Researching the teaching and learning of specialised languages: DidASP

Research in the teaching and learning of languages is a field which is gaining visibility in higher education in France. Referred to as language didactics (didactique des langues) as distinct from the more practically oriented language pedagogy, this research seeks to understand how second or foreign languages are learned in instructed contexts, and may or may not have direct implications for teaching.

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Archives Nationales, site de repli pour GERAS 2016 (manifestations à Paris 8)

Some new and more established outlets and groups for research in this area in France include

  • ARDAA (Association pour la Recherche en Didactique de l’Anglais et en Acquisition), a recently formed affiliate of the Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur, the French society for English studies in higher education. ARDAA focuses on research on all aspects of teaching English, particularly in French contexts.
  • DidASP, focusing on research in the teaching and learning of English for Specific Purposes, as a new special interest group in GERAS (Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche en Anglais de Spécialité). GERAS runs the open access journal ASp which publishes on all aspects of ESP research, including ESP didactics.
  • Research and Teaching Languages for Specific Purposes (RPPLSP, Cahiers de l’APLIUT). This open access journal has its roots in foreign language instruction in technical universities; its scope has recently widened to include special issues edited by ARDAA and RANACLES members.
  • Research on the Teaching of Second Languages and Cultures (RDLC, Cahiers de l’Acedle), the publication of the Association of Researchers, Teachers and Didacticians in Foreign Languages (Acedle).
  • Mélanges CRAPEL (Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues) for research and development in language teaching and learning.

Cédric Sarré and I have been considering how ESP didactics might fit into this picture in an article just published in ASp on Research in ESP teaching and learning in French higher education: developing the construct of ESP didactics. The paper includes an overview of recent work by our colleagues teaching and researching ESP in higher education contexts in France. It attempts to propose a framework for ongoing research in ESP didactics, defined as

the branch of English language studies which concerns the language, discourse and culture of English-language professional communities and specialised social groups, as well as the learning and teaching of this object from a didactic perspective.

Sarré & Whyte, 2016: 150

At our ESP Didactics SIG meeting at this year’s GERAS conference in Paris, we heard presentations on English for veterinary science (Muriel Conan) and designing a hybrid English course in musicology (Aude Labetoulle). We also discussed possible collaborative research projects for the group, and provided an update on the seminar on Teaching ESP today we are co-organising at this summer’s ESSE conference in Galway.

 

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iTILT training: French participants

An iTILT teacher training session at a primary school in Antibes, near Nice, this month involved primary teachers and teacher trainers involved with language education and technology training, as well as newly-qualified secondary EFL teachers.
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Training materials included

  • the pilot version of the iTILT training manual, with its focus on task-based language teaching (TBLT)
  • the iTILT website, with

    • practice examples (video clip, description, participant commentaries, related clips, tags)
    • quick/advanced search functions, manuals in several languages, and sample IWB teaching resources
  • new video training materials developed in collaboration with our German iTILT partners in Schwäbisch-Gmünd.

We explained that this second iTILT project uses the same approach to teacher education, involving class films, learning focus group interviews, and video-stimulated recall session with participating teachers.  However, based on the first project’s results, we now have a focus on a new objective:

  • How can we encourage more interactivity and interaction in the IMG_1467foreign language classroom?

The goal is thus to consider not tools, but rather pedagogical factors.

During our review of the first iTILT project activities and findings, we examined two video examples in particular: the magic schoolbag (primary EFL, FR), hotel furniture (vocational French, DE).

The new project involves a teacher who was also part of the first one: here we see her in the same classroom at the same board as she used in iTILT 1.

The French project teachers are working on video communication in English as a lingua franca using class sets of iPads (primary) and iPods (secondary) to exchange short videos with partner classes abroad, as well as some live videoconference sessions.
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In keeping with our goal of developing TBLT approaches, the focus is on developing activities which include

  • emphasis on making meaning and exchanging messages
  • an information gap or other cognitively challenging premise
  • the opportunity for learners to use their own linguistic resources
  • a particular outcome for each task.

Implementing and researching technological innovation

Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching

The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools

Shona Whyte
Print Pub Date: April 2015
Online DaIMG_0004te: April 2015
Language & Linguistics Collection 2015
Series: New Language Learning and Teaching Environments

Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching takes a case study approach to investigate the integration of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) into the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in French schools. The study highlights the advantages of collaborative action research for stimulating and supporting language teachers in innovative experimentation, and seeks to enhance our understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in this process. Utilising a framework which can inform further research into innovative practices with other interactive technologies, this book offers a research design and instruments suitable for assessing classroom adoption of the IWB. In this way, the study provides insights into general processes of technological innovation in language teaching and learning which is of relevance to further research and teacher development in today’s new learning environments.

TOCThe blurb and table of contents should give an idea of the focus of my book on teacher integration of interactive whiteboard (IWB) technology in the language classroom. I followed 9 French EFL teachers (4 primary, 2 lower and 2 upper secondary, and 1 teacher educator) during the iTILT project (itilt.eu).

IMG_0010I used a collaborative action research framework (Burns, 2005) and drew on situated learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and teacher efficacy theory (Bandura, 1993). [References available in the bibliography on the Palgrave page.] The book proposes a developmental model to describe and explain how different teachers used the IWB to fit existing practice in some cases, and to implement innovation in others.

Hopefully some of this work will be useful in our new European project Interactive Teaching in Languages with Technology (iTILT 2); we are following up on our successful IWB project using other technologies with the same team working in Belgium, France, Germany the Netherlands, Turkey and Wales.

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Online support for classroom language teachers: research summary

My general interest in improving language learning opportunities in state school settings has led me to research different dimensions of classroom contexts, including the use of technology and teacher development. There is an overlap between these research interests and my professional responsibilities in university Masters in Teaching programmes and my involvement in collaborative teacher education projects.

IMG_0018I have been involved in teacher education with

  • MA courses FL teaching, research and ICT for pre-service secondary EFL teachers in France;
  • MA courses in ICT for pre-service secondary language teachers (German, Italian, Spanish) in France;
  • FL teaching and IWB-mediated teaching in-service language teachers and teacher trainers (local courses and invited workshops);
  • informal EFL and ICT teacher professional development in institutional and independent projects.

Tools

We’ve tried a number of different free tools to allow teachers to test out ways of identifying and sharing teaching resources, communicating with one another in group projects, and learning to use tools which may be appropriate for direct use by their learners.

  • Google+ circle (Whyte, in press; Whyte & Alexander, 2013)
  • Scoop.it curation sites (Whyte, 2012)
  • social networks (Facebook, Twitter; Whyte, 2014a, 2012)
  • Google sites (Whyte, 2014a, 2012)
  • Weebly (Whyte, 2014b)
  • Google drive (in preparation)

Tasks

We’ve also experimented with a number of types of activities for professional development, including:

  • video diaries (Whyte, in press; Whyte & Alexander, 2013, 2014)
  • teaching resource websites (Whyte 2012, 2014b)
  • CALL task design (Whyte, 2014a, 2014b).

Findings

These projects have shown some of the following results:

  • even inexperienced teachers with little class contact can benefit from collaborative teacher education initiatives with technologies;
  • professional development with technologies takes time and effort:  “slow-burner” approaches seem to have greater chances of success;
  • the integration of technologies in language teaching practice involves a number of different dimensions, including
    • a practical/technical dimension
    • a pedagogical dimension
    • a reflective dimension
  • collaborative action research involving academics and practitioners work best with teachers who have
    • already advanced in practical/technical and pedagogical terms
    • defined specific professional objectives (independent professional development agendas).

Current projects

  • videoconferencing in English as a lingua franca (France-Germany)
  • pre-service EFL teacher telecollaboration on task design (France-Netherlands)
  • peer collaboration on task design with pre-service EFL teachers (Whyte, 2015)
  • iTILT 2: interactive teaching in languages with technology (Erasmus Plus, 2015-7).

References

Whyte, S. (2015). Taking to task(s): Exploring task design by novice language teachers in technology-mediated and non-technological activities. XVII International CALL research conference. Tarragona, Spain, 4-6 July 2015.

Whyte, S. (in press). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching: The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools. New Language Learning and Teaching Environments. (Series editor: Hayo Reinders). Palgrave Macmillan. April 2015.

Whyte, S. (2014a). Bridging gaps : Using social media to develop techno-pedagogical competences in pre-service language teacher education. Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité – Cahiers de l’APLIUT, 33(2):143-169.

Whyte, S. (2014b). Course design for pre-service secondary school teachers: collaboration and reflection in a short, multilingual CALL course. Teacher Education SIG symposium, EuroCALL, Groningen. slides

Whyte, S. (2013). Teaching English for Specific Purposes: A task-based framework for French graduate courses.  Asp 63 (9), 5-30. DOI : 10.4000/asp.3280

Whyte, S. (2012). Curation and social networking for pre-service language teacher development. EuroCALL Teacher Education SIG Symposium – Pecha Kucha, Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-25 August 2012. slides

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. PDF

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2013). Learning to Use Interactive Technologies for Language Teaching: Video Diaries for Teacher Support in the iTILT Project. Atelier didactique SAES, Dijon, 18 mai. slides

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

Analysing learners’ language: a method to their madness

IMG_1995A lot of effort in language teacher education goes into making teachers aware that learners of a second language make errors that are not random or unprincipled, or indeed simply transfer from the first language, but rather obey a certain logic of their own.  Learners are not simply defective speakers of the target language, but are constructing their own interlanguage (Selinker, 1972), also referred to as learner language.  This means that the developmental stages of their language acquisition should be treated as necessary steps in the language learning process, rather than as strings of errors requiring remediation.

This idea has implications for the planning of language teaching, since it suggests that teaching should be tailored to learners’ in-built syllabus, rather than organised according to a separate, grammar-based syllabus.  If we accept the interactional hypothesis, for example, which claims that language is acquired through using the target language in the negotiation of meaning, we should allocate class time to communicative activities which engage learners in such language use, and support learners in participating in activities and reflecting on their engagement.

But the notion of learner language also has implications for the evaluation of language learning and teaching.  Teachers traditionally identify and correct learner production by underlining written errors, for example, or recasting oral errors of vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation.  But if we want to better understand learner language, more analytical methods are required.

Analysing errors: language accuracy

A CARLA resource on learner language explains that

“An error analysis – and teacher corrections – should ignore unsystematic performance slips (mistakes) and focus on errors, which are systematic violations of the rules to which the learners have been exposed; these tell us something about the learner’s current knowledge of the rules of the language being learned.”

Dyson (2010) distinguishes three different ways of studying errors (1):

  1. error analysis
    1. collect a sample
    2. identify grammatical errors
    3. record error frequencies
    4. explain errors
    5. repeat procedure with other morphemes
  2. obligatory occasion analysis
    1. select a morpheme
    2. identify and count obligatory occasions
    3. count suppliance of morphemes
    4. calculate accurate use as a percentage
    5. order devices implicationally in relation to other morphemes
  3. frequency analysis
    1. select a linguistic variable
    2. divide data into equal periods
    3. identify different devices used
    4. calculate frequencies
    5. identify dominant device at each point in time

More advice on error analysis is provided in the CARLA resource.  However, we should remember that accuracy is only one dimension of learner language: the complexity of a learner’s production is another important aspect.

Assessing complexity

Tarone and Swierzbin (2009) suggest measuring syntactic complexity by counting any of the following:

  • the number of sentences containing more than one verb
  • use of complex noun phrases
  • number of verb arguments
  • types of dependent clauses

For lexical complexity, variety can be analysed using type-token ratio: “the total number of different words (types) divided by the total number of words (tokens) in a given segment.” CARLA resource.

Fluency

The fluency of a learner’s spoken production is perhaps harder to evaluate.  Different measures include

  • Breakdown fluency (e.g., time filled with speech, no. of pauses, filled pauses)
  • Speed fluency (e.g., speech rate measured as words per minute, syllables per minute)
  • Repair fluency (e.g. false starts, repetitions)

(See Skehan, 2009, cited in De Jong & Hulstijn, 2009)

Learner language can therefore be analysed in a number of ways, looking at its complexity, accuracy and fluency. We can look at several different learners, under different conditions of language production, or one learner at different points in time.  These measures are different from the kind of evaluations teachers constantly conduct, both formally and informally.  But they provide a different picture of learner language development, allowing teachers to take a step back from day-to-days concerns to see how their learners are really doing.

1. Another approach advocated by Dyson (2010) involves emergence analysis, based on Pienemann’s processability theory.  This approach is no doubt too complex to be useful for practitioner research.

References

Overview of Complexity of Learner Language
http://www.carla.umn.edu/learnerlanguage/complexity.html

Overview on error analysis.
http://www.carla.umn.edu/learnerlanguage/error_analysis.html

De Jong, N., & Hulstijn, J. (2009). Relating ratings of fluency to temporal and lexical aspects of speech. EALTA 2009 [slides]
Dyson, B. (2010). Learner language analytic methods and pedagogical implications.
Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 33(3), 1-21. [PDF]
Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10, 209-241.
Skehan, P. (2009). Modelling second language performance: Integrating complexity, accuracy, fluency, and lexis. Applied Linguistics, 30(4), 510-532. doi: 10.1093/applin/amp047
Tarone, E. & Swierzbin, B. (2009). Exploring Learner Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teaching languages with technology: communicative approaches to interactive whiteboard use

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 12.47.23 AMCutrim 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.

Read an excerpt

Table of Contents

1. Foreword (pp. 1-3)
Interactive Whiteboards: against the odds?
Jozef Colpaert

2. Introduction (pp. 4-32)
Theory and practice in second language teaching with interactive technologies
Shona Whyte

3. Case Studies
1. IWB in Language Education for learners with special educational needs: learning Welsh at primary school (pp. 33 – 71)
Emily Hillier
Gary Beauchamp

2. A task-based approach to videoconferencing with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange (pp. 72 – 120)
Shona Whyte
Euline Cutrim Schmid

3. Digital Storytelling in the primary EFL classroom (pp. 121 – 166)
Anika Kegenhof

4. The IWB in the CLIL classroom: using visuals to foster active learning with young beginners (pp. 167 – 201)
Helene Sailer
Euline Cutrim Schmid
Ton Koenraad

5. Using the IWB to support gamification in order to enhance writing fluency in the secondary language classroom (pp. 202 – 237)
Graham Stanley (Spain)

6. Exploring IWB use for language instruction in Turkish higher education settings(pp. 238 – 276)
Serkan Çelik

7. Academic teacher training and the IWB: coaching pre-service teachers in Belgium (pp. 277 – 318)
Margret Oberhofer
Mathea Simons
Tom Smits

4. Final Recommendations (pp. 319 – 343)
Ongoing professional development in IWB-mediated language teaching: evening up the odds
Euline Cutrim Schmid
Shona Whyte

5. Glossary (pp. 344 – 350)