Why use mixed methods in early language learning research?

This month we published Early Language Learning edited by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren, the first book in our new series, Early Language Learning in School Contexts. In this post the editors discuss the use of mixed methods in their research.

Understanding how young children learn additional languages in classroom environments is complex. Children learn how to speak, interact, read and write with help from teachers, peers and parents. The surrounding world, as well as themselves, influences their motivation to learn, their self-concept and their attitudes, all of which are important for their learning of an additional language. This wide range of factors with the potential to impact on children’s learning presents serious challenges to traditional research methods. For example, can a qualitative study of say, the oral language production of four children in a few lessons provide us with any clarity as to how young children in general learn additional languages at school? Similarly, can a quantitative study of the oral language production of a whole cohort of children learning an additional language at school provide us with a nuanced understanding of how development for each individual child occurs? Both set-ups could include a variety of factors, in depth analyses in the qualitative approach and advanced statistical methodologies in the quantitative approach, but regardless of which approach is taken, it seems likely that neither will provide very satisfactory answers. For these reasons and many more, we have become interested in adopting a mixed methods approach to our research, with the idea that it might provide a more comprehensive view of how language learning unfolds in classroom environments.

As a theoretical frame, mixed methods research (MMR) is regarded as relatively new, although there is evidence of research approaches that have adopted some form of ‘mixing’ for centuries (Maxwell, 2016). Given current developments in the field, it is unsurprising that views differ on exactly how MMR might be conceptualised. However, recent understandings seem to be moving towards the idea that it can be understood as bringing together all dimensions ‘as an over-arching concept (…) at the philosophical, methodological, and methods levels’ (Fetters & Molina-Azorin, 2017, p.293). Arguing for a framework of integration, they propose an ‘MMR integration trilogy’ outlining the possible dimensions that may be integrated, including: the philosophical, theoretical and researcher positioning; the rationale, aims, data collection and analysis dimension; the approaches to interpretation, dissemination and research integrity. Their suggestion is that if researchers are attentive to all dimensions then ‘more advanced and sophisticated mixed methods studies’ will result (p.303).

As researchers interested in working with MMR we recognise that we are a long way from addressing such a strongly integrated approach at the outset of framing our research plans. Indeed, it may well be that a more fluid approach which allows for the emergence of some form of mixing during the research process may allow for greater creativity in some instances. The variety of research studies contained in our edited volume Early Language Learning reflect a good proportion of the approaches to MMR currently in use in the field of early language learning. As such, we hope they set the bar for future exploration of this research paradigm that may help to clarify whether a more strongly integrated approach to this field of research can contribute to an enhanced quality of research.

References

Fetters, M.D. & Molina-Azorin, J.F. (2017). The Mixed Methods Research Integration Trilogy and Its Dimensions. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 11(3) 291–307.

Maxwell, J.A. (2016) Expanding the History and Range of Mixed Methods Research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 10(1), 12–27.

For more information about this book, please see out website. The editors have also produced a video in which they introduce their book, which can be watched here. If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School edited by María del Pilar García Mayo.

How do we use social media to market our books?

We at Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications are very active on social media and have built up substantial communities across all our accounts. We enjoy interacting with our authors, publishing contacts, readers and people with a broader interest in the topics on which we publish, and have strong followings on both Facebook and Twitter, with nearly 2,000 contacts across our Facebook pages and over 15,000 on our two Twitter accounts.

Social media has also become an integral part of our marketing campaign for each book that we publish. In the weeks and months leading up to and following a book’s publication, we in the marketing department use our various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, this blog and YouTube) to announce its publication and publicise it as much as possible. It’s the easiest and most effective way of getting news to lots of people at once and on top of that, it allows people to engage with and discuss our publications, both with us and amongst each other. Of course, social media doesn’t come at the expense of our traditional marketing strategies and we still follow usual marketing techniques such as catalogue mailings, email newsletters, sending information to the book trade, attending conferences and book fairs and so on, but it does offer something new and different to our marketing repertoire.

Commissioning editors with books published in January

When using social media to market a book, it’s a real advantage if we have an author who is active themselves on social media and can help us to spread the word. Authors are best placed to reach their book’s key audience as their own colleagues and peers are likely to be those interested in the research. We often find that some of our bestselling books are ones where the author hasn’t been afraid of get stuck in! For example, you could create a Facebook page for your book like our authors Christian W. Chun and Leanne White did, where you can keep people up to date with the book’s progress and share useful information and news, including the 50% preorder discount flyer we create for all our books. In addition, if there are any relevant events that tie in with your book’s publication, do let us know! For example, we’ve previously promoted Hongliang Yan’s book, Heritage Tourism in China, in conjunction with World Heritage Day. Facebook is also the main place where we post photos of office goings on, so your book may well end up in a photo like the one above of our commissioning editors with their books published in January. If you have any ideas for a relevant photo opportunity for your book, just let us know and we’ll see what we can do!

Twitter is a great place to get book news out to the right people, and we do try to “mention” relevant accounts with publication news where we can. If you have any ideas about popular hashtags used by the community you’re trying to reach or users who would be especially interested in your work, let us know on your AQ and we’ll include them in our marketing plans. Each of our books are assigned three or four tweets during the month following its publication giving a taster of what to expect from the book, and we also announce it on both Twitter and Facebook on publication day. By using relevant hashtags, the word about a new book gets out to people who might not have heard about it otherwise, and we often see people mentioning friends or colleagues with recommendations of our books.

We ask all our authors to write a piece about their book for our blog, which we schedule to coincide with its publication. This is a really good way to publicise the book and provide interested readers with a “behind the scenes” insight into how the book came about, giving authors a chance to sell their book beyond the blurb on our website. If you can send us photos or even videos to include in the post to grab readers’ attention, even better! We always announce new blog posts on Facebook and Twitter ourselves, but again, the braver authors are about sharing their post and telling the world about their work, the greater the number of views and the more engagement we see.

One of the videos to accompany Optimizing Language Learners’ Nonverbal Behavior

For those authors that are feeling especially creative, we also have a YouTube channel where we post videos authors have produced to accompany their book. For example, we recently posted a video by Wayne E. Wright and Colin Baker where they spoke about the latest edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism and one by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren introducing their new book Early Language Learning. For their book, Optimizing Language Learners’ Nonverbal Behavior Tammy Gregersen and Peter MacIntyre produced a series of accompanying videos, such as “Say it with your Hands!”, all of which can be accessed on our YouTube channel. If you’d like to do something similar for the publication of your own book, just get in touch with us to discuss your ideas.

Nowadays social media is an invaluable tool for getting publication news out there, and we do our best to publicise your book as much as possible, but there’s no doubt that the more active the author is in promoting their book through their own channels, the better. So get Facebooking/Tweeting/Blogging/YouTubing!

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Advancing the Research Agenda on Child Foreign Language Learning

This month we’re publishing Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School edited by María del Pilar García Mayo. In this post the editor explains what inspired her to put the book together and what she hopes readers will gain from it.

Back in October 2014, and together with the members of a Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness-funded research project of which I was the principal investigator, we organized the First International Conference on Child Foreign Language Acquisition at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Surveying the field, it was obvious that most of what was known about the second language acquisition process came from research on adult and adolescent learners, or on younger learners but in immersion and second language contexts, that is, rich input contexts in which the learners are exposed to relevant stimuli outside the classroom. However, little was known about school-based programs in foreign language (FL) settings and much less about FL programs at the primary school level.

This was somewhat surprising as the number of FL programs for children mainly with English as a FL is on the increase worldwide. More studies on the topic were needed in order for stakeholders to make decisions on pedagogical measures based on research evidence. Sometimes research findings from language acquisition in immersion settings have been extrapolated to FL settings where conditions regarding number of pupils per classroom, exposure to appropriate input and curriculum time available are clearly not the same. FL contexts opportunities for exposure to the target language are often restricted to the classroom and because of this learners are almost completely reliant on their teachers. Besides, these different aged learners vary in terms of linguistic, cognitive and social development and, therefore, the process of adult and child second language acquisition is quite distinct.

After the conference, I decided to contact some of the participants and put together the proposal for what is now the volume Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School. Its main goal is to advance the research agenda on child FL learning. The twelve chapters that comprise the volume contain data gathered from primary school children (ages 6-12) while performing different tasks, answering questionnaires or providing feedback on diagnostic tests. The first languages of the children are Chinese, English, Hungarian, Persian and Spanish; and, except for data reported in one the chapters where the children were exposed to Esperanto, French, German and Italian, the second language learned as a FL was always English, thus representing the world-wide tendency referred to above. The volume offers contributions on what children are capable of doing and provides a wealth of data for researchers and educators. Besides, enhancing pedagogy through research is one of its key outcomes and the various chapters provide valuable insights about methods and teaching practices for young FL learners.

I hope Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School shows the reader that young FL learners are not passive recipients in their language learning process and that their insights are crucial for forthcoming research on the topic.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning by Simone E. Pfenninger and David Singleton, which was published in April 2017, as well as Early Language Learning edited by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren, due for publication in July 2017.

Channel View Team at London Book Fair 2017

Last month Sarah and Flo popped down to London for the day for the London Book Fair at Olympia. It’s always a good chance to meet and catch up with all our publishing contacts in one place and we see everyone from reps and ebook providers to distributors and designers.

Flo at London Book Fair 2017

After a pretty civilised 11am arrival, we had a bit of time to wander around and acclimatise to the hustle and bustle before meeting our UK distributor, NBNi. After a quick catch-up with Juliette Teague and Matt Devereux, there was time to grab some lunch before our meeting with Kelvin van Hasselt, our rep for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

Covers designed by Latte Goldstein at riverdesign

After our appointment with Kelvin, we were due to meet our new book cover designer, Latte Goldstein from riverdesign. After some confusion and a couple of incidents of walking past each other (it’s surprisingly difficult to get a proper look at people’s name badges!), we eventually managed to meet up and had a useful discussion about the current projects he’s working on for us. We now have two books in the pipeline whose covers have been designed by Latte, International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle and Early Language Learning edited by Janet Enever and Eva Lindgren.

In the afternoon Flo went off to explore while Sarah had a meeting with Darren Ryan, the CEO of one of our suppliers for copy-editing and typesetting, Deanta Global. Darren was showcasing DeantaSource, their web-based project management portal, where authors can login and make corrections to the proof file. Another meeting followed with James Powell of ProQuest, one of the library ebook aggregators we distribute ebooks to. James was very happy that our ebooks are often distributed before the print book is available.

We then came back together for a meeting with Andrea Jacobs from our US distributor, NBN. It was nice to be able to put a face to a name you email on a regular basis and we had a good chat about our experience of moving over to a new distributor.

Our dedicated and diligent Production Manager

With all our meetings over, we went to the IPG drinks reception where we fought our way through the crowds to the stand of our database provider, Stison, to have a quick catch-up with them and take advantage of a great photo opportunity (see right!). When the drinks had run out, there was just time for dinner with one of our printers, CPI, before we caught the train back to Bristol. We look forward to seeing everyone again at London Book Fair 2018!