchange photos of cute cats to one for new forms of literacy and new ways of sharing them, the design of digital spaces for teaching multilingual writing has increased in importance. My book discusses not just technology but literacy as well, based on my years of teaching writing. I address many of the controversies in literacy, the use of technology, writing pedagogies, and teacher training.

The book first discusses the connections between technology and literacy pedagogies and then provides a chapter on blogging, reflecting on the impact of technology and its evolution for teaching writing. The chapter on MOOCs and flipped learning addresses not only technological issues but also pedagogical concerns that teachers address whether they use technology or not, on the design of the classroom and the roles of teachers and students. The chapter on multimodality and digital storytelling addresses some of the issues existing throughout the field of multilingual writing, particularly in academic writing classrooms. Digital stories can be incorporated into these courses, individually or collaboratively created, depending upon the pedagogical goals of the teachers.

This book is teacher-centric, placing teachers at the center of the questions of design as well as providing a way to respond to controversies in teaching writing, such as translingualism, since they support using language varieties, stories, and the rhetorical forms and artifacts that students bring to the classroom. In my experiences as a teacher, reviewer, and editor, I have seen the disruptive roles of technology on all levels of teaching. Publishing incorporates almost every opportunity and controversy in the field of teaching writing: where to publish and in what language, as well as issues related to choices of English, writer identity, and knowledge creation in the publishing space. The internet has supported expanding places to publish and the connections between writers and readers as well as the issues regarding open access and associated copyright and intellectual property issues. Such openness also has created problems regarding the so-called “predatory” journals and forcing writers to decide on appropriate places to publish.

Most of the book was written before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it addresses many of the issues the pandemic raised. The chapters on MOOCs and flipped learning discuss both positive and negative concerns with technology and online education. Publishing has been greatly impacted by the need to publish related to the pandemic. Personally, it has greatly expanded my access to professional development. I have participated or listened in on meetings held where I could never physically attend.

Teachers incur the same issues with technology that society faces: privacy, access, inclusivity. One of the messages of the book is that the process will inevitably be messy. When we switched to online teaching, I tried adapting flipped learning to my publishing class, but my end of semester evaluations indicated I had left out some of the social factors that I had written about. The end of the pandemic will not mean that digital literacies will fade. Here in the United States we don’t know what the “new normal” will mean.

William Gibson, the science fiction writer, once said that the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed. Students and teachers both face disruption from traditional and newer technologies and the growing anxieties that all disruptions bring. Another book on digital literacy may look very different; it may not even be a book. However, this book still discusses the concerns and anxieties teachers and students may face with new technologies that have disrupted teaching and learning to write.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee.

How Does Literacy Work in a Multilingual Context?

We recently published Multilingual Literacy edited by Esther Odilia Breuer, Eva Lindgren, Anat Stavans and Elke Van Steendam. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

When we met at one of the first meetings of the COST project on Strengthening Europeans’ capabilities by establishing the European literacy network, we soon realised the importance of research on multilingual literacy – even more so when we had to communicate with each other in our common foreign language English especially in writing, via different media. We experienced first-hand that writing in the foreign language presented us with some challenges. There are so many aspects which one needs to keep in mind! The search for words and for the correct spelling can interfere with your wanting to express yourself, which in turn can have a negative (and sometimes) demotivating effect on communicating with each other. However, at the same time these challenges to establish common ground presented opportunities to learn from the process and from each other. This interesting dynamic in itself was the stimulus and incentive to collect papers that shed light on multilingual literacy from different perspectives.

However, it is not only for us four that foreign language reading and writing has become ever more important: In the 21st century, we are living in a world in which multilinguality has become the standard rather than the exception. Many people have grown up with more than one language, or they have moved to countries in which their first language is not the common language. We are expected to speak fluent English, although it is a foreign language to us, not only in academic but also in many other contexts – and we also often do so in written form, either as the recipients or as the producers thereof.

Reading and writing in foreign languages has thus become the norm – but this does not make the processes easier. It is because of this that it has become crucial for people from many different contexts to explore how literacy works in a multilingual context, and to look for answers to the following questions:

  • What do we already know about multilingual literacy?
  • How do linguistic and social diversity interact?
  • How does multilinguality shape identity?
  • What is the impact of new literacy technologies on multilingual communication?
  • How can we support multilingual literacy?
  • And more generally: What can we learn from each other?

The chapters in the book address these and many other questions and we enjoyed reading them. We are sure you will too!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society edited by Albert Weideman, John Read and Theo du Plessis.

Family Language Plans: Why and How?

This month we published Bilingual Families: A Practical Language Planning Guide by Eowyn Crisfield. In this post the author explains what Family Language Planning is and how to go about it. 

When I first set out to write this book, many years ago, I wanted to share knowledge with parents about the key ingredients for successful bilingualism. My idea was to communicate the research base in order to support families’ decisions to raise their children as bi/multilinguals. Over the years of procrastinating instead of writing, I came to realise that most families already understand the why, what they need support with is the how.

Over the 15 years I’ve been working with families, I’ve had to do very little to support their conviction that bi/multilingualism is the right choice, and a lot more to help them design how bilingualism will happen for their children. This process is called Family Language Planning. Many, many bilingual families do not need a plan. People living in multilingual parts of the world may find that bilingualism happens naturally for their children, as it did for them. This is the case in India, and in many African countries, for example, where multilingualism is a way of life, and monolingualism is rare.

When parents are faced with raising their child with two or more languages without the support of community for each of those languages, things become trickier. We know that input – hearing a language spoken directly to them – is the key to child language development. This is true if you have one language or if you have four. If you have one language, you can be fairly sure that your child will hear enough of it to develop properly. The more languages you have in your family language ecology, the more you need to think about and plan to ensure that your child will have adequate input in each of those languages.

The process of Family Language Planning starts with goal-setting. Parents need to agree on the languages that will be a part of your plan. This will include languages spoken by the parents, the language of school, community, and any other languages that a child will need to communicate in their environment. Once goal-setting is done, then you can move on to planning. For each language you need to consider who will be using it with the child, in what contexts, and for what purposes. Thinking forward to schooling, there are decisions to be made about school choice, developing literacy, and future prospects. The final plan is a dynamic document, and can be changed as needed, when you move house, have a new family member, or need to change schools, for example.

My new vision of my book, seven years on from the first, is that it needs to help parents understand the research base on bilingualism in development first, but then also needs to provide support in the many decisions that parents will need to make on their bilingual journey with their children. I hope that you find it useful whether you are on the beginning of your journey, or further along.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this blog post interesting, you might also like Raising Multilingual Children by Julia Festman, Gregory J. Poarch and Jean-Marc Dewaele.

Language Learning Strategies: What Are They All About? Where Do They Take Us Next?

This month we published Situating Language Learning Strategy Use edited by Zoe Gavriilidou and Lydia Mitits. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to write the book.

Our interest in language learning strategies started almost two decades ago in Greece as an attempt to find practical solutions to practicing language teachers’ questions about how to make their learners become more efficient, more effective and more motivated when learning a second/foreign language and how to make the whole learning experience more enjoyable. While looking for answers, in an already extensive body of relevant research, we came to realize that an important goal of any education system – an autonomous, self-regulated learner – can’t be achieved without training that learner in a successful use of language learning strategies. Thus, we embarked on an exciting journey of the study of language learning strategies through a large-scale nationwide research followed by international cooperation with world leading researchers as well as new enthusiasts.

In doing so we constantly tried to answer the following questions:

  • What are the current and future trends in language learning strategy research?
  • What are the major gaps in language learning strategy research?
  • What are the theoretical tools and research methods that researchers have at their disposal in order to address language learning strategies?
  • How has research in language learning strategy use in diverse contexts promoted strategy instruction and learner autonomy?

Here we are now, gratified by the fact that the Second International Conference on Situating Strategy Use: Present Issues and Future Trends, which we hosted in Komotini, Greece, in 2017, has given birth to this collective volume in which the chapter authors contribute to answering the above questions.

We’re also very excited that research into strategies for language learning holds strong as the renewed interest in and dedication to the topic in this volume shows. The chapters in the book focus on bringing together theoretical study of language learning and language learning strategies with research on strategy instruction. We hope to show that instructional approaches should be based on sound theory and research on strategic learning. Therefore, the book includes detailed exposition and discussion of empirical findings from relevant rigorous research, instruction interventions as well as theoretical reflections in the field.

The originality of the volume is that it extends beyond most strategy research and theory, and forms a collection of versatile studies in very specific contexts that range from primary to tertiary education and include, among others, research on learning strategies for languages other than English or on their role in promoting critical thinking through video gaming.

We hope that readers of this book, undergraduates studying second/foreign language learning, graduate students involved in second language acquisition research, applied linguists, educational researchers, teachers and policymakers in general, will enjoy its broad scope and global perspective.

Zoe Gavriilidou, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
zoegab@otenet.gr

Lydia Mitits, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
lydiamitits@gmail.com

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris.

Getting and Keeping Language Learners Engaged

This month we published Student Engagement in the Language Classroom edited by Phil Hiver, Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Sarah Mercer. In this post the editors explain how the book came about and why it’s important.

All three of us share an interest in the practicalities of getting learners engaged and keeping them engaged. As educators and researchers, we recognized for some years how this has become increasingly difficult in the face of the multitude of distractions competing for learners’ attention. In 2018, we met at the PLL3 conference in Japan. Sarah had already begun work with Zoltán Dörnyei exploring the notion of engagement in depth with a book aimed at educators concentrating on practical issues based on an underlying theoretical frame (Mercer & Dörnyei, 2020). However, all of us felt there was still a need for a greater research commitment to the construct of engagement in SLA. At PLL3, the inspiring relevant plenary by Richard Ryan sealed our resolve to bring such a collection of research papers together. Given its heritage, we are especially honored to have an introduction from Richard Ryan to preface the collection.

In our previous work, we had all seen that although learners may be motivated and want to learn, at the critical moment, their attention could be hijacked leaving them disengaged with the objectives of their learning despite their initial good intentions and motives. Clearly, motivation still has a role to play in understanding learning processes, but learner engagement seems to provide a critical link between learners’ intentions and their actions. What is the nature of engagement, how can it be fostered, and how does it connect with other key variables in language learning – these were some of the key questions driving our interest in compiling this exciting collection of papers.

To date, engagement in language learning has remained relatively unexplored apart from some notable pioneers who have conducted key studies in SLA. This book is intended to chart some of the territory of language learner engagement, pointing out the key areas that can be connected to and built upon but also new directions and avenues yet to be investigated. Engagement is a core foundation for successful learning. While motivation represents an intention to engage, engagement itself is the action state driving learning. Engagement is a complex, multifaceted construct comprised of affective, cognitive, social, and behavioural elements. It is closely interconnected with motivation but differs in its temporal and actional frame. It is a hugely important construct to comprehend, as without engagement, there will be no learning. We are excited to share this collection with you. We expect to continue to learn much more about engagement of different forms in the context of language learning and teaching in the years to come – our hope is that this collection can provide the impetus for that next wave of engagement research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Contemporary Language Motivation Theory edited by Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Peter D. MacIntyre.

Can Learning a Foreign Language in School Really Make you a Better Writer in Your First Language?

This month we published Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Writing Strategies by Karen Forbes. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book.

-I’m really bad at languages.

-What makes you say that? You speak English really well, so you’re already a really good language learner!

-No, but English doesn’t count, it’s not a language like French is. It doesn’t have, like, verbs and tenses and stuff like French does.

The above conversation is one I had many years ago with a new Year 7 student when I was teaching languages in a secondary school in England and it has always stuck with me. It’s just one example from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had over the years as a language learner, teacher and then researcher which have really made me reflect on the position of ‘language’ more broadly within the school curriculum. There’s something interesting here about this student’s perception and awareness of language – if he doesn’t view his mother tongue as a ‘language’, then it may be difficult for him to make connections with other languages. There is then a related question about the respective approaches and priorities of first language and foreign language teachers in schools.

These two subject areas are often based in separate departments and the teachers will understandably take very different approaches to teaching their respective languages. Yet, given that both have a shared focus on developing important language skills, there are perhaps opportunities to encourage more joined-up thinking and collaboration between language teachers. We tend to think more about how students draw on their first language as a resource in the foreign language classroom (or indeed, how the first language may even hinder foreign language learning), but how can the skills and strategies explicitly developed in the foreign language classroom, in turn, help learners in their first language?

These are some of the key questions which formed the starting point for the research study at the heart of this book. It focuses on language learning strategies and, in particular, the development of writing strategies. It explores how even beginner or low proficiency adolescent language learners can develop effective skills and strategies in the foreign classroom which can also positively influence writing in other languages, including their first language. At a theoretical level, it is hoped that this book will shed light on our understanding of the construct of cross-linguistic transfer between a learner’s first language and foreign language writing strategies. However, pedagogical implications are also important here and, as such, a step-by-step guide is provided for developing and implementing a cross-linguistic programme of language learning strategy instruction.

Karen Forbes
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
kf289@cam.ac.uk

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Crosslinguistic Influence and Distinctive Patterns of Language Learning edited by Anne Golden, Scott Jarvis and Kari Tenfjord.