Professional Development Consortium in Modern Languages

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Institute of Education

Abstract

The decline in popularity of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) in England is well-documented, with many areas for improvement in the teaching of the subject identified (OFSTED, 2011). It has been argued that such teaching is based upon a curriculum and assessment model which has insecure foundations in research evidence (Mitchell, 2003), with a divide between what research indicates are the principles of effective language teaching and learning and the practice that is common in classrooms. These principles have been investigated in the project leaders’ research and have been shown to be highly effective.



This project will help close the divide between research evidence and practice by establishing a Professional Development Consortium in Modern Foreign Languages. The Consortium will produce training materials exemplifying research-based principles; these will then be disseminated to a wide range of schools and to Initial Teacher Education establishments (ITE), through six training events. Schools participating in these events will be supported in implementing the principles presented into their teaching and ITE tutors will be asked to incorporate them into their work with trainee teachers. The impact of the work will be assessed through a report submitted by participating MFL departments and through a questionnaire to ITE tutors.

Planned Impact

The key outcome of our project will be wider implementation of research-based principles into MFL teaching. It will therefore have direct and immediate impact on teachers and pupils. Alongside the impact on academics highlighted in the Academic Beneficaries section, the project will have impact on the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages by influencing the following groups:

1. Teachers. These will fall into three groups: those involved in the project, in the development of materials and the delivery of workshops, whose own understanding of the principles being conveyed will be enhanced by focusing on their implementation and on how they can be operationalised into activities and used in materials that will be conveyed to other teachers; teachers participating in the workshops, who will improve their pedagogical knowledge and enhance their teaching expertise, by basing it on research-supported principles; teachers in the departments of those who attend the workshops, who will learn from these colleagues and gain access to materials that they can use in their classrooms. Teachers will be recruited to the workshops through our contacts in Initial Teacher Education throughout England, who work with a wide range of schools, and through a database of over 40 MFL departments who have contributed to the PI's Esmee Fairbairn project on listening comprehension. The Principal and Co-Investigator have considerable experience in organising and leading dissemination conferences for teachers, academics and policy makers, many of which have involved extensive collaboration with school-based colleagues, on such themes as learner strategies and target language use.
3. Policy makers. The study will provide an alternative model for the assessment of MFL, that will more accurately reflect what research tells us about progression in language learning. Its use in schools rather the current assessment framework will benefit learning outcomes, as the negative washback effect of the current system will be eradicated. Policy makers will gain insights into more effective models of bringing about classroom change than those adopted in a top-down approach. As well as inviting policy makers to Phase 2 workshops, we will also disseminate findings to them by inviting them to dissemination conferences aimed at ITE tutors. We have previous experience of interacting with policy makers in dissemination events, for example, our dissemination conference at the British Academy in April 2010.
4. Pupils. Language learners will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the project, as they will experience teaching that research has shown leads to more effective learning. They will thus gain in confidence in, and enjoyment of, language learning, with long-term benefits for their employment prospects.
5. Tutors in Initial Teacher Education. A number will be invited to the Phase 2 workshops and we will hold further dissemination conferences for them. Effective teaching has its roots in efffective initial teacher education, and it is therefore vital that tutors from this sector are targeted in this project. We have already worked with CILT in leading a major MFL ITE conference based on our research findings.

The book that will result from the project, with accompanying web-based materials, will help ensure the lasting impact of the project. Its use by ITE tutors will be important in promoting the project's principles to beginning language teachers in the years ahead. We will also liaise with Professor Do Coyle, University of Aberdeen, to support her in further dissemination work in Scotland.

The long-term impact of the project will be to contribute to the improvement of language learning and teaching in the UK, with more learners continuing with language study post-14, with subsequent positive effects for the UK job market.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description The project aimed to answer one central research question:

Can principles identified in our previous research and in linked international research as leading to effective teaching and learning be disseminated to a wide range of schools in such a way that they are integrated into the schools' MFL classroom practice?

This question was pursued through the following objectives:


1. Establish a Professional Development Consortium in Modern Foreign Languages (PDC), to develop and disseminate training materials that can be used to embed principles (the 'Principles') that have emerged from our previous research more widely into MFL teaching in a diverse range of schools and in Initial Teacher Education;
2. Through this Consortium, improve the teaching of MFLs in England by closing the research/practice divide and helping teachers to implement in their own classrooms the principles identified by research;
3. In so doing, propose an alternative curriculum and assessment model for MFL for England

The overarching expected impact for the project was that participants would integrate the Principles thus presented into their own classroom practice, using the materials provided, at the same time deepening their understanding of the Principles.

The overarching question was answered in the affirmative: Videos exemplifying the Principles and supporting materials were created and disseminated to school/college teachers, and to tutors in Initial Teacher Education through seven national workshops, attended by 308 participants in total. Participants were then supported to implement the Principles presented into their teaching and work with trainee teachers, with materials hosted on a project website (www.pdcinmfl.com). A number of local teacher clusters are being established for further implementation of the Principles. The impact of the training on beliefs and practices was evaluated through questionnaires, interviews, and reports from school and universities.

104 teachers and 11 ITE tutors reported having incorporated the Principles into their teaching or training. Changes in participants' pedagogical beliefs after the workshops and six months later were evident in greater agreement with the Principles after the workshops, as expressed in the questionnaires. Over 40,000 hits on the website from an international and UK audience reflect the interest the project has generated.
Exploitation Route By undertaking similar knowledge transfer projects with practitioners.
Sectors Education
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com
 
Description They have informed professional practice within MFL teaching. The PI has contributed to Expert Panel Meetings at the DfE. The work has influenced national examination criteria.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal
 
Description Language teacher development: disseminating research evidence as shared principles for practice 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited keynote lecture

After my talk I have received further invitations to become in primary MFL outreach work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com
 
Description Learning the rule system: asking the 'at what cost' question 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited major talk at Language World, 2013

Increased interest in the PDC website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com
 
Description The consortium model as an instrument for Language Teacher Development: Condensing research evidence into shared principles 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation given at the University of York School of Education 50th Anniversary conference, Relations between Research and Practice. 2nd July 2013.

After my talk I received invitations from other researchers to be involved in similar projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com
 
Description The future of (Initial) Teacher Education in MFL 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited lecture given at the conference 'Rethinking MFL Teaching for the 21st Century', Wellington College, 25 February, 2013

After my talk, teachers expressed interest in the materials discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Using research evidence to raise attainment in the MFL classroom. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation given at the Launch of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism, University of Reading, September 2013

After my talk, a colleague requested permission to share my talk with teachers in the USA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com
 
Description What makes a compelling learning project? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Keynote Talk, SSAT Languages Conference, University of Aston, November 2013

None noted
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.pdcinmfl.com