Linguistics in MFL event – Report

Dr Alice Corr, Dr Norma Schifano (University of Birmingham)

In light of the UK’s ‘languages crisis’ (HEPI 2020), the ‘Linguistics in MFL project’ (2017-) seeks to persuade younger generations of the intellectual rewards of language learning through the study of Linguistics. Collaborating with teachers with a formal background in Linguistics, the project has devised and tested a novel, interdisciplinary classroom-based intervention incorporating linguistics at A-level as a component of MFL teaching. To assess the viability of introducing linguistics at larger scales, however, schoolteachers without prior formal training must be enabled to participate in the intervention. The funding generously provided by UCML enabled us to organize and deliver a synchronous online workshop, which took place on Saturday 30 October 2021, entitled ‘Linguistics for MFL teachers: teachers and PGCE student’s online CPD event’.

The purpose of the event was to offer a a condensed/intensive one-day workshop introduction to linguistics for MFL teachers without a background in the discipline (and a refresher for those with some previous knowledge but who considered themselves not to have formal training in Linguistics). The primary benefits of the event were twofold: firstly, to offer continuous professional development to MFL schoolteachers, and to do so for free; and, secondly, to enable our project to assess the impact of quantitatively and qualitatively different types of teacher training on the delivery of introductory linguistics to A-levels.

The workshop was open to all secondary school teachers, trainee teachers and PGCE students of MFL in UK schools and consisted of two parts:

Part 1 General session (2-2.45pm): Introduction to Linguistics for languages teachers (Dr Alice Corr, University of Birmingham).
Part 2 Parallel sessions (3-4.30pm): Interactive demonstration of our linguistics materials for A-Level MFL and Q&A (Dr Anna Havinga, University of Bristol; Dr Norma Schifano, University of Birmingham; Prof Michelle Sheehan, University of Newcastle).

  • Interactive demonstration of linguistics materials for A-level French, German and Spanish
  • Tips for using linguistics in the GCSE classroom
  • Q&A session

Over 70 teachers/PGCE students signed up for the event and 40 took part in it on the day. The anonymous survey that teachers filled in at the end of the workshop revealed that most participants greatly enjoyed the initiative and are keen to get involved in further events run by the Linguistics in MFL project. In conclusion, the workshop made an important contribution to the general endeavour of Linguistics in MFL, that is making the case for the place of linguistics in school-based language teaching to stakeholders in schools themselves, obtaining data as ‘proof of concept’ for such initiatives, and, more generally, advancing a fresh means of addressing the UK’s languages crisis.

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