Colloquium on Specific Learning Differences, with the support of IPSEN- IATEFL and BELTA Belgium
24 November - 25 November
Rachael Harris is the newsletter editor for IATEFL Inclusive Practices & SEN SIG. She has taught English for almost twenty years and she teaches in a primary and secondary school in Geneva, where she has produced the SEND policy statement. She is Teens & YL SIG coordinator for ETAS (Switzerland). Rachael has published articles for several ELT publications and frequently gives workshops on a variety of ELT themes that are close to her heart – Teens, Inclusive Practices and Well-being in Learning.
Every ELT Teacher is a Teacher
of Inclusive Practices
Just as the British Department of Education’s 2015 Code of Practice states that every teacher is a teacher of pupils with SEND (Special Educational Needs or Disabilities) it seems that every ELT teacher is too. This plenary will introduce various teaching methods that encourage Inclusive Practices and demonstrate how language teachers are already well on the way to being teachers of SEND.
Judit Kormos is a Professor in Second Language Acquisition at Lancaster University. She was a key partner in the award-winning DysTEFL project sponsored by the European Commission and is a lead educator in the Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching massive open online learning course offered by FutureLearn. She is the co-author of the book Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences with Anne Margaret Smith. She has published widely on the effect of dyslexia on learning additional languages including a new book entitled The second language learning processes of students with specific learning difficulties.
Online Plenary Presentation
Principles of Inclusive Language Teaching Task Design
The design of teaching materials constitutes an important part of language teaching as they serve as drivers of the learning process. Publishers and teachers, however, often lack awareness and skills of how to make language learning tasks inclusive and dyslexia-friendly. Guidelines for teachers often concentrate on formatting and layout only and fail to take into account how specific learning difficulties influence language learning. In this talk I will outline the key principles of designing inclusive teaching materials that are engaging and enhance second language development. Based on recent experiences in a collaborative European Union funded project, I will also discuss what obstacles material designers might face when developing dyslexia-friendly digital learning tasks and how these can be overcome. The presentation will conclude with demonstrating some successful example tasks from the Digital English and German task bank for dyslexic language learners.
I currently work as a teaching fellow at King’s College London where I teach courses on MA in Applied Linguistics and MA in TESOL. Before joining King’s, I worked at Lancaster University as a postdoctoral fellow and ran a nationwide ELT trainer training project on dyslexia and ELT in Sri Lanka. I have also been involved in Lancaster University’s Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching MOOC since its inception and have been an English teacher, teacher trainer and a researcher in many contexts both in the UK and in Sri Lanka.
Working Memory Abilities, Language Learning and Dyslexia
Dyslexia is categorised under Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs) and it mainly affects language learning (Kormos & Smith 2012). One common feature observed among dyslexic learners is their poor working memory (WM) capacity. This can lead to learners easily getting distracted, being reserved in group tasks, forgetting part or all of the instructions, avoiding answering questions and struggling with complicated tasks (Gathercole & Alloway, 2007). Recent empirical evidence on second/foreign language acquisition also indicates that learners with poor WM abilities struggle in processing novel language input (e.g., Indrarathne & Kormos, 2018). In this talk, I will summarise recent research findings on how WM influences language acquisition and explain how these findings are relevant to understanding language learning abilities of dyslexic learners. Then I will discuss some techniques that teachers can use to identify memory issues among learners and strategies that can be used in classroom contexts to help learners with poor WM abilities.
Anne Margaret Smith
Dr. Anne Margaret Smith has taught English for 25 years in Kenya, Germany, Sweden and the UK. She is also a dyslexia specialist tutor and assessor. She founded ELT well with the intention of bringing together best practice from the two fields of ELT and SpLD support, and now offers materials and training to teachers, as well as specialist teaching to dyslexic learners. She was recently instrumental in setting up the new IATEFL SIG: Inclusive Practices and SEN. Find out more: www.ELTwell.com
Identifying the Needs of Learners with Specific Learning Differences
It is not always easy to be sure if a learner’s difficulties are due to a cognitive difference, such as dyslexia, or if there are other barriers to learning. This is particularly the case if the learner – or the parents – are reluctant to undertake a formal assessment. However, it is very important that teachers find out as much as possible about our learners, so that we can decide the best way to teach them.
In this session, we will look at some simple activities that can be done in class, or in a 1:1 situation, to explore which aspects of learning may be more difficult for learners. These are activities that are independent of first language or second language proficiency and can be combined to create a comprehensive picture of the learner’s cognitive profile.
Dina Tsagari is a Professor in English Language Pedagogy/TESOL, Department of Primary and Secondary Education, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Lancaster University (with specialisation in the area of language testing/teaching), UK. She has previously worked for the University of Cyprus, the Greek Open University and the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include language testing and assessment, teacher training, materials design and evaluation, differentiated instruction, multilingualism, distance education and learning difficulties. She is the editor and author of several volumes, journal papers, and book chapters and the coordinator of the Classroom-based Language Assessment SIG – EALTA. She is currently coordinating and participating in research projects on second language assessment literacy (www.taleproject.eu), identifying linguistic parameters accounting for progress in proficiency in high-stakes tests and authentic language acquisition in multilingual contexts, among others.
Assessment and Testing of l2 Students with SpLDs
The population of students around the world these days is becoming increasingly diverse, both culturally and linguistically. The numbers of children diagnosed with specific learning differences, SpLD (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) and the number of students enrolled in special education are steadily increasing. This situation has placed an emphasis on appropriate teaching and assessment provision. These issues are of particular concern to second or foreign language teachers (Kormos and Smith, 2012; Nijakowska, 2010) and test providers (Taylor, 2012; Tsagari and Spanoudis, 2013) who are very often faced with the challenge of having to offer special arrangements (accommodations) to second language (L2) learners with SpLDs.
The presentation summarizes current discussions and research findings in the field of language assessment for L2 learners with SpLDs, and identifies key stakeholders who are closely connected to successful assessment and discusses their obligations and responsibilities. The presentation also identifies good practices and issues for improvement in both external and classroom-based assessment that are in need of attention. Finally, the presentation offers examples to practitioners and suggestions to future researchers as to the areas for improvement of assessment of L2 learners with SpLDs.