Welcome to Practitioner Focus
Practitioner Focus highlights ALL resources from across the website, and new content from and for members which is of general interest. Teachers of Adults, in Colleges and Schools and in other contexts will find here ideas, suggestions and resources that they can adjust to their specific Language and requirements. These are grouped under the headings below, along with the ALL Teacher Briefings that keep you up-to-date with events.
Non-members can find opportunities to pay per view content articles, so you don't miss out!
Research summaries from OASIS
The Open Accessible Summaries In Language Studies (OASIS) initiative aims to make research findings on language learning and teaching available and accessible to a wide audience.
OASIS summaries are one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals listed on the Social Science Citation Index or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. The summaries provide information about the study’s goals, how it was conducted, and what was found, and are written in non-technical language. Where relevant, they also highlight findings that may be of particular interest to language educators, although the initiative is not solely aimed at research with immediate practical implications. The summaries are generally approved, and often (co-)written, by the author(s) of the original journal article.
ALL is grateful for these contributions which express the views of the individual writers and are offered to stimulate the thinking of readers.
Has Brexit wrecked my life's work?
Mike Zollo was an active volunteer for ALL in the 1990s especially in the field of Spanish where he worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and writer.
In his blog Mike reflects on the political changes of recent times and reminds readers of the bigger picture.
Inclusion – one school’s work to support Gypsy-Roma students
Juan Echepares Riera
Spanish-Roma, ESOL/ Accelerated Curriculum Teacher and EAL Research Projects Coordinator at Queen Katharine Academy (QKA) in Peterborough.
Our cohort at QKA includes 65% of EAL students (with some individual year groups having up to 75%) and 9% declared Gypsy-Roma (20% suspected). Many of these students are newly arrived migrants and have gaps in education when arriving to the UK, or even if they have lived most of their lives in England. It is a statistical fact that only a minority of Gypsy-Roma students continue to further and higher education due to discrimination and the lack of aspiration for, and by, the Gypsy-Roma community.
To boost students’ learning especially in the Accelerated Curriculum (See the article ADIBE at QKA please link to this in CLIL Zone / Secondary case studies), we sought advice to narrow those gaps. We identified that most of our Roma-Gypsy students have experienced institutionalised racism in their countries of origin; most have had sub-standard education and quality of life; they may have health-care and self-esteem issues; they are amongst the poorest in our cohort – but may not be Pupil Premium.
To address these issues, we established an Erasmus+ project called ‘Roma - Narrowing the Gap and Aiding Integration’ in partnership with The University of Nitra Institute of Romani Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Healthcare (CPU) and CampusRom - an organisation supported by the Catalan Government that works with the Spanish Gypsy-Roma community. This project is focused on the exchange of good practices and collaboration to improve integration and achievement for Gypsy-Roma students in the UK, Spain and Slovakia. Thus, we brought together organisations that are all working to improve outcomes and aspirations of Gypsy-Roma at different stages and in different contexts, so that we can learn from each other about initiatives that work, and also to improve the provision in each country and across Europe.
This two-year project started in November 2019 and has allowed the three organisations involved to participate in a variety of workshops and conferences where information on the diversity of contexts and good practices have been exchanged:
- our Spanish and Slovakian partner visited QKA to plan an overview of the research project
- The University of Nitra and QKA visited CampusRom in Barcelona and learnt how CampusRom has successfully secured guaranteed places for Gypsy-Roma students in all faculties at Catalan universities. They also showed work requesting the Catalan Government to include Roma history in the National Curriculum at primary and secondary schools. Additionally, we spent a day walking around the neighbourhood La Mina and talking to Gypsy-Roma neighbours, which allowed us to gain an insight into the degree of segregation and marginalisation they are living in, and the limitations to integrating in society that they find.
- QKA ran a 3-day workshop where our partners observed our Home Languages preparation for GCSE and A levels, attended a workshop on the successes of QKA’s Sixth Form and the support on offer to post-16 students, and got a flavour of the numeracy interventions and the support for developing skills for life. They also explored the aims and objectives of the Accelerated Curriculum and its impact on students with low levels of English and literacy; they shadowed Roma students in lessons, and they met Petr Torak MBE and learnt about the COMPAS charity, and how successful collaboration between schools and community groups has improved community relations. Our guests walked around Lincoln Road to understand the Roma context in Peterborough and took part in a session of our ROGA (Roma of Great Ability) scheme (run in collaboration with Cambridge University) and finally attended the Parallel Lives: Roma Engagement and Integration
As we have had to extend this Erasmus+ project due to COVID-19, this year we are running 4 different online workshops to maintain the exchange of good practices and to agree on further actions for the last year of the research project.
Recordings from the ALL Peterborough Hub webinar, Erasmus+ Narrowing the Gap, from Friday 12th February 2021.
Erasmus+ NTG - Obstacles faced by UK Roma communities during the Covid-19 pandemic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARWxrRk0vQI
Narrowing the Gap – Mihai Bica – Roma Support Group https://youtu.be/q8XSyqt26Cw
If we throw language learning under the Brexit bus ...
Mike Zollo contributes his views on the Year Abroad .
“This one year changed my life, my values and my appreciation of those of others”.
As an undergraduate studying Spanish and French in 1969, I really didn’t want to spend a year abroad, and it wasn’t compulsory to do so in those days. My arm was twisted by my tutor, and I spent a year in Granada, Spain. That year changed my life, and made me a confident speaker of Spanish, made me a hispanophile and a proper hispanist!
Soon after I arrived, the conserje (caretaker) of the block of flats I stayed in said to me one day: “Te ingré, ¿no?”, or at least that was what it sounded like. I replied “Sí” in a not very convinced voice, but not having understood at all. Later, after much puzzlement I twigged: he had actually asked “Usted es inglés, ¿no?” (“You’re English, aren’t you?”), but in the local accent and ‘swallowing’ lots of crucial letters. My very traditional school and university studies in Spanish had not prepared me for this at all: real Spanish!
After about three months I became ‘linguistically acclimatised’, then started learning very rapidly. I also acquired my taste for calamares (squid), garbanzos (chick-peas) and jamón serrano (serrano ham). I finally decided to try them after seeing my Spanish friends fight over what I was leaving on my plate and I’ve never looked back. Not only that, I returned to my university ready for my final year so much more mature, culturally aware, and confident in my Spanish. I could not in all conscience have gone into language teaching without this experience.
Yet, Brexit has deprived British language students of their freedom of movement in Europe. Universities are extremely worried now about the lack of opportunities for their language students to benefit from their year in an EU country. As quoted in an article in the Guardian on 23 February, the dean of research and innovation at Cardiff University, Claire Gorrara, said “I don’t think anybody was fully aware of the extent of the entanglement of the UK with the EU. Like any sector – the same goes for fishing, transport and logistics – the university sector is grappling with the complexities of the situation that weren’t known until it happened.” This is yet another area which the Brexit government overlooked in the rush to “get Brexit done”.
As one student, Antonia Kessel, says: “For so many people, going on a year abroad is unfeasible at the moment”, and another, Esme Cawley: “Navigating a year abroad post-Brexit has been a total administrative and financial nightmare.” Students now face mountains of red tape and having to prove that they can afford their stay in some countries, including proof of more than €6,000 (£5,194) in their bank account. Brexiters voted for an end to freedom of movement… for British youngsters who need to spend time in an EU country as part of their studies: the future teachers of European languages in our schools.
You can read Mike's article in full
Creating a brain-friendly environment through coaching techniques
Nicole Malloy describes a project with adult learners that will resonate with teachers of younger children and teenagers.
At the beginning of the year, I set out to discover what difference the integration of coaching strategies and techniques would make to learning.
Would it increase learner confidence, engagement and progression through the provision of new approaches and techniques?
Would it reduce barriers to learning and individualise learning more?
In addition, as goal setting is part of its basis, would it assist me in my planning?
And further, might it be interesting to teachers of different ages of learners?
I teach German to adults of the third age attending classes at an educational charity in Wilmslow, Cheshire, mainly for pleasure. The majority of my learners have some connection with a German-speaking country, quite often with family members living in either Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Some of my learners used to work in, or with, a German-speaking country, while others did German at University.
All of them wish to improve their language skills, but, like so many British people, doubt their own ability, often highlighting that their increasing age makes learning harder. I often hear: ‘I have learnt this so many times, but can never remember.’ or ‘For every word I learn new, I forget another.’ A never-ending worry about making mistakes also accompanies their learning.
This combination of negative feelings I have observed inspired me to research brain-friendly learning, which places the focus on reducing the factors which might push the brain out of a relaxed but active state into an anxious one, and on creating an environment shaped by learners’ wishes, needs and interests; this is what brings in coaching techniques.
In preparation for my research, I studied two books in relation to the topic: Paling's "Neurolanguage Coaching" (2017) and Betham's "Coaching for Language Learning" (2018) as well as a number of articles.
I read about the importance of creating a brain-friendly learning atmosphere by attempting to reduce as many fear factors as possible. Key, according to the literature consulted, was for learners to maintain a calm state of mind.
I learnt that asking learners to set themselves goals, to identify any hurdles which might get in the way of reaching the goals, and equally drawing their attention to existing knowledge and skills which might assist them, should be beneficial tools in focusing attention, individualising learning and building confidence.
Armed with these ideas, I started my project by asking learners to identify their goals, and identify any hurdles they perceived. Achieving these goals then formed the basis for my systematic planning of activities, while clearly naming the fear factors was the first step in overcoming them.
I then gradually integrated specific techniques, making the intention of each activity clear so that learners could focus, and to take away any worry.
- listening for what learners understand (as opposed to losing focus because of information missed or not understood)
- listening with the heart (dedicating full focus to the message heard without assuming or judging, but paying attention to the information conveyed including through means beyond the spoken word) in order to predict what would happen next, or to fill blanks, or to comment on what we heard.
- reading for detail and putting cut-up text into the correct order
- reading for full understanding of the content, or for particular information, reading aloud for rhythm or reading to stimulate thinking, e.g. interpretation or discussion or personal association.
- learning grammar through self-discovery. When we are exploring new grammatical structures I invited learners to tell me what they could see and to hypothesise possible explanations for what they have observed. For example, when studying the Perfect Tense in German, we would choose an examples from a text, ‘Ich habe ein Buch gelesen’ and comment on what we saw: ‘habe’+ a second verb which has ‘ge-‘ and is at the end of the sentence. We would attempt to translate in order to determine the tense and its use, comparing to English to highlight similarities and differences. My favourite questions became ‘What is happening here? What do you think?’ As these questions merely focus on what learners think and observe (not already, or necessarily, know) their anxiety is reduced. In addition, the thinking activity may increase engagement and build stronger memories.
- For speaking and writing we tried out the FAB approach (Betham, 2018):
F- Focus - on the message you wish to communicate (in speaking or writing)
A - Adapt - fill gaps, correct spelling, change words, check the grammar
B- Be the message - believe in it, focus it on your recipient and transmit it with conviction
(In the case of speaking the three steps need to be completed simultaneously.)
To reduce fear about speaking we have two separate types of activity: speaking for fluency (where the focus is on self-expression without interruption) and speaking for correctness. I found great benefit in the first option as learners have become so much more confident, and it is a pleasure to hear them having conversations in the target language.
To support the development of real life communication we also work on simplifying what learners want to say. Often the message they think of is complex (because they are capable of expressing this in their mother tongue). So how can we reduce it to a simpler essence that can be shared in German with the vocabulary and structures learners are familiar with?
In Writing I encouraged the learners to write their message focusing first on what they would like to communicate, and then revisiting it to refine vocabulary and grammar, but always keeping the reader in mind.
To reduce anxiety further, I offered my learners options in completing tasks such that they could attack them as they viewed best for themselves. I made sure ‘mistakes’ and questions were viewed as learning opportunities with a positive focus throughout, and I strongly discouraged comparison between learners.
Key new learning information was explored step-by-step, constantly linking it to existing knowledge, so as not to overload the brain, and to avoid confusion.
Throughout I strongly encouraged learners to get involved in the design and flow of our sessions by bringing queries and making suggestions for topics which reflected their goals.
From the feedback I received from my learners I learnt that they found the integration of these coaching strategies and techniques beneficial. They felt that the process increased their confidence in their abilities, and their motivation and offered them encouragement. Some said they felt they had progressed better and were more satisfied with themselves.
They saw that the process had assisted them in gaining clarity about their motivation, their strengths and areas for development, and given them focus. Setting goals and identifying hurdles created a basis for measuring progress. Teaching and learning was perceived to be more structured, more relevant, more responsive to learner needs and hence more inclusive.
They appreciated that the techniques and approaches supported their learning for the following reasons:
- being very closely linked to the use of language in real life situations
- representing a natural and more inclusive approach
- providing a basis to understand the target language by giving insight into vocabulary and grammar, at times by comparison to English
- teaching useful strategies, such as simplifying the message to focus on communication
- maximising focus on the task in hand
- inviting learners to engage in using the language without fear
- supporting basic understanding and creating a basis to develop from
- encouraging them to take risks, to just ‘go for it’.
Betham (2018) states that the approach would be best suited for B1 level learners, and some of my lower level learners did indeed feel that the techniques and strategies required a certain level of language competency.
(A small number also felt that techniques like listening and reading for gist, were not that useful for them as ‘they wanted to know everything’ !).
Overall I concluded that my project positively answered the research questions. The integration of coaching-based strategies and techniques increased learner confidence and facilitated more individualised learning. It structured teaching and learning and was combinable with more traditional approaches. Above all, it seems to have supported learner satisfaction as highlighted by many in their feedback questionnaires. So an overall positive outcome, which will certainly influence my teaching moving forward.
Languages and Skills
Expecting content soon