Research for EFL teachers: French secondary school preparation

Recent reforms in French teacher education have led to the creation of new university schools of education (Ecoles Supérieures du Professorat et de l’Education) with masters programmes combining education sciences, disciplinary knowledge, pedagogy and also a research dimension. In the master’s programme in teaching English as a Foreign Language (Master MEEF Anglais), for future secondary EFL teachers, this research strand sits alongside English language and culture, EFL teaching, education theory and ICT. The initiation to research is offered during each of the two years of the programme, which integrates university courses and teaching practice. At Nice University, we designed a programme where an introduction to classroom research is connected with the two first-year teaching placements, which occur alongside university courses preparing for secondary school entrance exams (CAPES). In the second year, students conduct research projects in relation to the more extensive teaching practice involving university lecturers, secondary school practitioners and teacher educators.

The objective of the research component of the master’s programme is to help students understand

  • how language is learned in classroom environments, and
  • how teaching affects the process and outcomes.

This post offers background on second language classroom research for university lecturers and secondary practitioners to inform second year student research projects. We begin with a brief discussion of current second language research, followed by a presentation of the action research framework recommended for master’s research projects, and finally some of the the wider implications and future directions for this work are considered.


Bench Accounting

Classroom research in ELT

Second language teaching research

The learning and teaching of foreign or second languages has been the object of research in a number of different disciplines. Second language acquisition research in the field of linguistics is often dated to early work on learner language and learner errors in the 1970s (Corder, 1967; Selinker, 1972). It is also often associated with experimental designs using test and control groups, and statistical analyses, in order to test the effect of particular aspects of the learning environment on language learning, for instance. In language education, on the other hand, researchers have used discourse analysis to investigate patterns of language use in the classroom, for example, and to examine how teachers develop their classroom skills. Neither of these types of research seems appropriate to our students, however, because they have little or no training in research methods, and are expected to become classroom language teachers, not researchers.

However, it is possible and worthwhile for our students to conduct a different type of classroom research which can support their developing teaching skills and encourage reflective practice. This in turn may help them become more effective teachers who are able to adapt to new challenges and opportunities throughout their careers.

Action research

Action research is frequently attributed to Lewin (1946) and involves the teacher acting as a researcher in his or her own classroom by finding a question (or puzzle, or problem) to investigate, collecting data, analysing and interpreting the data, and then acting on the results, often setting off a new cycles of action research. For example, a language teacher might wonder why some learners in a class seem more motivated to participate in learning activities than others (Ellis, 2013). The teacher would collect data to find out whether this intuitive judgement is correct (e.g., by recording lessons, or making field notes, or perhaps involving the learners themselves), and analysing this data. Then the teacher can consider ways to make changes, and again measure the effect on learners.

Burns has written on this topic for researchers (2005) and for practitioners (2010). She explains the different stages of the action research cycle: plan, act, observe and reflect (2010) and the benefits for teachers and for the field (2005). Cook (2012) has further practical advice for novice researchers at graduate level.

Analysing learner language

To investigate the effects of second language teaching it is important to obtain some kind of measure of classroom activities by collecting and analysing data. Data collection can involve recording class activities or gathering samples of learner productions (spoken or written work). Data analysis then requires studying the learner language in these interactions or productions in a systematic manner (not just assigning grades).

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA, University of Minnesota) has online materials to support teacher research on learner language. This resource identifies a number of orientations which teachers can adopt to analyse their learners’ language use; perhaps the most accessible are

Students often find data analysis particularly challenging and need support both with the rationale for this and methods of carrying it out. Tarone and Swierzbin (2009) provides a useful framework for this.

Masters research projects

Suggested approaches

For the research projects to be conducted in the second year of the master’s programme, students can start from a pedagogical question, as in standard action research, or replicate a published classroom study, or conduct a CLIL project.

Teaching article

Choose an article from a journal in the list below which addresses a teaching issue relevant to your learners. Read up on the issue starting with the article’s reference list, and use it as the starting point for your action research cycle.

Replication study

Choose an article from a journal in the list below which reports on research on an aspect of second language teaching which is relevant to your learners. Conduct a similar study with your learners.

CLIL study

Apply CLIL principles to a teaching unit on a literary theme or cultural notion which is appropriate for your learners. Working with your tutor and any other colleagues, plan and teach the unit, then analyse it using the critical incident technique described in Coyles, Hood and Marsh (2010).

Conducting and writing up research

I suggest the following framework for M2 research projects.

Research method

  • define a research question (problematisation)
  • collect data
  • analyse and interpret findings (two AR cycles if possible)
  • collaboration among student, school tutor and university tutor on definition of research question, method (classes, data) and analysis

Report format

  • in English, with French-English glossary
  • 20-30 pages (4-6000 words), double-spaced, 12 pt, table of contents, page numbers
  • structure:
    • abstract
    • keywords
    • introduction
    • background or literature review
    • method (participants, classroom context, data collection)
    • analysis/results/discussion
    • conclusion,
    • references (APA format, as in the present document)
    • appendices (lesson plans, research instruments)
  • oral defence with tutor(s) and another instructor: 10 minute presentation, 10 minutes for questions
  • evaluation on quality of project, write-up and presentation/discussion.

Future directions

Our work on master’s classroom research projects can contribute to our overall efforts for teacher education in the programme by supporting both novice teachers and their more experienced practitioner tutors. If thoughtfully conceived and carried out, student projects can also contribute to broader research in second (English) language teaching.

With this in mind, it is important for our classroom research to

  • draw on relevant recent research by language teachers and teacher educators;
  • define reasonable research questions which can be adequately addressed in the time available;
  • collect data in an organised and ethically appropriate manner (using participant authorisation forms and anonymising data);
  • write up and share findings with peers (past and future graduate students), colleagues (English teachers in the local academy) and stakeholders (inspectors, ESPE, university).

Sharing findings

Master’s in Teaching mini-conference

In Nice, we organised a day of Reflections on Classroom Practice in early June for first year students to share their teaching experiences using powerpoint presentations. We invited the students’ tutors and used these presentations as the basis for our grades. We used a similar format for second year student presentations, organised as joint half-day sessions including university and school tutors of all presenters.

Teacher education collaboration

We could also consider ways to build on second year master’s projects in Nice and Toulon by
organising combined research classes online (e.g., via the unice Connect platform)
organising outreach events with practising EFL teachers via inspectors and in-service training programmes
working with recent graduates and newly qualified teachers (T1, T2, T3) to continue professional support and encourage further practical research initiatives

Research collaboration

A final dimension to consider is collaborative research into language teacher education in our context. This is one area where I have done research with academic colleagues, graduate students and teachers (Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2012; Whyte & Alexander, 2014; Whyte, Cutrim Schmid, van Hazebrouck & Oberhofer, 2013), both in funded projects and independently. We might consider working together in similar ways with the MEEF students and tutors.

Organisations and conferences

Platforms for talks or publications include:

  • AFLA (Association Française de Linguistique Appliquée)
  • ARDAA (Association pour la Recherche en Didactique de l’Anglais et en Acquisition) (colloque SAES (May)
  • EuroCALL (European association for Computer Assisted Language Learning) conference (July/August)
    Special Interest Group in Teacher Education*
  • GERAS (Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche en Anglais de Spécialité) colloque GERAS (March)
    Groupe de Travail sur la Didactique de l’Anglais de Spécialité*



Burns, A. (2010). Doing action research in English language teaching: A guide for practitioners. Routledge.

Burns, A. (2005). Action research: An evolving paradigm?. Language teaching, 38(02), 57-74.

Cook, V. (2012). Starting applied linguistics research. Retrieved 4 July 2014

Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learner’s errors. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 5(1-4), 161-170.

Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. (2010). The CLIL tool kit: transforming theory into practice. Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D., CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning.

Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.) Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. A resource book for teacher development. Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching (Series editors: Michael Thomas, Mark Warschauer & Mark Peterson). Bloomsbury.

Ellis, R. (2013). Interview with Rod Ellis. Language magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2014

Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2(4), 34-46.

Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 10(1-4), 209-232.

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2014). Implementing tasks with interactive technologies in classroom CALL: towards a developmental framework. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 40 (1), 1-26.

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck, S., & Oberhofer, M. (2013). Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27 (2), 122-148 doi: 10.1080/09588221.2013.818558

Open access journals

Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics / Revue canadienne de linguistique appliquée:
English Teaching Forum:
The Asian EFL Journal:

Online resources
Learner language (CARLA)

Foreign language teaching methods (COERLL)

Further reading

Spada, N., & Lightbown, P. (2006). How language are learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tarone, E., & Swierzbin, B. (2009). Exploring learner language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Internal report, UNS/ESPE Nice

S. Whyte, July 2014


New developments in ESP teaching and learning research

Our new book, New Developments in ESP teaching and learning research, came out 5 December. It’s an edited volume of studies in ESP teaching and learning, many conducted in France, but also including papers from Italy and Serbia.


There are nine chapters on issues ranging from course design and materials development to needs analysis, learner motivation, and evaluation, all in English for Specific Purpose contexts.

Our objective was to encourage research at the intersection between theoretical approaches to ESP, which are sometimes too abstract to be relevant to actual teaching practice, and practitioner reports, which, conversely, may be too dependent on particular contexts to interest those working in other domains.

Here’s the table of contents:

The book is available from on an open-access model. PDFs of the complete volume or individual articles are freely available for download, and there’s a print-on-demand option for readers who wish to pay for a printed copy.


Research and language teaching: practitioner access to studies of instructed SLA

A topical and somewhat controversial theme arising in language teaching and language research circles concerns the relationship between research conducted on second language acquisition and learning and the practical concerns of language teachers. Just two examples from the past week:

Many teachers and teacher educators are concerned about access to academic research – see for example ELT research bites.

This post reports on another take on this issue, from a recent article in the Modern Language Journal by Emma Marsden and Rowena Kasprowicz (2017). It refers not to English language teaching (ELT) but rather modern foreign languages (MFL) in the UK, particularly French, German, and Spanish. (I am unaware of similar research in ELT circles, and of course delimiting a population of teachers and teacher educators is no doubt more complicated.)

samuel-zeller-358865Samuel Zeller

Foreign language (FL) educators’ exposure to research

The authors begin with a caveat that the goal of their paper is not to address teacher participation in research via action research, for example, but rather to investigate “the extent and manner in which research may reach FL educators in the first place” (p. 615). Conducted from the University of York, the study surveyed UK FL practitioners in schools and universities using two online questionnaires which attracted 183 and 391 respondents, and which the authors judged elicited responses from a large proportion of (particularly university-based) practitioners. The researchers found that

  • respondents accessed research via professional association newsletters and reports rather than academic journals or conferences;
  • school-based practitioners were much less likely to read about research than their university-based colleagues;
  • even university-based practitioners reported low engagement with research;
  • reasons given for lack of engagement with research included
    • lack of time
    • problems physically accessing publications
    • difficulty in understanding research.

The article contains a great deal of detail on the instruments and analysis which produced these conclusions as befits this kind of peer-reviewed international academic publication. The authors find their results “unsurprising,” though valuable as “the first evidence about the scale and nature of the (lack of) interface with research for non-English FL educators” (p. 624).

Indirect exposure to ISLA research

In the second part of the study, the authors examined indirect exposure to research through the practitioner-oriented publications most frequently cited in the surveys:

They note that over half the respondents (51.37%) did not mention any of these publications, so we’re looking at homeopathic doses in many cases. Nevertheless, the authors examined articles in these 7 publications which referred to research, and calculated the proportion of references to academic research on instructed second language acquisition (ISLA), compared to books, for example, or other types of publication.

Journals were selected if their Aims included the following terms: (a) (foreign OR second) language (learning OR acquisition) AND (b) (pedagogy OR practice OR instruction OR teaching OR school OR applied linguistics).

Marsden & Kasprowicz, 2017: 625

These are the ISLA journals thus identified. I have added links to home pages and copied relevant portions of their aims and scope, with the link to teaching in the third column. The authors also acknowledge that many of these journals include EFL/ESL research, not only other languages. (I suppose the inclusion of ESP journal and ELT research is a bit of a reach in this respect, though for those of us in ELT it does round out a very useful list.)

Applied Linguistics Applied Linguistics publishes research into language with relevance to real-world problems. first and additional language learning, teaching, and use … language assessment; language planning and policies; language for special purposes
Applied Psycholinguistics Applied Psycholinguistics publishes original research papers on the psychological processes involved in language. a variety of disciplines including education
Canadian Modern Language Review The Canadian Modern Language Review publishes peer-reviewed articles on second language learning and teaching. serving researchers and language teaching professionals interested in the learning and teaching of English and French as second languages (Canada’s two official languages), as well as the range of modern, indigenous, heritage, and community languages taught and learned across Canada
English for Specific Purposes topics relevant to the teaching and learning of discourse for specific communities: academic, occupational, or otherwise specialized teaching and testing techniques, the effectiveness of various approaches to language learning and language teaching, and the training or retraining of teachers for the teaching of ESP
Foreign Language Annals Foreign Language Annals (FLA) is the official refereed, scholarly journal of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Dedicated to the advancement of language teaching and learning, the journal seeks to serve the professional interests of classroom instructors, researchers, and administrators who are concerned with the learning and teaching of languages, particularly languages other than English at all levels of instruction.
Intercultural Pragmatics Intercultural Pragmatics is a fully peer-reviewed forum for theoretical and applied pragmatics research. The goal of the journal is to promote the development and understanding of pragmatic theory and intercultural competence applied linguistics … second language acquisition
Language and Intercultural Communication Language & Intercultural Communication promotes an interdisciplinary understanding of the interplay between language and intercultural communication. The journal is alert to the implications for education, especially higher education, and for language learning and teaching
Language Awareness Language Awareness encourages and disseminates work which explores the following: the role of explicit knowledge about language in the process of language learning; the role that such explicit knowledge about language plays in language teaching and how such knowledge can best be mediated by teachers; the role of explicit knowledge about language in language use: e.g. sensitivity to bias in language, manipulative aspects of language, literary use of language. the role that explicit knowledge about language plays in language teaching and how such knowledge can best be mediated by teachers
Language Learning We seek proposals that address a theme or research methodology that will be of interest and relevance to the journal’s international readership of language learning scholars second, and foreign language acquisition, language education,
* Language Learning and Technology LLT disseminates research to foreign and second language educators worldwide on issues related to technology and language education. language education
Language Teaching Language Teaching is the essential research resource for language professionals providing a rich and expert overview of research in the field of second-language teaching and learning. second language teaching and learning
The Modern Language Journal The editorial mission of The Modern Language Journal is to publish “research and discussion about the learning and teaching of foreign and second languages.” promoting scholarly exchange among researchers and teachers of all modern foreign languages and English as a second language
* Porta Linguarum Porta Linguarum is an interdepartmental and interuniversity journal that was born in 2004 and specializes in foreign language didactics and bilingual education, articles will be more practical and their orientation will be more related to the L2 teaching and learning process in classroom settings
Pragmatics and Society Pragmatics and Society puts the spotlight on societal aspects of language use, while incorporating many other facets of society-oriented pragmatic studies. how language use and social normativity influence and shape each other, for instance, in education (the teaching and acquisition of first and second languages)
ReCALL ReCALL is the journal of the European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL). It seeks to … promote the use of foreign languages within Europe and beyond, providing an international focus for the promulgation of innovative research in the area of computer-assisted language learning and technology-enhanced language learning in education and training. education and training
RELA/Spanish Journal of Applied Linguistics The Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada/Spanish Journal of Applied Linguistics (RESLA/SJAL) is the biannual journal of the Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics (AESLA, language teaching, LSP
Studies in Second Language Acquisition Studies in Second Language Acquisition is a refereed journal of international scope devoted to the scientific discussion of acquisition or use of non-native and heritage languages. the interface of acquisition and use with pedagogy
System This international journal is devoted to the applications of educational technology and applied linguistics to problems of foreign language teaching and learning. Attention is paid to all languages and to problems associated with the study and teaching of English as a second or foreign language
TESOL Quarterly TESOL Quarterly, a professional, refereed journal, was first published in 1967. The Quarterly encourages submission of previously unpublished articles on topics of significance to individuals concerned with English language teaching and learning and standard English as a second dialect. psychology and sociology of language learning and teaching … testing and evaluation, professional preparation, curriculum design and development, instructional methods, materials, and techniques
Vial–Vigo Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics aims at covering the different areas of study in the field of applied linguistics. foreign language teaching and learning, LSP
Computer Assisted Language Learning all matters associated with the use of computers in language learning (L1 and L2), teaching and testing Language Learning and Teaching Methods, four skills,
Annual Review of Applied Linguistics The Annual Review of Applied Linguistics publishes research on key topics in the broad field of applied linguistics. Each issue is thematic, providing a variety of perspectives on the topic through research summaries, critical overviews, position papers and empirical studies. language learning and pedagogy … language assessment
Applied Linguistics Review Applied Linguistics Review (ALR) is an international, peer-reviewed journal that bridges the gap between linguistics and applied areas such as education, psychology and human development, sociology and politics. first or second language acquisition
ELT Journal ELT Journal is a quarterly publication for all those involved in English Language Teaching (ELT), whether as a second, additional, or foreign language, or as an international Lingua Franca The Journal links the everyday concerns of practitioners with insights gained from relevant academic disciplines such as applied linguistics, education, psychology, and sociology.
IRAL in Language Teaching International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (IRAL) is devoted to problems of general and applied linguistics Contributions are welcome on naturalistic and instructed language learning, … language for specific purposes, language technology,
Journal of French Language Studies Journal of French Language Studies, sponsored by the Association for French Language Studies, encourages and promotes theoretical, descriptive and applied studies of all aspects of the French language. Studies of the acquisition of the French language, where these take due account of current theory in linguistics and applied linguistics, are also published
Language, Culture and Curriculum Language, Culture and Curriculum is a well-established journal that seeks to enhance the understanding of the relations between the three dimensions of its title. It welcomes work dealing with a wide range of languages (mother tongues, global English, foreign, minority, immigrant, heritage, or endangered languages) in the context of bilingual and multilingual education and first, second or additional language learning. The journal also includes studies of language instruction, teacher training, teaching methods and language-in-education policy
Language Teaching Research Language Teaching Research is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers in the fields of education and linguistics related to the teaching of any second language The journal is a venue for studies that demonstrate sound research methods and which report findings that have clear pedagogical implications
Language Testing Language Testing is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers relating to language testing and assessment. research into the washback and impact of language test use, and ground-breaking uses of assessments for learning
 The study found a very low incidence of reference to ISLA journals in the professional publications: “on average a reference to any one of the ISLA journals occurred in approximately one out of every six professional articles.” The strongest links were between North American publications: the NECTL review cited FLA and MLJ articles more frequently than other professional publications and other ISLA journals. The authors consider this “a surprisingly and worryingly low proportion” (p. 629).

Lay summaries of ISLA research

What I like about the paper is that instead of handwringing, the authors finish the article with a strong call for action and detailed proposal for doing so. They firmly reject an interpretation whereby school-based practitioners should read research in the 29 ISLA journals listed, or conversely, that these journals should change their research aims. Instead, they suggest the introduction of journal-initiated lay summaries whereby journals and/or authors “reframe their academic publications into summary formats that are both physically and conceptually accessible to practitioners” (p. 630). Organisations like AILA and repositories like IRIS could play a role. The authors suggest that journals need to take the lead and cite the example of eLife plain language digests.
The authors are also careful to avoid suggesting unilateral influence of research on practice, suggesting that increasing practitioner exposure to research through a centralised access point to lay summaries can be helpful in a variety of ways.

If any potential pedagogical relevance is claimed (by authors or editorial mission statements), the research could better find its way into practitioners’ communities of practice, for evaluation by them. Looking even further ahead, it is possible that improvements in this dimension could, in turn, produce a kind of ‘washback’ that affects the aims, construction, and design of ISLA research itself.

And the reference to the original article, open access (at least for now).


MARSDEN, E. and KASPROWICZ, R. (2017), Foreign Language Educators’ Exposure to Research: Reported Experiences, Exposure Via Citations, and a Proposal for Action. The Modern Language Journal, 101: 613–642.

Second language acquisition research network in France: ReAL2

The year has seen the emergence of a new national network for second language acquisition research in France:

The ReAL2 (Réseau français d’Acquisition des Langues Secondes) or second language acquisition (SLA) research network brings together researchers and academics in universities and research laboratories in France whose work relates to the acquisition of second languages. SLA (in French: RAL2) is notable for the diversity of its theoretical and methodological approaches, and one of the goals of the network is to call attention to this diversity by comparing results obtained through different theoretical approaches and methods. Another objective is to focus on aspects of SLA findings in relation to second and foreign language teaching and develop the interface between SLA research and language education research or language didactics. A longer term aim is to create a database of oral and written SLA corpora drawn from past and ongoing projects to streamline access for the wider scientific community.


A first conference was organised in Paris on 9-10 November by Marzena Watorek with the four founding members of the network:

1. Université de Paris 8 & SFL, UMR 7023

Equipe Langage, Cognition, Acquisition

Equipe Langues des signes et gestualité

2. Université de Toulouse & URI Octogone-Lordat, EA 4156

3. Université de Nantes  & LLING, UMR 6310

4. Université de Montpellier & EMMA, EA 741

L2 French and English modality – 2017 paper

At the conference, a number of other teams presented work with the aim of sharing information concerning research themes and methods (rather than results) to identify areas of shared interest. Abstracts are here.


Other SLA work in France

Lyon 2

Rouen Normandie (DYLIS, EA 7474)

Université d’Haute Alsace (ILLE, EA 4363)

Université Paris Nanterre (MoDyCo, UMR 7114)

Université Paris 3 (Prismes-Sesylia EA 4398 & LPP UMR 7018)

Université Côte d’Azur

A number of other researchers presented posters – see this overview.

And finally some links to related resources: corpora, tools, networks, and publications produced by members of this group or relevant to their work.

Corpora and tools

COREIL corpus: oral corpus in English and French including child and adult, L1 and L2 speakers. Orthographic transcription, POS tagging (Mor, Post in CLAN).

SLA Bank: corpora, instruments and tools for L2 research – DE, EN, ES, FR, Hungarian, Mandarin, varied.

Ortolang – open resources and tools for language

Langsnap: English-speaking learners of ES and FR L2

SPPAS: automatic annotation and analysis of speech (Brigitte Bigi)

Other networks, projects, publications


The next conferences are



IWB-supported video communication in primary ELF

My colleague Euline Cutrim Schmid at the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd and I have been working on task-based telecollaborative projects with primary school teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) for a number of years. We have used IWB technology to allow live exchanges between pupils in French and German primary school classes in English as a lingua franca (ELF). Learners use an audio-video link and screensharing to complete information gap tasks in groups or in front of the whole class in the local classroom. Some children move objects on a page in a shared IWB file in response to information provided orally by remote speakers. A German learner may describe a funny animal with a crocodile’s head and an elephant’s body, while French listeners drag and drop the appropriate body parts to create the animal, for example, or a French “shopkeeper” will collect items from supermarket shelves to serve a German “customer.”

A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB

myles-tan-84040Myles Tan

In our first study, we asked:

  • How can an IWB support VC exchange between remote partners involving young learners?
  • What types of materials, activities and teaching techniques seem to
    promote effective learner–learner exchanges?
  • What light is shed on this communicative situation by teachers’ and learners’ views?

And we concluded:

This study has shown that it is both possible and worthwhile for young beginners to engage in live peer communication, and that IWB-supported VC interaction offers a promising platform for this type of exchange. The analysis of transcripts of video extracts provides an impressive picture of how the teachers were able to orchestrate an extremely complex set of interactions to support their learners in the planned tasks. Each of the three examples examined in the study shows how many different local interactions were required in each classroom in order for the central dialogue between French and German learners to unfold in ways that were useful for both the active learners and those observing. Even in this first familiarization session, the teachers were able to manage the technology, both the VC equipment and the IWB software, the different configurations of learners, and the ID card task itself. In so doing, they never intervened directly in interactions and rarely provided models or translated for their learners. It is remarkable that, even in these initial exchanges with so many other concerns, there are examples of learner–learner interaction supported only by the task materials.

This leads us to the second research question concerning materials and activities. This study suggests that while the design of task-based activities is important, balancing Cameron’s cognitive and language demands with appropriate support, her third aspect, interactional demand, may require more attention. The learners in the study seemed to lack communication strategies for dealing with interactional breakdowns, and the participants in general needed to focus on the task itself and collaboration with their interlocutor, rather than on other issues such as a language learning point or a technical detail. Nevertheless, the participants were positive about the experience.

Investigation of the third research question revealed that both teachers and learners found the exchange motivating and useful, with both groups also providing ideas and goals for future sessions.

Regarding technology, it is common in ICT studies to call for more technical support, teacher training, and familiarization sessions with technology in order to iron out recurring technical problems, and help teachers to implement effective learning activities that exploit the most appropriate affordances of our ever-evolving technological environment. Such measures are clearly helpful, if not always forthcoming. It is worth considering, however, whether this understandable desire to master the technological context and make the most of its potential to support learning might not lead teachers to overorganize and micromanage interactions, to the detriment of learner autonomy.

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (2014). A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange. In Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.). Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. A resource book for teacher development. London: Bloomsbury.

Teaching young learners with technology

biegun-wschodni-8636Biegun Wschodni

In the next iteration, we focused on both design and implementation of tasks with the aim of balancing support for learners to complete activities with space for spontaneous language production.

This chapter has shown that new technologies can offer opportunities for meaningful language-learning experiences through authentic tasks.The various task-based activities described here illustrate the potential of technology to allow interaction with speakers who do not share a native language and to provide scaffolding to support this interaction. However, the chapter has also demonstrated that simply using new technologies does not guarantee, or even enhance, new meaning making. Our analysis of classroom interaction and teachers’ and learners’ perspectives has shed some light on a number of important aspects of technology use with young learners.

First, while the project tasks were perceived as more authentic and interactive than traditional activities, teachers and learners also expressed the desire for even greater learner-centredness, allowing opportunities for pupils to use language creatively and experiment with language. The majority of project tasks imposed a tight framework that often prevented this type of language interaction, suggesting that an important challenge with young learners is the balance between adequate linguistic and emotional support and space for learners to create. Second, in early sessions, the unfamiliar environment and technological limitations led to greater teacher mediation; by later stages of the project, the learners developed communication strategies and skills which allowed them to act more autonomously. This pattern corresponds to the implementation dip (Fullan 2001) noted earlier, and may reflect a positive effect of the teacher support in context and over time also reported in previous studies (Hennessy and London 2013, Whyte et al. 2013).

This chapter has discussed various advantages of using new technologies with young learners in the FL classroom, through the description and evaluation of technology-enhanced activities that were perceived as motivating, meaningful and productive. It calls for a stronger focus on task design and task implementation in technology-rich learning environments. Further research needs to be done on the design of technology-enhanced tasks that provide a framework for supporting young learners’ language production, while at the same creating room for the development of learner autonomy and self-directed learning.

Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (2015). Teaching young learners with technology. In Bland, J. (Ed.). Teaching English to Young Learners. Critical Issues in Language Teaching with 3-12 year olds. Bloomsbury.

Classroom technology for young learners

Annie Spratt

We later summarised our experience with these exchanges as follows:

Primary pupils aged 7 to 9 in Germany and France used English as lingua franca to interact with the remote class in three collaborative tasks: making ID cards, a supermarket exchange, and a breakfast invitation. Participants saw the tasks as authentic and relevant in design, but in early stages of the project, the actual implementation of these tasks did not sufficiently encourage learners to use their own resources. Transcriptions of the first CMC interactions showed high levels of teacher mediation in learner-learner exchanges. In later phases, the teachers made efforts to help learners develop communication strategies to negotiate meaning and repair communication breakdowns on their own.

Similarly, both teachers and pupils felt the planned tasks imposed a tight framework which prevented spontaneous use of language, and so later phases of the project aimed to allow more open activities. Thus, in preparation for one of the supermarket sessions, 15 German learners showed and described the content of their lunch boxes without preparation, using any linguistic resources at their disposal. Since the learners had not prepared or practiced in advance for the activity, they could not rely on memorized chunks, but had to adapt language on-line during interaction. An important challenge with YELLs is thus the balance between adequate linguistic and emotional support, on one hand, and space to create on the other.

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (in press). Classroom technology for young learners. In Garton, S., & Copland, F. (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners. Routledge. 2018.

Second language studies à l’Université Côte d’Azur

Nous créons à Nice une nouvelle équipe de recherche en second language studies avec pour objet d’étude l’acquisition-apprentissage des langues étrangères ou secondes (L2). Cette équipe représente une ouverture novatrice vers un champ interdisciplinaire d’applied linguistics, qui s’ouvre aux travaux d’acquisitionnistes des L2 et de didacticiens de langue entre autres domaines. La recherche de l’équipe implique la constitution et l’exploitation de corpus de textes écrits et de productions orales en L2 (anglais, FLE, russe) afin de dégager les caractéristiques de la langue des apprenants et de son évolution dans des contextes spécifiques. L’objectif est de contribuer à une recherche qui interroge les théories de l’acquisition de la L2, la linguistique de corpus et la langue de spécialité. Notre ambition est de développer un programme de recherche original portant sur l’étude de l’acquisition et de l’apprentissage des langues étrangères ou secondes (L2), ainsi qu’aux implications sur l’enseignement des résultats de cette recherche.

Quatre projets récents sont décrits ici :

1. Les interactions en L2 en contexte multimodal : communication vidéo en anglais à l’école primaire

1Ce projet exploite un corpus de films de classe enregistrés de chaque côté d’un échange télécollaboratif entre deux classes primaires en France et en Allemagne. Les apprenants francophones et germanophones échangeaient en anglais L2 par webcam avec un partage d’écran qui permet la manipulation d’éléments projetés au tableau blanc interactif. Dans un premier temps nous adoptons une perspective didactique, notamment sur la conception et mise en œuvre de tâches d’apprentissage.
Ensuite nous nous tournons vers les interactions en L2 à proprement parler, avec une étude plus poussée des interactions entre apprenants, enseignants et avec la technologie en utilisant un logiciel d’annotation multimédia (ELAN) pour une analyse plus fine de l’agencement de contributions orales, des gestes, et des manipulations du TBI qui rendent possible la communication et facilitent l’utilisation et l’apprentissage de la L2 par ces apprenants débutants.

• Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (2017). Synchronous video communication with young EFL learners: a multimodal analysis of task negotiation. AILA, Rio de Janiero, juillet.
• Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (2014). A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange. In Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.). Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use. London: Bloomsbury.

2. L’enseignement-apprentissage des L2 avec les technologies : exemples de pratique de classe

Deux projets européens successifs, iTILT (interactive Technologies In Language Teaching, LLP, 2011-13) et ITILT2 (Interactive Teaching in Languages with Technology, Erasmus+, 2014-17) ont permis à six partenaires universitaires (Anvers, BE; Heidelberg / Schwäbisch-Gmünd, DE; Nice, FR; Utrecht, NE; Cardiff, GB; Bilkent / Hacettepe, TR) de constituer une banque de près de 400 clips vidéo de pratique de classe de langue avec les technologies (TBI, tablette, smartphone, communication vidéo). Les vidéos montrent des enseignants et apprenants de cinq langues (CY, EN, FR, NL, TK) et sont en accès libre sur le site, accompagnées de commentaires des participants et de ressources pédagogiques. Le premier projet est décrit dans l’article de CALL (2014) et nos analyses didactiques apparaissent dans UWJE (2014) et Whyte (2015).

• Whyte, S. (2015). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
• Whyte, S., Beauchamp, G., & Alexander, J. (2014). Researching interactive whiteboard use from primary school to university settings across Europe: an analytical framework for foreign language teaching. University of Wales Journal of Education, 17, 30-52.
• Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck, S., & Oberhofer, M. (2014). Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27 (2), 122-148.

3. Evolution de la compétence pragmatique chez les jeunes apprenants de l’anglais langue étrangère

3La thèse d’Aisha Siddiqa (co-direction JM Merle et S Whyte, UCA) porte sur la pragmatique de l’interlangue en anglais L2 à trois niveaux de l’enseignement secondaire en France, utilisant une méthode qui reprend celle de Rose (2000, 2009). Les requêtes de plus de 300 élèves dans 13 classes de sixième, troisième et terminale ont été recueillies dans des tâches de production orale (questionnaires, jeux de rôle) et dans la classe d’anglais pour constituer un corpus de données audio et vidéo. L’analyse de l’acte de parole suit Blum-Kulka, House et Kasper (1989) et démontre une évolution en termes pragmalinguistiques plutôt que sociopragmatiques, et ce en particulier entre troisième et terminale. Ces résultats sont situés par rapport aux données secondaires (profils d’apprenants, manuels de classe, entretiens avec enseignants).

• Siddiqa, A. (2016). A developmental pragmatic study of politeness in EFL: learning to make requests in French secondary schools. AMPRA conference, Indiana University, US.
• Whyte, S., & Siddiqa, A. (2016). Learning to teach second language pragmatics. TESOL France conference, Paris, novembre.

4. Enseignement-apprentissage de la langue de spécialité : les assemblages en anglais L2

file000368977040.jpgDans le cadre d’un nouveau groupe de travail au sein du GERAS co-animé par C Sarré et S Whyte, nous nous intéressons à l’intersection des recherches en acquisition d’une L2 et de la didactique de l’anglais de spécialité. Afin d’accompagner enseignants du supérieur et jeunes chercheurs dans ce domaine, nous menons une recherche collaborative sur les assemblages (formulaic sequences) dans l’anglais de spécialité dans plusieurs champs.

• Sarré, C., & Whyte, S. (2016). Research in ESP teaching and learning in French higher education: developing the construct of ESP didactics. ASp, 69, 113-164.
• Whyte, S. (2016). Who are the specialists? Teaching and learning specialised language in French educational contexts. Recherches et pratiques pédagogiques en langue de spécialité, 35(3)
• Whyte, S., & Sarré, C. (2017). Formulaic sequences in English for Academic Purposes and Second Language Acquisition: towards a characterisation of lexico-grammatical norms. GERAS, Lyon, mars.

ITILT mini-guides for language teaching with technology


These three guides are for language teachers working in technology-mediated task-based approaches to second/foreign language teaching and learning.

They were prepared during the Erasmus+ project ITILT, on Interactive Teaching in Languages with Technology, involving teachers and learners of 4 different EU languages in 5 countries: English in Belgium, France, Germany, French in Belgium, Turkish in Turkey, and Welsh in the UK.

We worked with novice and experienced classroom teachers at primary, secondary, and university level to collect practice examples of task-based teaching with different technologies: tablets (iPads), mobile phones, and video communication. The website gives an video overview of each task, plus a series of short clips to highlight different activities in the task sequence. Teacher and learner commentary then give participant perspectives on the tasks.

The project also aimed to develop an online community of practice bringing together ITILT teachers in different countries to share tips and experiences. This proved challenging to implement, since teachers in different countries were filmed at different points over the 3-year lifetime of the project, and demands on their time to prepare tasks, film activities, and discuss outcomes were quite heavy.

Nevertheless the project did bring to light a great many interesting ideas, resources, tools, and practices from our participating teachers in their different contexts, and we have selected a range of these to present in the three ITILT mini-guides. In keeping with our collaborative action-research approach to the project, these guides each offer

  1. an introduction to the theme – resources, tools, or networks,
  2. a key illustration which is situated in language education theory,
  3. discussion of a range of examples of classroom tasks from the project, and
  4. links and references for further reading.

We trust the guides will be useful to teachers interested in technology-mediated task-based language teaching, and both novice and experienced practitioners. For those new to technology in the language classroom, our 12 plus one tools may be worth a look.