The Language Magician
Start date: Sep 1, 2015,
End date: Aug 31, 2018
The Language Magician
Language learning in schools in the EU is showing dramatic differences between member states. This is particularly true for the United Kingdom where only in 2014 languages were made a statutory requirement in primary schools in England. Whilst language teaching in primary schools is the foundation for a successful language strategy at all levels of education, research has shown a strong decline in motivation for pupils once they enter secondary education. Two of the main factors for this are the lack of assessment of learning progress in the UK and traditional, de-motivating testing methods in other member states.
Mindful of the need for urgent action regarding this issue, educational organisations with a stake in the improvement of language learning provision have decided to enter a strategic partnership under the Erasmus + programme. Their main aim is to combine primary language learning with a method of assessment which motivates young learners to continue learning languages. The participating organisations aim to improve language teaching and the assessment of linguistic competencies in primary schools by producing an assessment tool in the format of a computer game. The game will use a common core of curricula from Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK as its foundation and – with its seven language versions - create opportunities for converging standards on a European level.
The ten partner organisations were chosen for their expertise in promoting languages, research, teaching primary languages, assessment, translation, e-learning and language games. The Goethe-Institut London, a supporter of language teachers in the UK and all EU member states, is project lead. Together with its British and other European partners, it identified and developed the project idea. Both the Spanish Embassy in the UK and the British language teachers network, ALL, have been extremely helpful and influential in discussing the need to address the imbalance of language learning in the UK and other member states. The Universities of Reading and Leipzig were identified as leading primary language research experts while the University of Perugia was chosen as assessment expert. In order to ensure the necessary practical focus, the Education Ministry of Tenerife supports the development of the tool for Spanish and together with the Education Ministry in Rioja will conduct the piloting in its regions. The University of Siena with its e-learning centre joined the partnership to provide the basis for the development of the language game for Italian. The University of Westminster will add it translation and localisation expertise for French in the UK.
As the project progresses, this tool will to be tested in schools in four countries and the outcomes will be evaluated using standard quality criteria. In order to support the anchorage of the assessment tool in state schools, a specific training of teachers is required which will be done exemplarily at the Education Ministry in Rioja. Teachers can take home course methodology to be implemented in their schools. Project partners taking part in the course will draw on this experience for their own teacher training courses.
The design of the game will be based on intensive research to provide insight into assessing progress in language learning. Parts of the programming of an existing computer game developed by the GI's headquarter in Munich in cooperation with the software company OVOS will be used to develop the new tool. The game will then be piloted to calibrate the e-learning content to ensure validity of content and construct. The feedback of pupils, teachers, parents and external educators will be recorded, analysed and implemented. Once the game is used in various classroom situations, the obtained data will show the pupils’ progress. The results will be compared with traditional pen and paper tests.
The project benefits all participants. Schools and teachers will become “innovators”. Students will find language learning more enjoyable. Their learning outcomes will be better and their acquisition of transversal skills will be enhanced. Teachers will be able to develop their professional skills further using innovative methods and digital integration. They will derive great personal and professional satisfaction from improving their students’ learning outcomes. Universities will benefit from research and data analysis from the assessment tool. The GI and the public authorities will be strengthened regarding their work to promote languages.
In the longer term, this project should yield strong evidence to convince national authorities to endorse the assessment tool and actively promote it. At European level, the results can be used to promote the launch of pilots for more languages in more countries. Finally, all partners will have established a successful European partnership for the enhancement of languages in Europe.
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