LKALE on stage: The Bangor International Conference on Bilingualism in Education

by Eowyn Crisfield

To round off the 2015-2016 academic year, five LKALE members hosted a round table at the first Bangor International Conference on Bilingualism in Education. Convened by Urszula Clark, the round table entitled “Teaching with and for diversity: What teachers need to know about language and how researchers can (and should!) support them” addressed key aspects of LKALE’s mission to broaden teacher knowledge about linguistics and how it influences classroom learning.
The round table was opened by Eowyn Crisfield, with a paper that contextualised the common mantra “Every teacher is a language teacher”. Eowyn explored the types of training that “language teachers” receive, and compared to the skills needed by regular classroom teachers in order to function as language teachers alongside their roles as subject teachers. She discussed results of a teacher-training pilot project and findings that indicate that targeted INSET can make a difference in both attitudes and practice in terms of addressing language in the classroom. She concluded with a model outlining how LKALE and other research groups can undertake research applicable to this topic and make it accessible to teachers. These three elements – research knowledge, materials and resource creation, training and implementation – were then taken up by the following speakers.
Urszula Clark continued with a paper looking at the issue of developing literacy across the curriculum in secondary schools. She drew on a project that has been working with secondary school teachers to enable them to better understand the specific needs for “subject-literacy” in their own teaching subjects. The research focuses on the implementation of grammar in context as a function of a Language-based Pedagogy (LBP) to improve students’ literacy in all subjects, rather than as a focus only in English classes. She also discussed the positive changes she has seen in one school after a single INSET session on LBP, which indicates that the involvement of LKALE in teacher development can make a significant difference to practice even without longitudinal involvement in every school.
Lise Fontaine took the discussion a step further into the linguistic bases of LKALE, with a foray into systemic functional linguistics as a basis for understanding literacy needs across the curriculum. The research group LLAWEN (Literacy and Language Awareness in Education Network for Wales) was recently launched to support teachers in implementing the new Literacy and Numeracy Framework for Wales. Under the new framework, all teachers are expected to support literacy development appropriate to their subjects, but many lack the necessary background to do so confidently. Drawing on work from other projects, including the Buckinghamshire Grammar Project, she suggested ways forward for implementing frameworks for integrating grammar into learning in context, and for addressing needs for both “speakerly” and “writerly” grammar.
Sally Zacharias and Esther Daborn closed the roundtable with a look at their project “Integrating a Knowledge about Language (KAL) strand into Initial Teacher Education programmes”. This project is based in Scotland, and has been developed in response to a growing need and concurrent decreasing in funding for EAL teachers in schools. Integrating KAL into initial teacher education programs will provide new teachers with the ability to also function as language teachers, and help support students learning of the language while learning in the language across the curriculum. The project provided training sessions in two universities, targeted at helping new teachers understand how to identify the different levels of language needed to understand and produce in their subject. This included both theoretical input and practical applications for subject-specialist teachers. Going forward, the project hopes to continue to work with ITE programs, to integrate KAL into their current course load as an integral element of learning about teaching.

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The roundtable concluded with the driving question behind LKALE: “How can literacy across the curriculum initiatives be operationalised in schools?” All of the presenters are involved in projects that allow researchers and teachers to come together and discuss this key issue in modern schools, and all have had some success in making headway in what is going to be a key issue in education for years to come. LKALE is hoping to broaden its membership base through events such as this, to bring on board not only more researchers who are interested in applying their work in practical ways, but also to bring on board the teachers and the schools that are the other half of the conversation.

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