The 2018 BAAL LKALE two day symposium hosted by Urszula Clark at Aston University was the third LKALE annual event since its start in 2015. The symposium was well attended by academics working in the field of linguistics in education, teacher trainers, teachers, education consultants, and charities, as well as a speaker from the UK Parliament’s Universities Outreach Team. Although the main focus was on the UK context, a representative from MAZEM, a German education charity for advancing language awareness in the Early Years provision in southern Germany was also amongst the presenters.
In line with one of LKALE’s commitments, the event provided a space for specialists from all areas of education to meet and exchange ideas. There were sixteen presentations that focussed on educational contexts ranging from mainstream primary (including Early Years), secondary and tertiary education, English as an Additional Language and Modern Foreign Languages.
The presentations included practitioners’ accounts of implementing new strategies, academic researchers presenting innovative research projects, established charities and education authorities reporting on long term projects and success stories, as well as teacher educators highlighting key issues and making recommendations for change. As long term, effective change can only be brought about by well-informed policies, Caitriona Fleming’s presentation provided practical guidance on how professional bodies, such as LKALE can contact and inform policy makers in the Houses of Parliament regarding ongoing research and professional consensus on language issues relevant to the UK Education context.
Slides of the presentations can be found here.
Unpacking knowledge about language: what do we really need to know about language?
The two days also provided the chance to unpack some of the complexities of the language system, and examine new approaches in applying aspects of this knowledge to pedagogical contexts. Questions were raised concerning the nature of knowledge about language itself: What does and should this knowledge look like? What aspects are important for who and at what level of learning? The general consensus was that it is the concepts behind the terminology that are important and should underpin any pedagogical initiative or intervention.
Issues and challenges
With the continued changes made to the policies in schools, the dwindling of funds and shifting demographics, there are no shortages of challenges. The event gave attendees the opportunity to inform themselves of some of the real obstacles faced by practitioners. Common themes emerged: negative backwash resulting from high stakes testing, insufficient support for teachers in terms of initial teacher training and continued professional development, and lack of teacher confidence in knowledge about language, pedagogical content knowledge and language learning.
Despite these challenges, the event was imbued with a sense of exciting optimism. Organisations such as the English Media Centre, The WRITE project, and the Enfield School Improvement project all reported on interventions that had worked and had brought about long lasting change to both the learners and teachers involved.
Thank you to all the presenters, attendees and the event’s host, The School of Languages and Social Sciences at Aston University, for making the symposium such a great success.
Presentation slides will be added to the LKALE website in the very near future.
We look forward to seeing you all at the next LKALE SIG event at the University of Oxford on 2nd and 3rd May 2019!