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Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Report on Foreign Language Learning in Europe

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

An interesting report on Teaching Languages in schools across Europe was published a few days ago.

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 is a joint Eurydice/Eurostat publication, produced in close cooperation with the European Commission. The report is based on four main data sources: Eurydice, Eurostat, the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC), and the OECD’s PISA 2009 international survey. Eurydice data covers 32 countries (27 Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey) and takes the reference year 2010/11. [The report] contains 61 indicators and qualitative information describing the context and organisation of foreign language teaching, student participation levels as well as the initial and continuing education of foreign language teachers. In addition to giving a snapshot of the situation today, the report also presents several time series which are helpful in identifying trends in language teaching over recent years and past decades.

You can see the highlights of the report in the document below, or read the full version by clicking on the image on the left.

Some of the key points however are –

1. Students start learning foreign languages from an increasingly early age. It makes me really sad to see the UK block at 11 years old after all the hard work done to make it 7. And you can see that we’re far behind many other countries in Europe.

2. More students learn two foreign languages. Not in the UK though it seems.

3. English by far is the dominating foreign language in Europe. 

4. Very few students learn languages other than English, French, Spanish, German or Russian.

5. Students’ perceptions of the usefulness of a language is a motivating factor for learning – and English is by far seen as the most useful.  Perhaps this, and point 3, explain some of the UK’s language “apathy”? Trips are also pointed out as a motivating factor.

6. Teaching guidelines for foreign languages place equal emphasis on all communication skills – and yet both teachers and students make infrequent use of the target language in the classroom. Interestingly, the UK is not on the graphic for this section – I wonder why?

7. The Common European Reference Framework (CEFR) is becoming a main tool for defining student attainment levels. Also interesting to note that the UK is one of the few countries in Europe (along with Spain, Netherlands, French speaking Belgium and a few others) without an expected level of proficiency in a second language by school leaving age.

8. School reports difficulties filling vacancies for language teachers. I know a few great language teachers who would love a job!!

9. Few countries require teachers to spend an immersion period in the target language country. The UK does have recommendations about this, and also about the content of ITT. However, I think they could go further. You should have to visit regularly as well to keep ‘up to date’. Why not have funded sabbatical periods – even a week would be good – to revitalise your skills every two or three years? And I don’t mean a trip on which you’re supervising children, nor do I mean a week of sunbathing on the Italian riviera. Perhaps shadowing a colleague, or investigating something that interests you. And immersing yourself in a language and culture that you love.

I wonder if anyone who makes decisions about languages has read this report properly? Or have they just seen the ‘English is the most useful’ and thought ‘That’s Ok then’?

“Language and your brain”

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Just found this interesting infographic about the relationship between learning languages and your brain.

The bottom section about the optimum age for your brain to be most efficient at language learning is a strong case for Primary Languages (hurrah!) but not such good news for my attempts to learn German (boo!). It doesn’t say you can’t learn a langage when you’re old. Er. Although I will very shortly head off their scale…

via

 

#LanguageWorld2011 – Reframing languages

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Reframing languages  – presented by Dr Shirley Lawes , subject leader PGCE languages at Institute of Education; Mark Reid, Head of Education, British Film Institute and Muriel Huet, Lampton School

This talk reported on project funded by Esmee Fairburn Foundation carried out with 4 schools in conjunction with Institute of Education and the British Film Foundation

Why use short films?

  • short (5-6 minutes)
  • subject matter often wacky, outside learners experience
  • introduces to film technique

Why do the project?

  • revitalise the KS3 curriculum
  • optionality means we need to attract learners in Y9 onwards
  • what it means to learn another language
  • PGCE MFL experience proved it a great way of learning

Aims

  • to improve motivation/attainment
  • develop interest in film as a cultural form
  • develop cultural knowledge

 

Learners experienced 3 sequences of 5 lessons over 3 terms.

The project marks a development of work done by the BFI on using film in literacy, moulding it to the needs MFL teachers in mind – Cine-minis a DVD of short French films is the result.

One of the techniques used was “Tell me” grids with boxes for story / mood / character / setting – en français, qu’est-ce qui se passe? / ambience / qui? / où? ou quand? The soundtrack of the start of the film is played and learners fill it in with their ideas.

This encourages learners to build up pictures from sounds in their head, drawing on their  knowledge of the world and of film / narrative / text.

Once the first part of the film is shown, another grid considers surprises – is it as you expected? And what’s going to happen next?

I’m not going to spoil it, but we watched Les crayons and it was very unexpected!

Muriel was one of the four teachers involved and she shared the outcomes for her and her pupils.

It motivated her pupils greatly, leaving them more willing to take risks without necessarily realising it. It took them out of their comfort zone  whilst easily linking to curriculum, using the lack of prescribed content to an advantage.

For teachers, Muriel reported that the project gave an opportunity to

  • develop new pedagogical knowledge / approaches
  • develop their knowledge / confidence in exploring film as a cultural medium
  • change of their expectations in terms of attainment
  • integrate more ICU into teaching

Muriel reported that you need to have confidence to take risks professionally, to try out new ideas, be original and develop yourself professionally -and that this was an opportunity that she was given and took.

Cine-minis is available from http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk

 

 

And here are some free downloadable PDFs of information about film and languages.

Can’t wait for them to do some short Spanish films (hint hint!)

What I learned today! pt1

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I’ve already blogged three times today about the INSET today with Ian Gilbert– twice during the INSET day and once when I returned home.

However, I haven’t even scratched the surface!

So, here is a summary of the key points I noted from session one.

“Nothing is as dangerous as an idea when it’s the only one you’ve got.”

One of the major points made was that we need to encourage thinking – that all too often we stick to closed questions, always searching for a single correct answer rather than asking questions that encourage thought and have multiple ‘right’ answers – or none at all!

An example of this was the picture below – what is it?


A gin and tonic?
A handbag?
A child hiding behind a wall?
A chair?

This sort of ‘pre-starter’ is a good way to get us in the right frame of mind for learning. And the state we’re in when we learn has a profound effect on our learning – our breathing, our surroundings, our frame of mind.
Laughter is a good way to get us in the optimum state as it releases dopamine – plenty of that today!

Next we thought about this – attitude counts for more than aptitude.
Employers are looking for creativity – people who break the rules, stand out, make a difference, to make a dent in the universe. The idea that school is just a phase you go through – important but not the be all and end all – seems obvious when you say it but that’s not often the view taken with our pupils.

I learnt a new word today – fungible (meaning digitized and sent somewhere else).
Many jobs are fungible – like accountancy; others are anchored- a nurse will be needed to apply dressings. Which led to the question – who needs a teacher when we have Google? With services like Tutorvista, are we needed?  However,  the teacher who leads children to learning is important, the one who doesn’t just drip feed  knowledge but prepares kids for our world.

Some interesting quotations at this point –

‘It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.’

‘Every act of creation starts with an act of destruction.’  Picasso

‘To know and not to do is not to know.’  Buddhist saying

The brain.

95% of what we know about the brain we’ve learnt in the last 15 years.

Male and female brains are different. (see Why men don’t iron)

The RAS (reticular activating system) is particularly key, stimulated by physical activity and emotions. So things like fidgeting and fiddling could actually be ways of staying ‘with it’ in lessons rather than signals that people are not paying attention.  I know that I concentrate best when I am multitasking – I was making notes or on my iPad all day today.

We did some ‘fartlek for the brain’ – particularly liked chopping and sawing!

And discussed that pace doesn’t mean speed – it rather means that the ups and downs of your lesson are appropriate to learning – lots of starts and ends – mini chunks of action/learning.

Three things to make your brain happy and healthy

1- eat antioxidants – tea coffee red wine tomatoes strawberries blueberries

2- healthy body, healthy mind

3- use it or lose it.  For example – taste something new each week; brush your teeth with the other hand; listen to Late Junction

Final question of the session

Is our school a teaching school or a learning school?  Is it a thinking school?

(Image by Highwaystar on picasaweb)

Language World 2010 – Cynthia Martin

Monday, April 5th, 2010

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYHTuUcC]

The Keynote on Saturday morning at Language World was delivered by Cynthia Martin, President of ALL this year, and was report on research that she and others have carried out into Primary languages. Rather than try to write it all down, I took lots of pictures of the slides and made a movie. And here are a few comments that I hope will shed light on the slides.

The researchers took 40 schools who they felt would be representative of the country. Al were early adopters of PLL so the study was looking at oracy and literacy, and the potential problems facing them as they worked towards the four year entitlement. On the whole, staff were found to be positive and committed but acknowledged concerns.
General finding were that there was an increasing focus on phoneme/grapheme links but that this had not yet made a big effect by 2008-9 and that verb useage in writing was poorer than in spoken activities, but that comprehension was very good. Most pupils enjoyed their lessons and the vast majority of them were looking forward to further learning at secondary school, listing their least favourite thing as ‘going over the same things over and over’.
The full report can be downloaded from the DCSF website, all 170 pages of it! Or you can go for the 7 page summary ;o)
I found the session really interesting – and encouraging too. Wonder what the findings would be a year or two on?

I’m a WebFox!

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Yesterday I took a Web Behaviour Test as part of BBC’s The Virtual Revolution – investigating how 20 years of the web has changed our lives.

I was asked questions about my Internet useage, how much time I spent online and doing what, how much ‘multi tasking’ I did and my response to a number of statements.
Would I be a bear, an elephant, an octopus, a hedgehog, a fox, an elk, a leopard or an ostrich?
My result is below – not a bad appraisal. Why not take the test and see which animal you are!

If you like to know what this quiz is hoping to achieve, check out what the scientists say.